I am guilty of a terrible crime and a gross violation of my own ethical code. The fact that I was delusional and out of my mind with irrational fear is not – to me – a satisfactory excuse. Being that I’m serving 40 years for manslaughter and assault with a firearm, it is clear that the People do not see this as a satisfactory excuse either. The fact that it was my Homeland Security FPS-issued service weapon that I used in this tragedy of a crime further compounds my shame.
But worst of all is that despite all the feminist sentiments I expressed before my crime (and still believe), it was a woman that I killed. A woman who both trusted and loved me. Who wanted nothing but to help me on that terrible night. A woman who died trying to save me.
How can one such as I, having violated my own ethics so terribly, feel justified in having an opinion on “ethics”?
After I committed my crime, my self-hatred was so great that I felt the only option was to end my life. I saw no point to continuing a life where I had failed so utterly in living according to what I believed, since there was no way I could possibly undo the damage I had done. Part of me wanted to escape the pain – my grief, horror, guilt and shame – and felt that death would be an escape. It was my soulmate Laura Athena who convinced me that the more difficult choice – staying alive and trying to do some good in the world even though nothing will ever “make up for” what I did, was the only real way to honour the life I took so prematurely.
The reason I committed my crime was because I believed something that wasn’t true. The difference between a hallucination and a delusion is belief.
On the night of what I call the Tragedy, I believed that I was in danger. That I was in Afghanistan, trapped by the Taliban. That my lover was a terrorist, who meant to kill me. I believed, as crazy as it now sounds, that she was a literal monster in human form.
Despite all my atheism and skepticism and bourgeois intelligentsia, some small part of me believed in monsters. And on that terrible night, through a combination of poisonous drugs combined with existing mental illness, I did something that not even my enemies would have believed possible. I shot and killed the person who was trying to help me out of my delusion.
In that moment, I became everything I’ve always hated about men. And she became… nothing. Because of me. Because of my belief.
There is no solace in death for an atheist. No magic lights, no ghostly spirits. We don’t get a “second chance”. We have everything to live for. And she died, a vibrant, beautiful, compassionate person, trying to save a man she loved. Trying to save – me.
If I, someone who had thought deeply about ethics before my crime and actively tried to live according to them, could nevertheless kill a woman I loved, simply because of a delusional belief – is it any wonder that to this day, all the worst wars and most horrific atrocities are committed because of belief in the unreal? Whether that belief is the supremacy of a nation, the superiority of one race over another, a divine right to rule, or an ideology such as fascism or communism?
What we believe informs what we do. Beliefs therefore are neither private, nor harmless. That is why I’m always trying to “test” reality now, to see whether I’m delusional again or not. Sometimes “logic” is not enough to tell reality from unreality, and then I fall back on the ethical code I created as a failsafe to ensure something like the Tragedy never happens again. Commandments to myself that I must obey even if I was under a false belief.
Always do least harm
No being is beneath dignity
No belief is above criticism
Objective morality exists and its measure is the wellbeing of living creatures
And so, in recognizing and accepting my fault in this Tragedy, I do not abdicate my ethical positions. In fact I feel more compelled and indebted to expound upon them than ever before (particularly to my fellow inmates) now from the perspective of someone who knows personally the consequences of violence and delusional thinking. My love for woman-kind and indeed compassion for the lives of all other beings has only grown. I strive to help my fellow men incarcerated alongside me, helping them to find non-violent solutions for stress and mental anguish.
My guiding principles are an opposition to the empirically observable evils of: delusional beliefs (whether caused by mental illness or more systemic), violence against women, and the taking of any life.
These passionate ideals were ones that were shared in life with my victim Heather. And in her memory – and my own quest for redemption – I must continue to fight for a future where the failings of objective morality are no longer tolerated by the greater part of our species.