“All that I have behind me is, smoke, death, desolation, and damnation.”
Aside from the low production quality, and some bad acting in the film, this voyeuristic view into the life and mind of Panzram is fascinating, even if it is disturbing and haunting. The great question that one wrestles with is how much we, as a society, have “created” sociopaths. And perhaps more importantly, how can we elevate even our criminal justice system to humanize the “correctional facilities” and systems?
It seems historically accurate to say that we have progressed, from more barbaric times and perspectives, doing away with some truly horrific forms of torture. Yet, it seems quite appropriate to also say that we have a long way to go towards understanding the depths of humanity in light of criminal activity. Do we truly see the incarcerated as “people” and not as “criminals?” Do we believe “punishment” is “corrective?” Do we take any considerations of the power of our environments as deeply influential into who we are and who we become? Are we opposed to “kindness,” “compassion,” and dare I say, “love,” as potentially powerful tools in our criminal justice system? Are we willing to face, with honesty, the unbalanced distribution of “power,” and it’s destructive deployment among our citizenry?
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. – Matthew 25:36
And then there is the tension between nature and nurture to which I say, “We are all people first, our behaviors second.” In other words, judges and law enforcement officers are people first, with all the biases, blind spots, and conditioning that comes with being human. They are judges and police officers second. Same with “criminals.” Accepting this “common humanity,” may be the first step towards bringing true justice to our criminal justice system.
“There but for the grace of God…?”