It’s amazing how people can respect mass murderers in the right context. Jeffrey Dahmer, for example - not well respected and justifiably so. On the other hand, there’s Julius Caesar, Ramses, Tutankhamen, David, Solomon, and on and on and on, every one of them a mass murderer. In fact, most of the “great rulers” we think of when we talk about world history were slave-owning, genocidal maniacs.
So why does old Jeff Dahmer get such a bad rap? Of course, he was horrible. No one in his right mind would disagree with that. But what’s the difference between him and all of our “great rulers”? The only differences are that 1) Jeffrey Dahmer killed less people and 2) he wasn’t interested in political power. That’s it. Every one of our great rulers was just as blood thirsty and just as violent, if not much more so, than Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacey, The Zodiac Killer, Richard Ramirez, The Boston Strangler, The BTK Killer, David Burkowitz, The Green River Killer and Ted Bundy combined.
But the same people who see these serial killers as the lowest of the low are willing to name their kids after genocidal dictators. It’s so common that people no longer think about it. For example, consider how popular the name David has become. Everyone knows a person named David. In fact, I’d guess most people know several if not many people named David. It’s so common that you don’t even think of King David when you meet someone named David. It’s just a name, like any other. You might as well name your kid Lawrence.
But what would happen if I named my kid Jeffrey Dahmer? I’m just spit-balling here, but my guess is that most people’s reaction would be something along the lines of “Why in the world would you name your kid Jeffrey Dahmer?” My response: “Well, don’t get me wrong, we have high hopes for him, but we knew from the beginning that he was no Caesar. I don’t want to limit his aspirations, though, so don’t tell him I said that.”
Maybe we would like Jeffrey Dahmer better if he had become President. Or maybe it’s an issue of the passage of time. Just because all of these “great rulers” lived so long ago, we assume that they lived in a different world, where violence was the norm and, therefore, you can’t judge their actions with modern moral standards. Oddly enough, a lot of the people making that claim would probably be Christian, Jewish or Muslim and the last time I checked those faiths are all guided by very old books about morality. It really just depends on who’s winning the horrible game of conquest, doesn’t it? If you were a Jew a couple thousand years ago, the Egyptians were evil tyrants but if you were a member of a neighboring tribe anywhere near David on his rise to power, look the fuck out because he and his troops were going to rape your women and burn your village down.
History will not be kind to any serial killers and it obviously shouldn’t. But I’d be way more scared about living in Julius Caesar’s neighborhood than Ted Bundy’s.