You don’t get it, do you, Ariel Castro? You didn’t get it, ever. Not when you lured Michelle Knight into your house, promising a puppy for her son. Not when you comforted Gina De Jesus’ parents at their daughter’s vigils. Not when you were the proud daddy buying stuffed toys for Amanda Berry’s little girl.
Not when they snapped the handcuffs over your wrists. Not when they sentenced you on 937 counts of rape, kidnapping, aggravated murder … the list goes on. You looked the death penalty in the face, and decided that life in jail was better–but you still didn’t get it.
All you can find to say is “I’m not violent.” “I’m just sick.” “I’m a normal person.” “I’m not a monster.”
I wonder if you ever watched television with the little girl–I won’t call her yours. And watching some old fairy tale, did you ever see a hall of mirrors, smashed to pieces? And getting up from the couch, did you happen to step on a piece of broken glass or two? Because I’m thinking there was a lot of it. Broken mirrors.
Now that society holds up the cold hard looking-glass, you recoil, because you don’t even recognize what you’re seeing. Evil can’t look itself in the face.
“That’s not me.” “I’m not a monster.”
Wait, what do you think a monster is? Green scaly skin? Horns? Fangs? Let us have a definition here. But first let me give you a few examples, because the line between humans and monsters is so thin, a lot of us seem to miss it.
We get the obvious ones, and wonder why you don’t. Murder–over the line. Rape–over the line. Kidnapping, beating, torturing–so far over the line it’s out of sight.
Slave labor–over the line. Women forced into prostitution–over the line. Ok, this is still basic.
Taking pictures of a woman bleeding to death on a supermarket floor. Over the line. Telling a suicidal poster on the internet, “Why don’t you go ahead?” Over the line.
Posting obscene comments about the plight of a helpless person you’ve never met, who can’t defend themselves–wait, is that just trolling, or–
How about taking that million dollar bonus while the woman who works sixty hours a week for you can’t pay for the shoes that would help her painful feet, and you’re thinking about letting her go, because she’s “not meeting productivity standards in her department.” I see something here, does that look like a line?
So let me draw you a line. Crossing it starts with this simple piece of self-deception:
“What I want for my own gratification–though I may believe I have higher motives–is more important than someone else’s life, liberty, or well-being.”
THIS IS THE LINE.
Cross it at your peril. Like that first drink of alcohol, you don’t know the end of it. Maybe you’ll be the social drinker who lives to be ninety-nine. Maybe you’ll be the forty-one year old John Doe on the slab at city morgue. But once you cross, the decision is cast. Maybe you’ll get back. But it’s a lot harder than it looks.
Across the line, the way back turns blurry. The little hill that was easy to slide down–it’s steep; it’s high. It’s way easier to go down that next little hill. Keep going, as the thin line recedes behind you–you can’t see it now. Line? Was there ever a line? It must be somewhere ahead.
And so, walking down a path of broken mirrors, you never see where you lose your humanity.
Doing what you did did not transform you into a monster. That change was already in your mind, one thought at a time. You were what you were on the day you offered Michelle Knight a ride that she never came back from until now. That action did not turn you into every family’s worst imaginings. It only opened the door and let out the creature you had become.
You see, you got to the line before you acted. And you crossed it before you made a decision. You crossed it when you began to believe that someone else’s basic rights as a human being did not matter as much as your desires, your agenda.
You’re gone now–but you’re not. Regrettably, you will go on troubling us long after you leave prison “nailed in a box, or in an ashcan.” Even though we’ve sent you away–though we’re applauding the survivors of your cruelty, and feeling like the law did its job–still, that doesn’t seem like enough somehow; and leaves me wondering, what is there left to do?
Perhaps it’s this–which is for us to take a good hard look at your trail of broken glass. Then think twice the next time we go to break a mirror.