Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Importance of Prepositions: Reflections on the Casey Anthony Trial

While I have to admit I was stunned with the rest of the world at yesterday’s outcome, the really striking thing to me has been hearing our public discourse about the case. After having been involved in several conversations myself, I’ve been astonished at how automatically we resort to therapeutic language: "if she really did do it, she must be sick … mentally ill. No person in her right mind could ever be capable of doing such a thing." And with this axiom, we soothe ourselves and reassure each other.

To me – this is what’s really frightening. As a society, we’ve become unwilling to recognize or deal with evil as evil. It is unthinkable to us that a mother, with no other apparent motive than her own narcissism, would be capable of murdering her little girl. [As if we weren’t already murdering babies by the millions all for the sake of convenience and expediency.]
The undeniable fact of the matter is that the capacity to commit heinous acts of violence exists inside each one of us whether or not we were abused as children, or have a family history of dementia, or whatever. In the past, our fathers understood this, and set up strict laws to dissuade citizens from the crimes they might otherwise commit. They understood people to be morally responsible for their actions, however vile, and severely punished them.
But today we are increasingly unwilling to acknowledge this. We talk about murderers, especially the really brutal ones, as if they were the victims, oppressed by some psychological ailment and in need of treatment or correction … rather than punishment. The discussion is completely and comfortably amoral.
I’ve often said any murderer with any sense at all, once he’s committed the deed shouldn’t waste time trying to cover his tracks. He should simply mutilate the body and stuff it in his freezer. If he makes it gruesome enough, no contemporary jury would condemn him. You might be tempted to think I’m exaggerating here, but I’m not. If any one of my friends or coworkers were on the jury, based solidly on our conversations, they would not see him as anything more than a disturbed individual needing clinical treatment. I have yet to hear a single person in casual conversation use the word “justice”. But what else –for crying out loud – are we supposed to be after at a time like this than justice?!?! A baby girl has been killed.
From the vantage point of history, it is frightening to think what might lie in store for a nation whose citizens have forgotten the ability that human beings possess to perpetrate wickedness and who have lost the moral courage to punish such wickedness with any measure of conviction.

Finally, as to the verdict, I have to admit: it made sense. While foul play was obviously involved, [based on the evidence that the media reported] a clear case of murder was not established. Still, among all our discussions of chloroform and duct tape, let us not forget the importance of prepositions. God is in His Heaven. And while it may be possible [in the short run] for a murderer to get away with such a thing, it is not possible for her to get away from it. Mark these words: If she is guilty, her life will bear it out not many days hence.  Where she has sinned, it will find her out.