Friday, December 9, 2011

No leniency for assassins

    Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865, opened a new darker note in American history. After John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln, he jumped from the presidential box onto the stage at Ford’s Theater and shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis,” Latin for “Thus always to tyrants” and the motto of the state of Virginia.

     For his act, Booth was hunted down and killed by federal operators. Co-conspirators also paid a price, including the death penalty for some. The price for the nation has never been fully accounted.

     In 1981, John Hinckley Jr. made an attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan. Ironically, Hinckley claimed no political agenda. He was just trying to get a date with actress Jodie Foster.

     This craziness earned Hinckley a supposed lifelong stay at St. Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital. But now his lawyers and his family believe he has paid enough for his attempt. Medical professionals believe his obsessions are so much better that he should be able to extend the home visits now supervised by his mother.

     Any criminal act results in terrible pain. Effects ripple well beyond the individuals directly involved. But assassination is not like other crimes. Assassination is always, intentionally or not, a much bigger act because it always changes history for all humanity.

                America has been made poorer by each assassination or attempt made on our political figures. Rehabilitation or shortened sentences are simply out of the question when considering the consequences assassins should suffer. John Hinckley forever gave up his right to determine his future when he struck at ours.

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