A few years ago I read a book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, about a serial killer who only kills other killers. His foster father had discovered his proclivity for taking life, and instead of turning him in or getting him treated, he trained him to kill only those who are so depraved they don’t deserve to live. He’s a sadistic killer with a bad childhood, and he is so devoid of feeling he fakes every social interaction. A perfect solution to so many nasty little problems, no? So, he was an antagonistic protagonist, sort of.
I find myself fascinated with this character. He forces me to challenge my own beliefs about what’s right and what’s wrong.
What’s moral and just? How does this sit in the biblical context of an eye for an eye? I feel empathy for his bad childhood, and he really seems to want to do as his foster father asked and kill no innocents. But still it bothers me that a stone cold killer is the supposed good guy, on our side. We can’t cheer him on as he’s cutting a child molester to pieces! Or can we?
On one hand, what a great way to bypass a little thing called due process. On the other hand, am I really going to cry if nasty people who know how to manipulate the system are exterminated? But even the roaches I loathe aren’t killed by the exterminator by being chopped up in little pieces (though I really don’t know any exterminators so I can’t really say that with any degree of certainty). And does it really matter if the extermination is humane? Dead is dead. And then, of course, I start thinking about the death penalty and, well, now you have a little glimpse into how my mind works.
Like many books I’ve read in my lifetime it’s stayed with me, and every once in awhile I’ll think about it, ponder the issues it ignites, and put it away. I like it that way. I wonder if other people are as disturbed as I am, and I argue each side. My own private little debates, most of which have no resolution.
My private little debate is going public, though. Why? Because they’ve created a television series based on the character, Dexter. It’s disturbing and powerful and pushes many envelopes. But will it start a dialogue similar to my own inner debates?
It makes me wonder what everyone thinks of this book, this show, this “solution”.
What say you?