Tuesday, 3 October 2006

The horrors of revenge...

Yesterday, on a quiet, early autumn day - the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels - in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania - known as "Amish country" - a place where you can see buggies on the road, one room schoolhouses and hex signs on barns (and have THE BEST shoo-fly pie EVER) - 32-year-old Charles Carl Roberts stepped into a one room schoolhouse in the until-then aptly named town of Paradise, told the adults and the boys to leave, and barricaded himself inside the school with ten young girls, whose feet he tied using wire or plastic cuffs.

He went in prepared for a long siege - pistol, rifle, shotgun, 600 rounds of ammo, change of clothes, food. He'd made a checklist. He'd clearly prepared carefully for this day, rehearsed it in his head - then the police arrived and tried to make contact, but couldn't. He tried to tell them to back away, but as the message was being relayed through an operator, he opened fire on the girls, shooting them all in the head. Five are dead - one family has lost two daughters, another has one dead and one injured - five fight for their lives, with a six-year-old in critical condition. A six-year-old. One child died in the arms of a trooper.

The race was then on to find out why, how this unthinkable, horrific act could have happened. What was going on in his head? How could he have gotten so much ammunition? Were there any signs that this was coming? Could we have stopped it? The questions keep coming.

I have to be honest. Despite my fascination with people and my love of analysing their motives - comes with being an INFJ - a huge part of me doesn't give a damn why. What he did was so horrific, I hate him almost beyond anything I've felt before. That part of me is *glad* he's dead, and is only sorry because he shot himself, and the policemen didn't get the satisfaction of taking him out. I don't want to know; I just want him suffering what he put those girls through, over and over and over again. For eternity. With *no* hope of redemption.

In that part of me, I see him, his darkness. And I realise that every single one of us is capable of every heinous act we see committed - our triggers are different, how far we have to be pushed is different, but we all have the potential. I remember a friend once saying that if anyone hurt her brother, "F*** redemption," she'd go to any length to get them. And I know that I'd be the same if anything happened to anyone I loved - I'd be capable of turning my back on redemption and turning into the monster that person would never have wanted me to become.

Hate is blind. So I have to open my eyes and do what I do with everyone else...listen and find out why. No matter how much I want to weep every time I think of the little girls, alone, terrified, unable to comprehend what is happening to them - feet bound, lined up in front of the chalkboard in a place that had been safe just a few hours ago - their families, *his* family. I - no, we - need to look into the darkness and understand why.

Bits and pieces are coming together now -
he finished his night shift at 0300, walked his kids to school at 0845 as he did every morning. Yeah. HE HAD KIDS. A father did this. One with children the same age as the ones he killed. He left suicide notes for his family, claiming a 20 year old grudge, admitting to having sexually abused a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old family member at that time. He and his wife lost a daugher, Elise, 20 minutes after she was born in 1997. Here is an excerpt from his note to his wife:

I am filled with so much hate, hate toward myself hate towards God and unimaginable emptyness it seems like everytime we do something fun I think about how Elise wasn't here to share it with us and I go right back to anger.

I could understand that, feel for it, if he had taken his children to school, walked into the woods, and put a gun in his mouth. Devastating as that would be, he would have taken the only life he had a right to take (all with religious convictions - I know that's debatable) - and his obvious pain and anger would have made it understandable, forgivable, despite the shattered lives left behind...especially those of his children.

But he PLANNED this. All the items I mentioned above...and, oh God, "restraint kits" and *KY JELLY*. Yes. You read that right. He bought the zip ties at 0914 and went to the school. His note is filled with anguish, and yet he methodically planned the abuse and murder of young girls. When he walked his children to the schoolbus to make sure they got there safely, he knew what he was going to do, and had the presence of mind to stop and buy zip ties so he could bind the girls' feet (I found one website which even advertised the fact that law enforcement used them as handcuffs). This was premeditated with a coldness worthy of any predator found in Patricia Cornwell. The dissonance here screams so loudly, even the most insensible to human emotion can hear it.

Psychologists say that paranoia, despair and anger are the three components
in 'revenge' shootings. In Roberts' life, we see all three. In addition to what I've already mentioned, apparently he'd been having dreams about molesting again. He talked about revenge for a 20-year-old incident, which now appears to be the molestations. It seems as if he was afraid, even paranoid, that he'd do it again.

But wait. Revenge is about having been hurt by someone - most revenge shootings are about having been fired or bullied or ignored or cheated on. They're not about "I'm afraid *I'll* do this again." If you actually take responsibility, then the most logical course would be to remove *yourself* from temptation or from the world - suicide. You don't hold children hostage, and you most certainly do *not* make preparations to do the very thing you're afraid of doing.

I've often wondered if paedophiles blame their victims for tempting them. If he believed that they tempted him, made him do it, made him this horrible person, then a revenge shooting makes terrible, twisted sense...and part of that revenge might be to make them suffer before he killed them.

We don't have all the pieces yet, and we may never have the full story. But every act - terrible and good - is a mirror for us all, since society shapes every individual. In this man, this killer, we see ourselves: our anger, despair, paranoia - and our emptiness that comes from increasing isolation from eachother and the belief that things can fill the void that only love - of God, ourselves and others - can.

And as for revenge - the best revenge is going out there, living, laughing and loving...knowing that the bastards didn't destroy you or who you were meant to be. It doesn't matter if they don't know - you do...and if you're honest, revenge is never about them. It's always about *you*.

Enough. It is time to grieve alongside the families, friends and community of those little girls who died and those who still fight for their lives, as well as the family, friends and community of Charles Carl Roberts, all of whom must be in pain we can't even begin to imagine.

Above all, it is time to pray for all the dead - if the Amish can begin the struggle to forgive, both by proclaiming its necessity and spending time with the killer's family (as the teacher in the schoolhouse, Emma Zook, has), then so can we:

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

In paradisum deducant te angeli
in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.

HaMakom yenachem et'chem b'toch shar avay'lay Tzion vee'Yerushalayim.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Which only makes me think, for the umpteenth time, WHY can't we have more WOMEN PREACHERS??? Your reflection is well worth reading. You need to get out to far wider audience...