It’s been a while. I want to touch on a subject that I’ve mentioned briefly from time to time. By now, many of you are aware of the murders by a possibly mentally ill man in Florida in which the murderer beat his victims to death and then started biting off the flesh of the face of one of the victims. So far, tests for illicit drugs have come back negative and the possibility of a mental “break” cannot be dismissed. The etiology of his bizarre behavior does not particularly concern me. However, if this is a case of mental illness, it resurrects the debate of the rights of the afflicted as contrasted with those that are “unafflicted” (or afflicted differently, at least). My position has solidified over the years, and I find that the only “fair” choice is for those that are being harmed to have safety from those that are doing harm or have done harm. Society does not need to justify a fair desire to remain safe. Is it possible that medication could help in similar circumstances with others that are mentally ill and violent? Sure. Should society have to take that risk when one has shown violence? No. Sometimes bad things happen that are irredeemable. Realization and restraint may come, but if one has shown that they are poisonous, no one has to take their word – or the word of anyone else – as sacrosanct and above those unalienable rights to safety that we all should enjoy.
My blood always boils when I hear claims that psychopaths are guaranteed to be soul-sucking monsters that contribute nothing to society. If psychopathy is reflective of neurophysiology in which those structures that control affective empathy and impulse control (for example) are deficient, then we must realize that not everyone with those physiological profiles are unchecked with their antisocial behavior. While I tend to be of the opinion that the antisocial facet is important to confirming psychopathy – a disorder – I also realize that the underpinnings of the condition lie in many that are not antisocial. So we are left with two counterexamples to the claim that psychopathy is always a disease on society. First, there are those that lack empathy that have found ways to avoid overtly antisocial behavior. Second, the past need not dictate the future so those that meet the diagnostic criteria for the disorder are capable of making changes if they so wish.
The father of the man who killed twenty-six at Sandy Hook elementary school gave an interview to the New Yorker that was published earlier today. I won’t say that the interview surprised me, but the conclusion of the interview reminded me all too well of when my own mother uttered similar feelings when I came out as transgender:
I wondered how Peter would feel if he could see his son again. “Quite honestly, I think that I wouldn’t recognize the person I saw,” he said. “All I could picture is there’d be nothing there, there’d be nothing. Almost, like, ‘Who are you, stranger?’ ” Peter declared that he wished Adam had never been born, that there could be no remembering who he was outside of who he became. “That didn’t come right away. That’s not a natural thing, when you’re thinking about your kid. But, God, there’s no question. There can only be one conclusion, when you finally get there. That’s fairly recent, too, but that’s totally where I am.”
Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear: I am not defending the gunman and his crimes, though – as the reader probably suspects – I do not exactly lose sleep over the crime either.