On Killing

     There was a protest Friday at the Vermont Department of Children’s Services, meant to “expose” the agency for “ripping kids from their parents” to create “a massive profit center.”
     This protest came two weeks to the day after an angry mother shot a Children’s Services worker to death outside her office in Vermont.
     I know I’m supposed to say “allegedly shot her to death.” Screw that. Jody Herring killed Lara Sobel after staking her out at the Children’s Services office in Barre. Then three people, including the county prosecutor, tackled Herring and held her for police.
     Sobel, a mother of two, was 48.
     Herring also is charged with killing three relatives that morning. She was mad because she had lost custody of her 9-year-old daughter and blamed Sobel for it, and blamed her relatives for reporting her.
     I guess Herring showed us who’s a good mother, didn’t she? She was “still laughing and making small talk about the incident like it was no big deal” as she was put into jail, Barre police wrote in a report.
     Now, Departments of Children and Families across the nation fail to prevent some pretty horrendous things. That’s what happens when child services workers are assigned caseloads of 30 and more kids at a time, all of whom have suffered neglect, at the very least.
     That would require six home visits a day to see each kid just once a week, an unlikely possibility unless the caseworkers have no paper work to do for courts, abusive parents, foster homes, other government agencies, and so on.
     Children’s services workers are so overworked, understaffed and underfunded that I find it difficult to believe that when they do manage to remove a kid from an abusive home, they do so for light or transient reasons.
     Nor do I believe they do it to create a “massive profit center.” Show me that money.
     A Herring cousin whose mother was killed told the Burlington Free Press that on the morning of the murders, Herring called her family and told them, “You guys need to stop calling DCF unless you guys are going to have it coming to you.”
     Herring, of course, is either crazy or morally perverted or both. She did not appear to be suffering as she was booked into jail.
     This raises a point that I never have seen addressed in any of the news stories about guns, self-defense, the Second Amendment and so on. That point is: How does a normal person feel after killing someone, whether it’s in self-defense or not?
     I have friends who killed people 45 years ago in Vietnam. They are suffering from it to this day – and they were supposed to kill those people. Those people were trying to kill them.
     One disabled veteran suggested I read “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” by Dave Grossman, a retired Army Lt. Colonel. Citing years of studies and first-hand reports, Grossman concludes that the vast majority of soldiers who serve in war not only do not kill anyone, they deliberately aim over the enemy’s heads to be sure they will not do it. So ingrained, in most of us, is the prohibition against taking human life.
     Admittedly, Jody Herring and the creeps who shoot up churches and schools are not normal. They are moral perverts.
     Morally perverted as well are folks like NRA flack Wayne LaPierre, who throw around terms like “jack-booted thugs” whenever anyone anywhere suggests a radical proposal like, oh, say, keeping guns out of the hands of insane people and violent criminals.
     I don’t call LaPierre a moral pervert because I disagree with him. I call him a moral pervert because in all the millions of words he has spewed about guns, I do not recall a single mention of what happens to a normal human being after he kills someone, with justification or not. That’s a topic that needs to be addressed, far more urgently than we need to worry about those horrible people who work for child protective services.

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