Tuesday, April 17, 2007

`A Quick Thorough Job'

In A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders, Gary M. Lavergne writes:

“Charles Whitman knew what he was doing was evil. Explanations for his crimes describe the sources of his frustrations, but they do not excuse his killing. Almost every premeditated murder results from frustration of some sort, and Whitman’s troubles were not particularly remarkable.”

On Aug. 1, 1966, Whitman shot and killed 15 people and wounded 31 from the clock tower at the University of Texas in Austin. The night before, after killing his mother and wife, Whitman wrote in a notebook:

“I imagine it appears that I brutally killed both of my loved ones. I was only trying to do a quick thorough job . . . If my life insurance policy is valid please pay off my debts . . . donate the rest anonymously to a mental health foundation. Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type.”

In The Anatomy of Melancholy, in the chapter titled “Emulation, Hatred, Faction, Desire of Revenge, Causes,” Robert Burton writes:

“This hatred, malice, faction, and desire of revenge, invented first all those racks and wheels, strappadoes, brazen bulls, feral engines, prisons, inquisitions, severe laws to macerate and torment one another. How happy might we be, and end our time with blessed days and sweet content, if we could contain ourselves, and, as we ought to do, put up injuries, learn humility, meekness, patience, forget and forgive, as in God's word we are enjoined, compose such final controversies amongst ourselves, moderate our passions in this kind, and think better of others, as Paul would have us, than of ourselves: be of like affection one towards another, and not avenge ourselves, but have peace with all men. But being that we are so peevish and perverse, insolent and proud, so factious and seditious, so malicious and envious; we do invicem angariare, maul and vex one another, torture, disquiet, and precipitate ourselves into that gulf of woes and cares, aggravate our misery and melancholy, heap upon us hell and eternal damnation.”

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