Me-a Culpable

Me-a Culpable

By Richard Boughton

Sorry, didn’t do it.

This is something we will be hearing a lot about in the next few weeks – the so-called “apology” of Bali mastermind bomber, Umar Patek, followed by a court verdict for that act in late June. You will read about it dozens of times – perhaps dozens upon dozens, depending on how much you read and of what variety and origin – and much of what you read is going to say the same thing that I’m about to say. But that’s okay. It bears repetition if only to guarantee that the truth remains louder and nearer at hand than lies.

But let’s start with Kip Kinkle. As a teenager in my old home state of Oregon, Kip Kinkle decided one day to murder his mother and father. After that he went to his high school with a rifle and shot a number of students, leaving two dead and 22 injured. He was apprehended, tried and sentenced to 111 years in prison without the possibility of parole. The state of Oregon does not have the death penalty. Kip is now incarcerated at the Oregon State Correctional Institution.

Here’s the point: Kip said he was sorry, I and believe that he was. How do I know Kip was sorry? I know this because I saw the video shot from outside his cell just after he was arrested. The viewer can hear Kip screaming in emotional agony – tortured, unworldly screams and groans of inexhaustible self-hatred. “Just kill me,” Kip shrieks through uncontrollable sobs. “Please just kill me; God please kill me.”

Here is the voice and the visage of a young man who has come to a full realisation of exactly what he has done, here a young man suddenly buried beneath the unbearable weight of his crime. He has killed, murdered in premeditated cold blood, without passion, without mercy and without reason other than the notion he had suffered that his parents might be disappointed with his grades for the term.

And now Kip was sorry, truly very sorry – for he understood that what had been only thoughts, fears, ideas and imaginations had somehow driven him to unthinkable action, and that he had crossed the line between infantile fantasy and enter a world of sheer horror and regret. The features of Kip’s face were twisted in extremis, rendered barely human by the stranglehold of sorrow and guilt that shook his slight frame. There was no going back, ever, and he knew it.

Kip Kinkle made no excuses. Though a mere boy, he faced the full import of what he had done. Was Kip insane? Maybe so. And yet he forewent a plea of insanity, for he must have felt that payment for what was inexcusable was only proper. Which in itself seems a pretty sane conclusion.

Now lets take a look at Umar Patek – the man with the silly, toothy grin, the man in the self-conscious religious garb, the man who brightly smiles and shakes hands with the jurors and lawyers as if he were some kind of sheepish celebrity. What are you smiling at, Umar? Do you fail to understand, even now, that you are being tried for the murder of 202 human beings? What have you to say?

Well, Umar has apologised. He says he’s really quite sorry, and offers a number of excuses and conditions. He says, for instance, that he had never been in favour of blowing up people in a Kuta nightclub. Apparently, in his mind, it would have been better to blow up people somewhere else. Is he sorry then for the act of murder? Obviously not. You see, there are right people to murder and wrong people to murder, and Umar is merely sorry he murdered the wrong people. He adds then that he thought preferable victims might have been found in Israel or Palestine. Oh, ok. Now we understand.

Yes, we understand. We understand that Umar Patek is not sorry at all. We watch him speak with dispassionate composure, and spin an outrageous tale of absurd justification. No tear is shed, no groan of regret uttered. For a decade, Patek crawled and slithered about various crannies and hovels, saving himself, planning new murders, unsatisfied with those he had already committed, until finally he was shovelled out of hiding and arrested. And then someone told Umar that it would be a good idea to apologise at this point. Say you’re sorry. It plays well in the Indonesian courts. You might get out alive. You might get off with just 10 years or so. You might even get a slap on the wrist along with an order to behave.

And so he forces out the words which should from the outset have forced themselves from the mouth of any sane or worthy human being. I’m sorry, he says. I’m really very sorry. And it doesn’t mean a Goddamned thing.

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