As news of the horrific killings in Amish country circulated throughout the world Monday afternoon, people started to wonder what led this 32-year-old gunman to that one-room schoolhouse.
Not me. I don’t care.
It’s not that I’m not curious; I just think our attention is misplaced if we spend too much time analyzing the motives of the shooter – or, even worse, turning him into a victim.
Nothing that investigators unearth about his motive will affect me. All I know is that five children are dead and five are hospitalized with gunshot wounds. I don’t care about what occurred in this man’s life when he was 12 or 16 or 21 – or even last year. I don’t really need insight into his twisted mind or an explanation as to why he targeted innocent little girls he didn’t know – children who weren’t even born 20 years ago when his problems began.
It’s no wonder that people want to hear all of the dirty details. They’ve become accustomed to it. We have become ingrained to this whole drama called the criminal defense system that seeks to heap sympathy and understanding on those who commit heinous crimes.
We hear about people who were sexually assaulted as children and who grow up to become child molesters. We hear about kids who were mistreated by their mothers, so they hate all women. We hear about disgruntled workers who were wronged by a big company so they take it out on anyone who is part of the corporate world.
I understand why defense attorneys do this and I respect the constitutional guarantee that every U.S. citizen deserves a fair trial.
But there’s too much of this “Oh, poor killer” mentality. And, I think it’s having a negative effect on our society.
I can’t help but feel that these potential criminals are encouraged by the attention we give to defendants in some high-profile cases. They might even be emboldened by the notion that they can escape punishment for almost anything, as long as they prove that they were victims at one time or another.
What’s most disturbing is when lawyers and psychologists rationalize criminals who target groups, not individuals. It’s bad enough when a violent criminal attacks a spouse, sibling, parent, relative or close friend. It’s the random shootings and attacks that are most frightening. These poor little girls inside the Amish schoolhouse had no connection to the man who shot them.
I admit: Most of the preoccupation with these defendants stems from the media. It’s difficult to turn on cable television at night without being bombarded by programs that focus on some of the more sensational cases.
I don’t understand why these cases have to be turned into such complicated issues. I don’t understand why people have trouble believing that the answer is often a simple one: There is evil in this world that can’t always be explained. I don’t understand how debating the root of a defendant’s mental problems makes it any easier for the families of slain children to cope.
If I could change one part of the justice system, I’d eliminate the option of being declared “innocent by reason of insanity.” If someone is really crazy, call it what it is: “guilty by reason of insanity.” Treat them differently if they truly are sick but please don’t minimize the crime by calling them innocent.
I’m sure this senseless shooting will fill the newspapers and airwaves over the next few days.
The only thing I want to hear is that the five other girls survive the ordeal.