In ancient Rome, a condemned citizen might not only lose his life. The Roman Senate could decree that all traces of his worldly existence be expunged. In Latin the term was damnatio memoriae -- condemned from memory. His name would be struck from public scrolls, his statuary likeness decapitated or reduced to rubble.
The murderer who struck in Tucson, whatever his fate at the hands of a jury, deserves to be obliterated from the collective memory and history of our nation.
In response to another mass murderer, the State of New York passed the first "Son of Sam law" to prevent felons from profiting financially from their crimes through books, movies or other means. Now we must think anew about what we can do to deter those who would contemplate assassination or mass murder to gain a national or world stage. At a minimum, we must eliminate from their twisted calculus all hope of gain, including any form of postmortem statement.
Let the psychoanalysts, law enforcement agencies and other professionals glean what they may from the words and images of this murderer. One can hope they may find something that will help us prevent others from channeling their inchoate rage into violence.
But as a nation we must deny this murderer all legacy. Do not speak his name. Turn away from his image. Let him and his foul memory fall into a pit from which nothing will emerge. Let our message to all who might commit such atrocities be clear: What awaits you is oblivion.
Our damnation of this deed and its perpetrator requires no law. It requires our collective will as individuals and as a society. We owe no less to those we lost in Tucson.
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