If I ever find that magic wand, oh, the things I would wish for!!! We play the lotto game, what would you do if you won the lotto tomorrow? It is fun, and totally useless and unrealistic except for one thing. It makes me look at my priorities.

Anyway, the magic wand would be a different matter. Along with financial freedom, I would ask for understanding, strength and health, world peace, you name it. I am gonna fix the world!

Then, I would ask to walk inside the mind of a murderer. Not a fly by night accidental murderer, but a real, honest to goodness, downright evil, repeat offender. Those who hear of this wish shake their heads and tell me I would not make it back to my own mind safely, and they are probably right. That logic does not minimize my curiosity, my desire or want for understanding.

Logically, I want to understand, truly, how a person can kill, and sleep. What makes the difference between those who can and those who can not? Is it a physical difference? Strictly psychological? Environment? My mother tells the story (too many times) about how I would scream and shriek if she discovered a spider in our house who was about to be squished on the spot. Evidentally, I was not yet ten when I would quickly gather up the poor creature and quickly whisk him outside to some safe, distant location in the yard and whisper "Stay out of the house!" I know, I know snails eat my plants, destroy my garden and my hard work, but I simply cannot step on them. Instead, I place them in a bag, tell them they will enjoy the dump, and leave their fate to God in the garbage can.

Back to Jeffrey Dahmer. He is my favorite example. Good old Jeffrey didn't wake up one morning, and think, "Today, I will kill someone." Granted, that day came and only Jeffrey knows how it evolved.  One day, he killed. Then, he went to sleep. The thought of that night's sleep, or lack thereof, is enough to instigate my own nightmares, thank you very much.  The point being, he woke up and somewhere along the line, decided to do it again.

Something he received, emotionally, from this act was seen as a reward, a good thing. Something he received from this act was enjoyable enough to want it again, and again. Whatever that was, it was stronger than any thing that might have prevented such a deed, be it conscience, fear of punishment, or simple logistics.

Was he completely raised without 'right and wrong' values? Most likely not. I can guess that someone raised in an atmosphere without the basic rules of right and wrong would have to have picked up 'normal' standards from some other source, at some point in time. A child raised by parents who stole for a living, or worse, would have been exposed to enough other people to see that this was not standard behaviour. Granted, he might have preferred to follow in his parent's footsteps, but would he not have learned that stealing was something that you simply did not share with the rest of the neighborhood, thusly understanding this was not standard operating procedure, and viewed as wrong by the rest of society? Obviously, society, outside values and examples did not have enough weight in his life to have made a difference.

Given this, Jeffrey knew it was wrong to murder, and charged on anyway. And then slept, woke up and did it again.

I also have to allow for the fact that I may be at one extreme point of this spectrum, while Jeffrey lived at the other end. All those who reside between us are as equally interesting.  I will meet someone who doesn't have a problem stepping on snails, but this I understand.  They do not share my squimishness, lucky souls. Some do not belief in a higher power or karma, nor any form of outside punishment or repercussions. So be it. I am more concerned with my own countability to myself, and cannot judge theirs. To not return to a store that gave you too much change? Another judgment call, and again, I stand with my own beliefs and cannot criticize anyone else's, until we get to real harm to others, also negotiable.

Bottom line, I do not understand how someone can actually enjoy harming someone or something. An accidental injury, even a purposeful hurt done in anger happens all the time. The inability or unwillingness to apologize or correct a wrong is as common as dirt. What scares me lies beyond that. Imagine the ability to willfully do harm growing rampant in our lives, and becoming the norm. Too late! It already is. More on that some other day.

I watched my tiny son actually enjoy injuring small animals, butterflies, snails and so forth, and my blood ran cold. Discovering this was considered to be normal helped a bit, but did not prevent a firm, gentle and continual effort to prevent this from becoming a habit or growing to be a real problem. The day he discovered he could take his frustration of life out on his baby sister was not a good one. He still, at the age of 21, would physically harass his sister, despite my warnings and threats. A divorce added to his anger, and the years went by until he became a father of two incredible little girls. I noticed that he will certainly tease them, a bit too much for my taste, but I am silent. I smile inside to see any need for passing on his anger or frustrations has subsided.

I will always wonder, what influences in Jeffrey's life determined his path, what his thinking might have been like in order to have committed such pain on others, what pleasure was so intense that the desire for it outweighed any fragment of conscience.

I do wish I could remember where I put that magic wand!

Written by Sharry Anne Stevens 1996, all right reserved

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