Norway has tried and convicted a mass murderer, and found him* sane. I think that’s a mistake – on several levels. At its most basic, do we truly believe that a slaughter of innocents in order to make a political point is the act of a sane human being? I don’t. I certainly hope you don’t. If we, and our laws, say that “Mass murder in the name of politics is a sane act, it’s ‘just’ against the law,” I think we need to look to our own sanity.
And at another level, by not judging a mass murderer to be insane we not only ratify for the murderer that s/he is “rational,” we also teach that lesson to those who are watching what we do. When we judge a mass murderer “sane,” I submit that we are helping to glorify the mass murderer and ratify his/her delusion that this is some sort of “war” and the murderer a warrior.
This is what the Norway murderer understood when he admitted that the only ruling from the court that he truly feared was a ruling that he was insane – and having been ruled sane, he then happily apologized for not killing even more people in the name of his cause: a White Christian Europe. This is what the Oklahoma City bomber believed when, sentenced to death for his cause, he quoted Justice Brandeis. This is what the organizers of 9-11 believed when they rationalized so many thousands killed in the name of Islam.
If we truly want to defeat these murderers, we need to take away from them their legitimacy. We should judge them to be what they are … insane.
By this I do not mean that when caught they should be treated with kid-gloves, force-fed some drugs and released in a few years if they “promise to be good.” A mass murderer should be judged insane, criminally insane, and incarcerated for life – no possibility of parole.
But we need to understand that by judging the perpetrators of these depraved acts “sane,” we are granting them a legitimacy that is not only morally wrong but incredibly foolish.
What is also wrong, as well as hugely counter-productive, is the complicity of our news organizations and politicians in identifying the religion of a mass murderer, if (and only if) that person happens to be Muslim. No one looks to the murderer in Norway and believes he truly speaks for Christianity – despite his ties to right-wing militant groups that call themselves Christian. The Oklahoma City bomber was not seen as speaking for Christianity – despite his ties to the Christian Identity movement. We know better. We know that these nutcases are not what Christianity is about. We also ought to know better when it comes to Islam. But far too many of us don’t.
Insane is insane. And mass murder no more represents Islam than it does Christianity, or Judaism, or Hinduism, or Atheism for that matter. We need to know each other better. Mass murder knows no spiritual path – only the path of insanity. I truly wish the court in Norwayhad seen that.