Why do we care about murder?
We murder every day as regularly as we take our coffee in the morning. We murder in the fields of poverty, the poor beating out less than a bare living like slaves without the benefit of more comfortable ways to die. We murder in the name of war – which is but an acceptable excuse for the mob to kill other mobs. War is only gang killing by grownups. We murder in the gas chambers, or with the executioner’s needle on the gurney. We murder children, that is, we smash their beauty and creativity early on so they conform like beasts under the line and yoke.
The murder demon lurks evilly, furtively, insidiously in all of us. We have felt it. As born killers we have seen it in our mind’s eye. We deny it with all due vehemence. Have we ever thought of murder? Of course, not. No. Never.
Have we ever threatened murder? Weren’t we only joking, or simply expressing our passing anger when we said “I ought to kill the sonofabitch?” Just a way of speaking, so to speak?
But why does the idea of murder enthrall us so? The television marketers know it – their endless violent murders. Why do we stare so at the screen, excited like waiting hyenas for the kill? The psychologists call it sublimation. It is our deeply repressed need to kill that attracts us to the murder movie. Thankfully we can kill by watching killers. Violence and blood is a requirement because a neat and quiet killing does not satisfy.
We are all killers at heart. We know this, but we do not admit it. That is why we are so taken by the killing of others and their stories – like golfers like to watch golfers. OJ. Why did a nation become captured by a brutal killing committed by a man of little intrinsic worth? He could run his ass up and down a football field but he had little more to show for himself. If he’d been charged with sniffing glue or stealing baseball cards would we have cared? Even if he had been convicted of wife beating it might have made the headlines of the “National Enquirer” for a week or two. But a murder? A murder by OJ was something that would mesmerize a nation. Indeed, we were captivated by a single murder while we allowed millions elsewhere to die needless deaths from starvation or curable disease, which, when knowingly and intentionally permitted, could be argued as nothing less than murder.
It is the terror of murder – both our fear that it might be perpetrated against us or our loved ones, and that we, yes, we, might in some fit of passing insanity murder another. We do not speak of this although the kindest, most gentle know in secret places that they have fantasized murder – thank God we have our senses, our defenses so well poised against this monstrous crime – but we have seen it in our own mind’s eye. And the murderer was we.
It takes so little to arouse the murder gene within. Especially among the young. We make soldiers of these just-past-children because they can murder so readily. We teach them to intentionally kill, to kill with malice aforethought, to murder, not one but as many human beings as possible if they wear a different color cloth on their bodies (called uniforms) or if they pray to a different invisible entity (called their god.)
Perhaps murder is the easiest of all human skills to teach. It is easier to teach a young man to kill than to ice skate or shoot a decent game of pool, or to recite the Ten Commandments accurately, the sixth of which is a commandment against murder. One notes that having no other god before one, or creating a “graven image” or using the name of God in vain, or keeping the Sabbath holy or honoring father and mother are all commandments that come before the Bible’s admonition against murder. Presumably it is more sinful to work on Sunday than to murder.
And because murder is so much a part of us there is a powerful subliminal defense against murder. Legally one cannot cut the throat of a surprised bed partner of one’s wife, but a jury will often find ways to acquit such a killer because murder in the juror might explode in full force were he faced with the same situation. I am only saying that murder is so much a part of who we are as humans that we accept the horror of it with horror, mostly because the horror of it, in the end, explains who we are.