Remember the quote from Shrek about ogres and onions? Both have layers that make them complex. And so it is with Charles Francis Gaskins, the white supremacist sentenced this week to life in prison for murdering a child molester.
On the outside layer -- the most superficial there is -- the story sounds almost like a celebration. Neil Hayes was a bad, bad man, and we have one less child molester on the streets! It's tempting to say that this man did a public service!
But did he? Did he really? Let's move on to the second layer.
Because Charles Gaskins wasn't a member of law enforcement who killed child molester Neil Hayes during the commission of a crime. Charles Gaskins was an ex-con, a member of the Peckerwoods, a white supremacist group that charges its members with vigilantism. They're to rid the world of child molesters who would sully the Caucasian race, and Gaskins followed his duty, bashing Hayes' head in with a rock, then disposing of his body with the help of his wife.
He had to hide it because what he did was wrong, no matter how good it felt.
And how did he have access to this child molester? That's another layer in this sordid tale.
Turns out Hayes was Gaskins' friend, or he was when the two were in prison, before Gaskins joined the Peckerwoods, before Hayes was released and turned to his old pal for a place to stay, before Gaskins found Hayes' name on the sex offender registry.
We're not just talking about a murder here, but a murder of someone Gaskins supposedly cared about. If he could do that, what else could he do? Who else would he hurt, with as little care as he showed for his supposed friend?
At the core of this onion is an uncomfortable but rather simple fact: Charles Gaskins will spend life in prison because he did something grievously wrong, and because he represents a danger to society.
It's an unpleasant thing to make sense of: child molesters are not people to be celebrated, but that doesn't make their murders moments to celebrate either. We can't parse out who "deserves" to be murdered.
Agree? Do you think this monster should be headed to prison, or do you feel sympathy for him because of who he killed?
Image via Sacramento Sheriff's Department