Thursday, August 29, 2013

Moral Monsters

Dennis Prager recounts the crimes of Ariel Castro and has no difficulty describing this man as an evil monster:
In August 2002, a homo sapien known as Ariel Castro abducted 21-year-old Michelle Knight, the mother of a two-year-old boy. In April 2003, he abducted Amanda Berry, a day before her 17th birthday. And in April 2004, he abducted 14-year-old Gina DeJesus.

For the next ten years, these girls were regularly raped, kept in chains, beaten, humiliated and almost never allowed to see the light of day. When Michelle Knight became pregnant, Castro starved her for two weeks and kicked and punched her in the stomach to induce an abortion. He repeated this method of pregnancy termination on Knight four additional times.

It is important to try to understand the magnitude of the sadism and other forms of cruelty and suffering inflicted by this creature.

First, there is the horror and suffering of being kidnapped; of being taken away from everyone you love. Even if no torture, rape, solitary confinement, etc., were involved, that would be enough to weep for these girls. And in Michelle's case, she was taken from her baby boy, whom she never got to see grow up, and had every reason to fear she would never see again.

Second, there is the nightmare inflicted on the families. One day, their daughter, sister, and in one case, mother, disappears -- seemingly forever. Was she murdered? Had she suffered? Is she suffering now? Day after day, year after year, those questions haunted the families.

Third, now add the torture, beatings, grotesque humiliations, rapes, permanent state of terror and confinement much of the time to a basement -- for 10 years.

Mercifully for us, we humans cannot completely assimilate the totality of the suffering of victims such as these three girls. But we can at least intellectually perceive the monstrous behavior that went on in that Cleveland house.

Now, what about Castro? What is he? The answer is that he is a monster.
Most of us, perhaps, would agree, but not our sophisticated elites who scoff at the word "evil." Evil, you understand, is a moral category, and according to many who set intellectual fashion, objective morality doesn't exist. Our behavior is caused by forces beyond our control, we're told. Our childhood experiences and our genetic predispositions establish who we will be and how we will behave. Ariel Castro himself declared that he wasn't a monster but rather that he was "sick" and needed therapy. A lot of academics agree with him.

Recall that George W. Bush was roundly ridiculed for referring to North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as the "axis of evil" in the post-9/11 years. Bush was right, of course, but the notion that governments are evil, even though they manifestly are, was risible to his liberal detractors.

Jeffrey Dahmer was another monster who killed young men and then cannibalized them. He told an A&E interviewer shortly before his own murder in prison that,
If a person doesn't believe that there's a God to be accountable to then what's the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within "acceptable" ranges? That's how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution was true, that we all came from the slime. When we died that was it. There's nothing.
For Dahmer there was no moral good or evil because there was no moral authority beyond himself. Our culture largely accepts Dahmer's thinking on evil, even if it doesn't yet take that thinking, as Dahmer did, to its logical conclusion.

When a culture finds itself reluctant to make imputations of good and evil, when it laughs at such judgments, when good and evil are seen as archaic categories employed by those who still "cling to their guns and bibles," as Mr. Obama infelicitously described such folk, then we'll simply get many more Ariel Castros and Jeffrey Dahmers. We'll get many more young men like the three who just a couple of weeks ago shot dead the Australian baseball player jogging home from his girlfriend's house because the killers were bored.

When nothing, no matter how heinous, is thought to be genuinely evil, when no one is believed to be really responsible for their actions, evil behavior will proliferate throughout the culture. We can't eliminate it simply by redefining evil as something else. We need to call it by it's name and hold responsible those who do it. Otherwise, how different are we from the dystopia described in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games?

Read the rest of Prager's column at the link, and ask yourself if "evil" isn't precisely the word to describe the Nazi with the shovel.