One of the big news stories these days is that doctors are saying John Hinckley’s mental illness is in remission and that he should be released. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity after attempting to assassinate President Reagan in 1981. The government opposes this, and from posts I’ve seen online, apparently a good portion of America feels the same. Now, I’m not Hinckley’s doctor (or anyone’s doctor for that matter) so I can’t say for sure he is no longer exhibiting symptoms of mental illness, but I do have a problem with the idea that he should never be released. There are likely numerous people who were convicted of murder since 1981, were not mentally ill and have since been released. Why is Hinckley different? Is it because he shot famous people? Is it because we don’t believe the mentally ill can be helped? Or is it that we overwhelmingly believe that no one should be released after these crimes and we speak up on this one because it is in the news? I think it is the latter. We don’t believe in rehabilitation and redemption(except in the case of coupons)
Some recent cases:
Large numbers of people believe Michael Vick should never be allowed to play football again because he was arrested on animal cruelty charges. They don’t care if he has changed, knows what he did was wrong and never plans to do it again. He should be punished forever!
Large numbers of people think Ray Lewis should never have been allowed to play football because he was involved in an altercation which resulted in someone being killed(not by him) and he was stupid and ran and tried to protect his friends. It doesn’t matter that everything about his life after that indicated a complete change in the way he lived. He should be punished forever!
I also see some of this in responses to the numerous news reports about people being shot by the police. There are a large number of people who imply that the people shot deserved it for breaking the law. I blogged about that here last year in reference to a police chase gone bad. The feeling is that they broke the law so they no longer deserve to live.
Of course, this all changes the minute you have a loved one who gets in trouble. Or if you do something wrong. Then we are all about forgiveness and redemption.
I’m not saying Hinckley is cured. I don’t know that. I’m not a doctor, but neither are you. But it’s not really about that. It’s about people not wanting to see Hinckley given a chance at life because he shot a famous person over 30 years ago.