When the Pickle was born I immediately turned into a mother. If you’ve done it, you know what I’m talking about. Something very human in you kicks in and you just figure out how to hold a baby, how to understand her cries, how to change a diaper, how to hold the bottle just right so she’s comfortable (or whatever form of nourishment you’re using). You just know… at least within a couple weeks, anyways. And apart from a small number of people out there, most mothers look at that child and think they are beautiful and perfect and precious. They think, I want this child. I love this child. This child is special.
Not long into my journey through motherhood I stumbled upon a deep and terrifying thought. And to put it bluntly, this is what it was:
Hitler was a baby once.
Roll that around in your brain for a second.
Picture sweet, beautiful, cooing, innocent baby boy. Then flip that switch to decades later when he was carrying out the most horrific genocide our world has ever seen.
You see, no one looked at this precious child and thought ‘he will be a murderer one day’. His mother did not have that goal in mind. His Father did not hold his tiny fingers and think, ‘may the world salute you in terror and fear’.
I could list hundreds, thousands of names. Names of great leaders, of rapists,of compassionate servants, of murderers, of child-molestors, of heroes. They would all have one thing in common: they were all babies once.
Now, like I said before, I take no sides. I don’t believe we humans can pinpoint exactly what causes a person to go down one road or another. In fact, I believe it is dangerous ground when we start playing God and deciding that a label or a situation or a circumstance will determine a child’s fate before they reach their twelfth birthday. I mean look around! About the time we think we have it figured out another killer comes along and commits some senseless, horrific act that throws our theories into confusion. And it’s only in hindsight- in HINDSIGHT- that we can say, oh… maybe it was this. Or maybe it was that.
I believe to some degree, yes. The way a child is raised- environment, circumstance, experiences, etc- influences the direction that child may take in life. The genetic makeup of a child influences their personality and thus the way they fit into their world. But the fact is, aside from all speculation based on research and comparison, humans have something very special.
They have a choice.
No, maybe not when they are aborted before they even see the light of day.
No, maybe not when they are 3 and are abandoned.
No, maybe not when they are 10 and are being sexually abused by a family member.
But at some point in a child’s life they become an adult and they must choose for themselves which path they are going to walk. At that point it is naive of us to turn around and point fingers at all the people who have wronged us along the way and say, “it’s your fault I am who I am.” No. I’m sorry. There are many cases like this where someone else is blamed for a messed up life. But for every case, there are ten thousand more who came out of their trials, who came out of their suffering and chose to make a better life. Who chose to do the right thing.
I say this confidently because there were times in my life where I suffered and could very well have made wrong choices. I could have taken my pain out on the people around me. I could have blamed others for my own struggles. In fact, at one point I did. And while, yes, I needed to do some soul-searching and I needed to get some lies out of my heart, once that time was over, by the grace of God- and I say that with deep conviction and faith that makes all the difference but must be saved for another post- I chose to forgive and move forward with my own life. I chose.
I know that over the next weeks and months, perhaps even years, we will hear lots of things from James E. Holmes’ attorney (we won’t actually hear them from him). I imagine words will be used like- home life, bullying, insanity, disorder, distant, troubled… Keep ’em coming.
But the fact is, a 24-year old man who was smart enough and driven enough to be attending graduate school for a Ph.D in neuroscience chose to orchestrate and commit a mass murder on innocent people in a movie theater. I do not, and will not, blame his parents or his friends or his religion or his childhood or anything else.
I blame him.
And if someday, God forbid, 23 years down the road, I get a call that my precious baby has done something like this, as heartwrenching as it may be, I will need to do the exact same thing.
Because no one looks at a baby and sees the adult they will become…
but everyone looks at the adult and sees the choices they make.