On March 11, 2012, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales went on a shooting spree in Kandahar, Afghanistan—killing 16 civilians including nine children.
Once news of the killings broke, the media asked “why?”
"I just can't believe Bob's the guy who did this," said Paul Wohlberg, Bales' next-door neighbor. "A good guy got put in the wrong place at the wrong time. ...I never thought something like this would happen to him."
It was then discovered that Bales may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Bales had seen a fellow soldier’s leg blown off a day before the killings and had suffered a head injury and lost part of a foot during three earlier deployments to Iraq. Bales had also been drinking alcohol before the killings. Furthermore, Bales had been having marital problems and had trouble reintegrating to society following his last tour of Iraq.
Turn the clock back to June of 2007. Over a three-day period, one of the most talented in-ring technicians of all time, Chris Benoit, killed himself after murdering his wife and child.
After the news broke, the media asked “why?”
In his blog, wrestler Rob Van Dam wrote, “I know that a monster committed those terrible, unforgivable acts of horror. Just like everyone who knew Chris Benoit, I can’t think of him as a monster. Not Chris.”
Doctors who studied Benoit’s brain suggested that repeated concussions may have contributed to the killings. Dr. Robert Cantu, chief of neurosurgery at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts, claimed that the level of brain damage Benoit had can cause cognitive impairment, dementia, depression and irrational behavior.
Do you agree with the way WWE has handled the Chris Benoit tragedy?
Ultimately, at the time that Benoit killed himself, he had the brain of a man aged 80 or older with very severe Alzheimer's disease, according to Cantu.
Today, many people have no problem trying to understand Robert Bales’ actions. Many wrestling fans, on the other hand, refuse to try to understand Chris Benoit's actions. Instead, they choose to label him a "monster," as if he were always a monster.
I understand that point of view. However, I would like to offer another point of view: one of understanding.
It is very easy to hate a person’s actions, but very difficult to understand them. Chris Benoit was not born a monster. No one is. I don’t even believe Benoit was a monster when he stepped out of the ring for the last time.
Benoit was not a monster until the moment he did what he did. What made Benoit become a monster is something we probably will never fully understand, but is something we should try our best to understand. We must try to understand the root cause of people’s actions in order to prevent anything similar from happening again.
People are not born monsters.
I would not be surprised if I were to receive negative feedback from readers of this article. I would also not be surprised to be accused of justifying Benoit’s actions.
While I would have no problem with honest, constructively negative feedback, I WOULD have a problem with being accused of justifying Benoit’s actions. I am absolutely not justifying what Benoit did.
To try to understand a person’s actions is not the same thing as justifying a person’s actions. Rather, to try to understand a person’s actions is to hack away at the root cause of the problem.
Am I implying that Benoit should be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Absolutely not. I simply believe that WWE should not pretend that the man had never existed or that he was always a monster.
Ultimately, we should separate the man from the monster.
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