This photo of Eric Rudolph just makes me feel queasy. Seeing the look on his face, reading about the pride he seemed to display when he described his crimes, has me thinking, "What kind of creature is this? What planet is he from?"
But I know the answers. Planet: Earth. Kind of creature: Homo sapiens.
We like to imagine that people like Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, Osama bin Laden, serial killers, etc., are monsters. Freaks. Not like us. Not kin to us. Acknowledging that they are of the same species that we are means that the potential for that kind of mindset could be within any of us.
It's unlikely that anybody who's reading this is going to go out and commit mass murder. But the spirit that is behind their actions can express itself in smaller ways in us. To get so wrapped up in anger, hatred, or "righteous indignation" that we see another person as less than a person, not fully deserving of respect or acknowledgement, not having rights. Some of the people who witnessed Tim McVeigh's execution said that they felt unsatisfied because he hadn't suffered enough. We become the enemy when we give place to those kinds of desires. Even when I'm talking about people whose actions make me really angry, I try to avoid dehumanizing words like scumbag, rat, monster, Nazi (unless someone really was a member of a Nazi party).
Mr. Rudolph is a danger to society, and I'm glad he is going to prison for life. But it would degrade my humanity and spiritual integrity to start hoping that people will do this-or-that to him in prison. I don't wish him a horrible painful death someday. I do hope that someday he feels horrible about what he's done. That would be a healthy reaction. That would be a sign that his humanity and spirit were being reawakened.
We all need to endeavor to maintain our sense of kinship with all people, the good, the bad, and the unspeakably ugly.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. -- Matthew 5:43-45