I know it’s common knowledge that human beings are capable of causing and enjoying the pain of others. I first learned this on January 21, 1958. I was twelve. It was a Wednesday. I walked out of my school and saw cars, bumper to bumper, on every street surrounding the campus. Parents who usually let their junior high students walk home had come to pick them up. We were in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Charlie Starkweather and his girl friend Caril Ann Fugate had been killing people all over town that day -- killing them in horrible ways. They would eventually murder 11 people, including a two-year-old girl, before they were caught in Wyoming, eight days later. Starkweather said after his first kill he felt like he was bigger and better than the law.
But back then incidents like this seldom happened. Starkweather was executed a mere 17 months after his spree. Caril Fugate went off to prison. Happy days returned. Now, however, these events come so fast behind each other that we can barely catch our breath.
It was in April of 1999 that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 people at Columbine High in Colorado. The press made a big fuss about how the boys had been bullied into reacting so violently, but the school records showed that they were the bullies. Just a year before Kip Kinkle, then 15 years old, shot his parents and killed two others at his high school in Springfield, Oregon.
In 2007 Christopher Newsom and Channon Christian were abducted, bound, tortured, raped in every way imaginable, and killed in excruciating ways. Their abductors, a group of 4 men and one woman have no explanation for the horrors they perpetrated upon this young couple and they continue appealing their convictions, forcing the families to keep reliving the nightmare.
In 2012 Adam Lanza walked into a grade school in Newtown, Connecticut and gunned down 26 people, children and adults. Later that same year James Holmes walked into a theater in Aurora, Colorado, and killed 12 people.
Last April in Detroit a 25-year-old man, Ivan Murad, was brutally murdered by a group of young men whom he thought of as his friends. The one who has been charged with the crime claims he just felt like killing someone.
Last June in Cleveland three young women and a 7-year-old girl were freed from captivity. They had been held for ten years by 55-year-old Ariel Castro, who had fathered the little girl. They had been repeatedly raped and beaten and starved, for ten years. This August Castro declared at his sentencing, “I'm not a monster. I'm just sick. I have an addiction, just like an alcoholic has an addiction." He has been sentenced to 1,000 years in prison.
On August 14th David Santucci, a nursing student in Memphis, was shot by three black men. One said they did it to avenge Trayvon Martin. They had no connection with Santucci; it was a random killing.
Then on August 20th Chancey Luna, 16, James Edwards Jr., 15, and
Dewayne Jones, 17 were arrested for the shooting murder of Chris Lane, an Australian athlete going to school in Oklahoma. He was just out jogging and the boys said they were “bored” and decided to go shoot someone.
On August 23rd Delbert Belton , an 88-year-old veteran, was allegedly beaten to death by two teen-aged boys, Demetrius Glenn and Kenan Adams-Kinard. They used giant flashlights to do the job. No reason has been given for the killing.
These are the killings that have made the headlines – not every murder does. We look at these incidents with horror and disgust and yet the perpetrators don’t seem to feel any revulsion or guilt about their crimes. Like Starkweather, they evidently enjoyed it. What disturbs me is that I have known people like these, young people with no evident consciences, with no awareness that those around them are also human -- high school kids whose souls are deep, black holes. They have sat in my classrooms, hung out in the halls, lurked in the parking lots. Their parents were afraid of them, as were the school administration, as was I. Of course, murder has been happening since Cain and Abel, but Cain at least knew he was wrong to have killed his brother. These people have no idea; it is that that bothers me.
Overall, murder rates haven’t been going up, but the frequency of these senseless crimes has. We can deal with killings fueled by greed or jealousy, or anger. We get that. But to kill someone the way one climbs a mountain – because [he] is there, makes us all uneasy. There have to be reasons for this phenomenon.
One cause is that we have successfully removed consequences from the equation. Ariel Castro was just “sick,” poor man. It must have come as quite a shock to him that he will live out his days in prison. I’m sure he was thinking that excuses are a dime a dozen. Bad behavior, we are told, is caused by too much sugar, too much discipline, not enough discipline, too little entertainment, bullying, bad genetics, unhappy homes, divorce, neglect, guns, drugs, alcohol, Twinkies. Like all good lies, this is partially true. But none of these situations forces anyone to be a killer. The volition of each felon is still in tact. No one has to do horrifying things.
If, however, we agree with that, then we have to look evil straight in the face; we can’t deflect it. The whole liberal philosophy is based on the ideas that 1) there is no true right or wrong, and 2) people are basically good. So how do you understand the Dylan Klebolds, the Ariel Castros, the Chancey Lunas?
Newsflash: human beings – all of us – have evil buried deep inside. We can be trained to act decently to each other, but it doesn’t just happen and that training has to come at us from two directions for it to work really well: we must have parents who will understand and commit to performing that task and we must connect the children of our society with God. As Dostoyevsky said, “If there is no God, all things are permissible.” But we now have parents more interested in their own pleasures than in their children’s training, believing, I think, that the public schools will do that for them. And we have public schools that deny the existence of God by teaching evolution in science classes, Marxism in social studies classes, and giving lip service to only non-Christian religions. We hide from our children any understanding that some things are absolutely wrong and then we wonder why they kill.
In the list of murderers above most are teenagers; most are black. What does that tell us? It should make us realize how thoroughly public policy has destroyed the black communities – especially in our cities. These young men have not been trained to love and respect their fellow human beings because they have no one to teach them that. Their mothers have been encouraged, through government aid, to raise children sans fathers; the fathers, who are no longer financially responsible for their families have chosen to make their alliances with other young men instead of with the mothers of their children. Their churches too often teach more anger and bitterness than they do the fear of God. Their schools evidently teach them nothing – only 24% of Detroit school kids graduate. Why are we surprised when these young men ooze evil?
Yet we have liberals trying desperately to shore up their crumbling foundations with lots of clamor about gun laws and poverty, racism and unfairness. Never mind that Delbert Benton was killed with flashlights, that Kinkle and Klebold and Harris weren’t poor, that James Edwards hated whites a lot more than Chris Lane had it in for blacks, that the unfairness was all directed at the victims, not the perpetrators.
If we don’t stop making excuses for ourselves and for everyone we want to pity, we are going to see much more of this; a lot more. I was encouraged to see that no one bought Castro’s “sick” line; a thousand years in prison should be about right. But it would be best if the punishment were to happen early on in loving homes where the main curriculum is respect for others; it would be better if God, not the government, were the controlling factor.