Should we praise old men who kill their wives and then themselves?

04.09.2012, 9:12 AM

My new piece, on elderly murder-suicide, the Snelling case, and multiple recent cases of men killing their sick wives, at Huffington Post today.

Whatever the reasons, even if we have compassion for the killer, surely we should have as much, if not a great deal more, for his victim. At the very least, let’s make a pledge to stop praising these killers as loving heroes. A hero is a man who asks for help, who admits feeling overwhelmed, who cries out for respite, or who simply cries. A man who murders his sick, innocent, helpless wife is no hero.


3 Responses to “Should we praise old men who kill their wives and then themselves?”

  1. Jeffrey says:

    I don’t think we praise as much as we empathize. The parallel is the fact that women who abandon or kill their newborns are rarely prosecuted. Instead, we’ve created elaborate processes for these women to turn over the babies without repercussion. We do it, in part, because we empathize with the pain they are feeling.

  2. mythago says:

    Jeffrey, if you’re referring to ‘safe harbor’ laws, you are in error. The goal of those laws is not to express empathy for the mother, but to provide a way for someone who is going to abandon their newborn anyway to do so where the newborn can be cared for, rather than in a Dumpster or public toilet. In other words, the intent is to save the life of the child, not to forgive the mother (or father) who abandoned the child.

    I am not sure of the basis for your claim that women who kill their newborns are “rarely prosecuted” out of empathy. In such a criminal case, the mother will argue that the baby was stillborn or that she thought it was already dead. If forensics cannot show that the baby was actually killed (which can be difficult) then the prosecutor has a very difficult problem of proving homicide. It’s not about feeling sorry for the mother.

    That said, I would agree with Elizabeth. I understand feeling sympathy for caregivers who may, themselves, be suffering from infirmity or dementia and are overwhelmed, but they are not heroes.

  3. Jeffrey says:

    In other words, the intent is to save the life of the child, not to forgive the mother (or father) who abandoned the child.

    But it also acts to hold the mother (and it is women who are responsible for most infanticide) harmless in the abandonment. You are overwhelmed? Drop the baby off at the fire station and experience no repercussion. THe same thing happens when women kill their babies right after giving birth. In most cases, the mother is not prosecuted because of the same sense of empathy we have for men who kill their sick wives and then kill themselves.