Sunday, July 18, 2010
“The simple truth is that we cherish even when we don’t emulate.” - Nathan Leopold
It’s the middle of July 2010 in Britain, and the sun is shining down on beautiful bouquets of flowers, trinkets, little notes, and gifts for a recent killer who committed suicide at a riverbank in Rothbury. Raoul Moat shot his ex-girlfriend, her new lover, and an unarmed policeman in one day and evaded police for over a week. After a six hour standoff with police, Moat, 37, shot himself in the head. Where his body was finally captured, now is littered with mourners holding candles and flowers for the man who murdered two men seemingly without remorse.
Raoul Moat, a severe abuser of steroids, found his ex-girlfriend with a new boyfriend and shot them both, injuring his ex-girlfriend and killing her lover. Raoul then shot a policeman who had come to see what the trouble was. The policeman was shot directly in the face, killing him instantly. Moat’s actions are now immortalized by grieving people in the streets of Rothbury, a north English town. Over 50 bouquets of flowers and notes have been left for Moat, and more seem to be coming. What possesses the people of this town and neighboring cities to devote themselves so deeply to a murderer?
Mourning the passing of a killer, or serial killer, is nothing new. Criminals on their way to the gallows or the electric chair have had devoted “fans” wishing them well and sobbing at their deaths. And why shouldn’t they? Death by the electric chair, hangings, and lethal injections are often painful and sorrowful occasions, not just by the criminal and his family, but by people who believe that purposeful death is wrong. Of course, a person that has murdered someone purposefully has committed a crime himself and should therefore be punished, but death is not the answer.
First, there must be understanding by humanizing the criminal, making him a person just like everyone else. Then there must be extensive psychiatric testing, assuring that the criminal is mentally fit to stand trial. At the end, there must be punishment, not necessarily fitting the crime. Death by death is not always the only way to discipline a criminal. Life without parole might be more fitting, allowing psychiatrists the opportunity to study the mind of a killer, preventing future killers to spawn after them.
By humanizing a criminal, some find it easy to shed a tear, even protesting their death sentence and standing outside a prison gate proudly proclaiming their opinion of what should happen to said criminal. In the case of Aileen Wuornos, thousands gathered at Florida State Prison to see her off. Hundreds bared signs begging for the governor’s mercy, believing Aileen to be framed ultimately by police and later the media. Although most wanted Ted Bundy to meet “Ole Sparky”, some stood their ground and believed he should have been imprisoned for life instead of going to the electric chair.
The truth of why some cry and mourn the death of a killer is very simple. When any person dies, especially when it is a terrifically awful death, there is bound to be an outpour of sadness from people, whether it is from the family of the killer or just innocent bystanders. As humans, we cannot deny the fact that there is some connection between us and the criminal. Perhaps we shared the same interests, followed the same principals, or merely took pleasure in the little things in life. Every person, despite their faults, has a right to die with some kind of dignity. If they are not given that opportunity, society has surely failed itself immeasurably.
Shunning the people who grieve the death of a killer is unnecessary. We are all given the right to cry about anything we wish, whether it be the end of the motion picture Titanic, or the loss of a beloved pet. Our emotions are not set in any specific way. We do not apply formally for our feelings at the DMV or Social Security office. To place a bouquet of flowers for a killer is not wrong, nor is it wrong to clap at the end of a Vin Diesel movie. As humans, we are allowed to freely hate and love as we please. If we happen to understand the actions of a killer, it does not necessarily make us sympathizers.
As quoted eloquently by accused child killer, Nathan Leopold, “The simple truth is that we cherish even when we don’t emulate.” He mourned the loss of his fellow accomplice Richard Loeb, seeing the human in Richard when the rest of the world delighted at his murder in prison in 1936. Also celebrated was the murder of Albert DeSalvo, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the execution of Andrei Chikatilo. Humans lives were taken away, brutally, and people raised their glasses in a grand toast.
We cherish even when we don’t emulate. That is all that needs to be said to the disgusted people that pass by the dozens of flowers laid down for Raoul Moat. It doesn’t matter who he was or what he did. He was a human being who died tragically.