Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Yates idiocy

Houston, Texas is tops in the nation in rendering death sentences for murderers. Harris County is responsible for more death sentences than any other state in the country other than Florida. And Texas is the leading enforcer of the death penalty in the US. More death row inmates get their just reward in Texas than in the rest of the nation combined each year.

So it is neither understandable nor justifiable how a Houston jury, upon retrial of quintuple-infanticidist Andrea Yates, could render a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict for her. The woman should be shot, be it in the arm with a needle or by other methods, not hospitalized in some mental ward until she's cleared by some sympathetic doctors (probably sometime after menopause renders her infertile).

The proof is in the details, as Mark Steyn noted shortly after she killed her five children:

. . . by her own admission, Andrea Yates of Houston killed all five of her children. Not in a burst of gunfire, but by methodically drowning them all in the bathtub. Anyone who's tried to give an unwanted hair-wash to a kid will appreciate the effort involved in holding five struggling youngsters under water. The oldest, seven-year-old Noah, was the last to die. He wandered into the room and saw his baby sister lying lifeless in the water. 'What's wrong with Mary?' he asked. 'Get in the tub, ' his mother said. He understood. He ran, for his life. But she caught him and dragged him back to the bathroom, and forced him under, legs kicking, arms flailing. He was old enough to know, as he looked up into her eyesand fought against the weight of her hands, that his own mother was killing him.

Yes, Rusty Yates is an SOB who is more than a little strange himself and failed to take a real hand in either child-rearing or the marriage. But there is no excuse for this woman. More Steyn:

. . . 'Postpartum depression' certainly exists, though whether in most instances it's just a fancy name for an entirely natural discombobulation by a life-changing event is another matter. Mental illness isn't like physical illness: there are no scientifically measurable pathogens behind the symptoms. If you notice a blemish on your arm, it might be melanoma, or a lesion indicative of Aids, or a mild discolouration because you fell off your bicycle the other day. But at some point the objective cause of the blemish will be known.

By contrast, with mental illness the symptoms are mostly self-defining: you hunted your seven-year-old through the house, pulled him back to the bathroom and drowned him? Must be postpartum psychosis. 'No sane person' would kill her children. You killed your children. Therefore, you're not sane.

In his book The Untamed Tongue, Thomas Szasz wrote, 'What people nowadays call mental illness, especially in a legal context, is not a fact, but a strategy; not a condition, but a policy; in short, it is not a disease that the alleged patient has, but a decision which those who call him mentally ill make about how to act toward him.'

Anna Quindlen, the poster woman for self-pitying solipsistic Baby Boomer women throughout the west, said in a column responding to the Yates murders that she understood the urges that drove Andrea. Motherhood is difficult, and Quindlen said it can make Mommy displeased when cleaning up after her youngest son (of two in her case) pukes up his dinner all over his sheets in the middle of the night thereby causing Mommy to have to do an unscheduled laundry.

A century ago, there would have been no washer to throw 'em into, and fewer sheets. And she wouldn't have had a mere two boys, but thrice that number. . . . Au contraire, aside from the [ ] kids, the Anna Quindlens of the 1800s would most likely have had an aged relative or two living at home and adding to their burdens - some 14 people living in a New England farmhouse that today's realtors would advertise as a 'three-bedroom home'.

True, in those days women didn't have the dreary chore of shopping: instead of loading the trunk once a week at Price-Chopper, they had to grow it all at home. And the work they had to do wasn't a little light telephone sales or Newsweek punditry but brutal and back-breaking and unending - which is why so many of the worn, grey-haired rural wives in early photographs prove on close examination of the dates to be in their early thirties. In the 20th century, the refrigerator, dishwasher et al. so transformed the average woman's life that by the Fifties she was sitting in a house in the 'burbs bored and unfulfilled. So then women started going out to work. And, though life's a bitch with the job and the school-run and collecting 'em from daycare and picking up takeout at the drive-thru on the way home, the average woman cares for fewer kids and fewer aged demanding relatives, has more mechanical assistance and more mobility, and does less physical labour and housework than any generation in human history.

But boomer narcissism knows no bounds. So, for the new generation of sob sisters, infanticide is an understandable byproduct of the burdens of contemporary lifestyle. And, if we're all guilty, then no one is. . .

So it goes with Andrea and her lawyer, who's upbeat about her prospects of beating the rap. She's being tried for quintuple homicide: she killed five people, consecutively, and then called her husband at the office to invite him back to take a look.

Suppose she is 'ill'. She still did something truly evil, for which others in Texas would be executed, and it's hard to see why she should be exempted from that possibility simply because she's the mother of the victims. If she was as loving a mother as her family claim, she would, now [that] the alleged psychotic raptus has passed, accept the enormity of her crimes and plead guilty, period. But instead she's working out her strategy with counsel, because in the end it's all about her, isn't it? And, in that sense at least, the solidarity of the scrupulously non-judgmental columnists is genuine: call it a sisterhood of self-indulgence.

No comments: