In 1966 Charles Whitman was a former Marine and an engineering student at the University of Texas. On August 1st. he murdered his wife and mother in their home. He entered the University Tower and shot to death three people. He climbed to the top of the tower and started randomly shooting people walking across campus. He murdered 11 more people from the top of the tower. He wounded 32 others. He was finally shot and killed by an Austin policeman.
In a few hours of that August afternoon Charles Whitman murdered sixteen people and wounded 32. He deserved to die. He did an evil thing. He deserved our hatred.
Or did he?
He was no different than a rampaging grizzly, a Midwestern tornado or a killer whale. He was killing people and had to be stopped and put down like a wild animal. He was evil.
Or was he?
I know I hated him and his evil act. It was quite a shock almost 50 years ago to read, listen, and see reports of this heinous crime. We had not become accustomed to school shootings, mass murder or random evilness. I detested this dead evil monster.
But then the aftermath…we discovered things. I discovered things about myself
What the hell happened? We find later that Charles had been complaining of headaches and hearing voices. He became depressed. And then his note was found.
His note said he had been begging for help for many months…that he ddidn’tfeel right. He said he was filled with uncontrollable rage. He begged whoever discovered his note to please autopsy his brain because it wasn’t right anymore. The voices and the irritation and the pain had become unbearable. He had to do what the voices told him to do.
The autopsy was performed. Charles had a large Glioblastoma Tumor in the Hypothalamus pushing on the Amygdala. This is a total plausible place where a brain tumor can erode impulse control.
And then, still feeling sadness and sympathy for the victims, my hatred of Charles Whitman turned to sympathy. If he would have just gotten help…
It changed the way I view human-evil. I realized that people are not born evil. It is usually always a case of mental illness. It can be caused by Biological, Environmental or Psychological reasons. In many cases it can be fixed. Fixing it can save lives. Mental Health coverage is as important on health insurance plans as physical health.
We are officially starting Thanksgiving Week today. The preparation, travel, and anticipation builds. We gather with our families, cook, eat, play, laugh and try to avoid talking politics with Uncle Hugo.