The Report Newsmagazine by special permission

Latimer may not like it, but the old, simple law against murder fits him just fine

Mariette Ulrich


Once we were a Christian nation, with laws based on Judeo-Christian teaching. The commandment "Thou shalt not kill" covered a multitude of sins.

Then Canada became a modern, pluralistic society. Now, we're told, such biblical exhortations are at once too much and not enough to cover all the bases. Apparently the old law against murder goes too far in some cases, and not far enough in others. Robert Latimer's lawyer, Mark Brayford, says there can be no "one-size-fits-all" approach to sentencing convicted murderers like his client. We need to look at things on a case-by-case basis, judging a man not necessarily by his actions, but also by his feelings and motivations.

Even our comprehension of "murder" is at once too broad and too narrow in scope. We therefore need both an expanded definition as well as sub-classifications to cover special cases. Latimer's supporters, for instance, want a new category on the books: "compassionate murder." A kinder, gentler murder. Good Loving Murder, as opposed to plain old Regular Murder (motivated by things such as greed and revenge), and Bad Hateful Murder (the kind that's committed against identifiable minority and/or disadvantaged groups such as women, Jews, homosexuals and "people of colour." Hence the need for hate crimes legislation).

Good Murder is a whole different ball game. It's a result of too much love. Good Murder means putting people out of their suffering, for their own good, and the good of all. These people (if they really are "people" in the contemporary sense of the term), while certainly as identifiable and as disadvantaged as the above-named groups, don't deserve special legal protection. They're expendable. They're unproductive, useless and burdensome. They include the unborn, the terminally ill, the handicapped, the aged and infirm.

It's a sticky business, but with the help of modern terminology and the media the message is getting through. It's much easier to justify murder when you dehumanize the victim. The Nazis used tattooed numbers; the Canadian media use euphemisms and carefully chosen adjectives. Pre-born babies are "products of conception"; the terminally ill need "death with dignity," even if they must be coerced into it. And the handicapped are given epithets which downplay their personhood.

Tracy Latimer, for example, is always referred to as "His Severely Disabled Daughter," as if she had no identity apart from her father or her handicap. You'll never see her referred to as "Tracy Latimer, human being," or "Tracy, a person under the law," or just plain "Tracy."

Some Canadians have been singled out for special protection (nay, promotion), while others have been singled out for extermination by default (by granting leniency--if not Cult Hero status--to their killers). Regardless of how the individual members of this Expendable Class may think and feel, society at large has decided that their lives are not worth living. And we love them too much to allow them to live lives that may entail suffering for themselves or their caregivers.

However, we'll have to find a more appropriate term: "Compassionate Murder" is an oxymoron (two opposing ideas that coexist in one word or phrase, like "bittersweet" or "postal service"). The word compassion means "to suffer with," and you can't suffer with someone you're killing. The last thing modern man wants to embrace is suffering--his own, or anyone else's. There is no redemptive value in suffering, now that Christ and his crucifixion are passť.

This is not to say that Christians think suffering shouldn't be relieved, but there are many more truly compassionate ways of doing so than by murdering (or aborting the child of) the person who is suffering. After all, homosexuals, women and ethnic/racial minorities also suffer, don't they? (And from "systemic discrimination" too, no less.) Would anyone suggest as a remedy they be murdered?

This argument has already been advanced in the abortion debate, and incredibly, the public swallows it whole. Henry Morgentaler credits himself for a drop in the crime rate, saying he has eliminated many potential lawbreakers. (I wonder how he knew which blobs of tissue were destined for a life of crime?) So why not take the argument a step further: maybe Mark Lepine was trying to prevent his victims from suffering the rampant sexism of the male-dominated engineering world. Maybe Paul Bernardo saved his victims from painful teenage angst.

If such a notion sickens you (and it should), then take a long, hard look at what Bob Latimer and the Happy Murder Gang want. The path they're leading us down ends in a gas chamber (which is pretty ironic, considering how Tracy died).

Truth is, we human beings have worth based on the very fact of our existence. (Christians call it "inherent" human dignity, based on the teaching that we are created in the image of God.) No one may judge whether or not another person's life is worth living. Concepts such as "quality of life," "wantedness," "productivity," and "suffering" are entirely relative, depending on your circumstances. God knew our finite and fallible minds would have difficulty grappling with these issues. Maybe that's why all he told Moses was, "Thou shalt not kill."


Mariette Ulrich is a homemaker, home-schooler and freelance writer in Scott, Sask.

010319tr-026 - 03-19-2001 United Western Communications

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