I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard those words. When I worked in prisons, both with youth and adult offenders, medium and maximum security, every single time I had to discipline an inmate who got out of line would say that to me. It has become the mantra of criminals the world over: the Bible says we’re all sinners, so you are no more perfect than I am, motherf**ker.
Reading through the last statements of death row inmates before they were executed by the State of Texas, the trend of “you’re not perfect, so don’t you dare judge me” continues. Many try to say that their death, even when they admit to their crimes, is wrong.
In my experience, those are the last fighting words of dying men and women hoping to be spared at the last second.
It’s human nature to want to live. That’s why suicide has such a stigma surrounding it. Every species on this planet does what they can to survive. Human beings are no different. The big difference between people and animals is that we have a conscience. We can make our own decisions. We do not go out into public and randomly murder other people because it’s in our nature to do so; we are taught early that stealing, hurting, and committing murder are wrong. Even if we’re not taught these things at home, it’s in the culture. We know that it’s not acceptable.
So when convicts – from the lowliest white-collar criminal who knows no violence to the monster who kills five people and then blames it on his hatred for another race – look you in the eye and tell you, “none of us are perfect,” they are lying by omission. They lie just as much to themselves as they do to you.
They lie by casting the spotlight away from themselves. They lie by pointing a finger at you so they don’t have to take responsibility for their own actions. They lie by belittling their crimes and the impact those crimes had on the victims (and, in murder cases, those left behind by their victims). They do it as easily as one would speak their own name; for sociopaths and psychopaths it is always easy, but for convicts who have a conscience and simply choose to ignore it, lying in this manner assuages their guilt for a short while. Eventually it doesn’t bother them at all.
I can’t work in corrections anymore because I don’t have the patience for that lie. I’ve been asked to come back – I simply won’t. Convicts are convicts whether they’re in Texas or Arizona, California or Maine. As I watch certain trials play out in the media, I can tell by watching the accused whether they’re guilty or innocent. You can see it in the way they respond and how the witnesses describe their responses in the days after their arrest.
We live in a culture that claims to want both justice and mercy. Liberals scream that the death penalty needs to be stopped, yet the same people who are against the death penalty are okay with abortions after the second trimester – and they set up websites and threads calling for men like George Zimmerman to be killed, whether he’s found guilty or acquitted. The media reports certain crimes in certain ways to get a lot of attention. Others, they practically ignore…then when the accused in those cases face the death chamber, they call for clemency, right after climbing down from their soapbox where they passionately cried for justice against an innocent soul.
This is what happens when we let our emotions rule us unchecked. It is compounded when there is a lack of education. In a day and age when the average twentysomething has developed the attention span of a gnat and a fantastic ability to process stories no longer than the average Twitter post, it’s not surprising. It is embarrassing, though, that this is what my country has become. I’m aware that none of us are perfect. That is not an excuse to behave like an animal, even if the atheists among us would have you believe that’s all you are.