In December 1964 in Oslo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., when receiving the coveted Nobel Peace Prize, fixated on “man’s inhumanity to man” during his acceptance speech.

Forty-nine years later, in the Arizona case of Jodi Arias, we see a woman’s inhumanity to man.

In the Ohio case of Ariel Castro, we see a man’s inhumanity to woman.

Together, we see two monsters in crime.

Arias was convicted of first-degree murder after stabbing her GQ-looking boyfriend Travis Alexander 27 times, slitting his throat and shooting him in the head. Castro allegedly kidnapped three girls between 2002 and 2004, restrained them with chains and ropes in a dungeon of a torture chamber, raped them repeatedly resulting in pregnancies and essentially displayed the qualities of a terrorist.

We heard of incomprehensible suffering in these two cases. And we want to know why.

“I think the reason is that many people have mental disturbances,” said Dr. Alvin Poussaint, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Their mental disturbances make them do odd things out of the norm.”

These two cases have captivated a reeling nation in unfathomable fashion. Arias is the young murderess with supermodel looks; Castro is the ugly, middle-age ogre from the abyss. They are the beauty and the beast in a new genre of 24-hour-a-day, seven days a week reality television: grotesque criminal cases that disgust a shocked nation while simultaneously driving cable TV ratings to new heights.

We also watched with amazement how a big-city police department, such as Cleveland’s, can drop the ball the size of a 2-ton boulder in investigating the kidnapped girls’ case. There is no way in a Greek philosopher’s logic that this case should have been unsolved for all those years.

The first clue dangling like a neon sign in front of law enforcement’s eyes: One street, three (possibly more) missing girls, five blocks. In hindsight, that’s all you need to know. One of the kidnapped girls, Amanda Berry, told us that when she said during her riveting 911 call: “… I’m Amanda Berry, I’ve been on the news for the last 10 years.”

We saw how the Cleveland Police Department didn’t solve this horrific crime — the courageous Berry and helpful neighbor/racial healer/impromptu rescue artist, the colorful Charles Ramsey, and another neighbor, Angel Cordero, practically did the cops’ job for them.

That’s right, the law-enforcement system failed. Hadn’t the Cleveland Police Department heard about the Jaycee Dugard case?

We saw two monsters transform average television viewers into armchair psychologists, detectives and social workers. Some of those armchair critics howled incessantly about, “How could those three girls stay imprisoned without escaping earlier?” and “They should have done this, and should have done that.”

All of this pseudo-bravado/machismo is ridiculous because no one knows what he or she would do in such a terrifying situation. Remember that adage: “Walk a mile in my shoes.”

And all the while a concerned nation was left searching for context and answers to every morsel of detail released via the media.

Speaking in general terms without one-on-one examinations of either villain, Poussaint surmised Castro to be an egocentric tyrant and Arias an anti-social narcissist. “He’s a guy with a domestic violence mentality, but it’s deeper than that,” said Poussaint, co-author with actor-activist Bill Cosby of “Come on, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors.”

“His domestic violence kept him going; he’s acting out his bizarre craziness. It makes him feel he’s worth more. It’s feeding his ego, feeding his self-esteem, which is very low.

“He controls them (the three girls) with fear and punishment; he has three women who he can have sex with any time he wants. All of this feeds his ego. He’s very disturbed and emotionally troubled.”

Poussaint said Arias exhibited an out-of-control rage. “She has psychopathic qualities,” he said. “Here’s a woman who couldn’t tolerate rejection to the point she had to mutilate him. She’s a very bizarre individual.”

Poussaint said a psychopath is a person who displays an anti-social personality without empathy and normal emotions. He added that psychopathic behavior isn’t always accompanied by violence or physical trauma.

“A person could rob repeatedly or embezzle repeatedly,” Poussaint said. “And they act compulsively.”

He said that while Castro used domestic violence to feed his ego, Arias used attention to feed her narcissism. “And then she acts surprised when people don’t believe her crazy stories,” Poussaint said.

Has there been an increase in incomprehensible acts of depravity from generation to generation or does it just appear that way? Poussaint simply says he doesn’t know. “Who’s to say there’s more today than in the Middle Ages,” Poussaint asks. “There could have been more many years ago.”

Let’s hope there’s less in the future.

Let’s hope we don’t hear 911 replays similar to this on cable news, when Berry told the police dispatcher: “I’ve been kidnapped and been missing for 10 years. I am here, I’m free now. …”

No more man’s inhumanity to man.

Gregory Clay is assistant sports editor for McClatchy-Tribune News Service, 700 12th Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C. 20005; email: [email protected]

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.