Life lessons from death row
“It seems like I am taunted to attack things which are so huge they could easily consume all of my energy and time (or end quickly and violently) while simultaneously diverting me from doing something I might actually enjoy. . . I do not believe I am going to be OK.”
So wrote serial killer (AKA The Plano Terminator) Douglas Feldman in a letter to a his mother, 8 months before he killed, in cold blood, and without a shred of remorse, two absolute strangers. Feldman shot the first man, a truck driver to death in his own truck, after the victim swerved into Feldman’s lane. The second man just happened to be using a public phone near Feldman. Douglas Feldman was executed in 2013.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m fascinated by true crime. I’m not proud of it, that’s just the way things are. But my fascination with true crime is my unending interest in cautionary tales: these are life lessons on a horrendous scheme. For someone of Feldman’s intelligence and education, to be able to write the words “I do not believe I am going to be OK,” and yet NOT seek help, suspecting, knowing that he was in a dangerous, downward spiral…such is the essence of self-sabotage. Feldman knew where his issues were taking him, and he did nothing to help himself.
Prior to his killings–when he was just a general a$$hole, if you check his prison record–Feldman traveled the world. He had amazing experiences. He saw parts of the world that many of us will never visit. And then, due to his inability (his refusal) to help himself, two innocent people had to die, and he wasted his last decade on death row. And so it goes.
Feldman never took responsibility for his crimes, blaming his victims for, essentially, pissing him off. During his trial, and while in prison, he played the role of the cold-as-ice tough guy… and yet, he went to his execution quaking with fear. Of course. Of course he wasn’t a tough guy. He was a coward. A coward tries to make himself feel better with a gun. A coward gives in to violence and rage and fear; a strong man or woman has the courage to seek help, and to make the hard choices necessary to improve things. Obviously, I’m using this extreme example to make a point, because many people with anger issues, many people who avoid seeking the help they need, will not kill people, nor will they end up on death row. On the other hand, many people who refuse to get help, will miss out on living the lives they otherwise might have.
If you get a chance, go on YouTube and watch Werner Herzog’s interview with Feldman from his series, On Death Row. One of the most enraging bits is when Herzog asks him why he did it, and Feldman basically says, “It’s complicated.” Really? It’s complicated? You’re not sure why you killed two innocent people, because it seems to me you’ve had plenty of free time, sitting here on death row to think about the despicable things you’ve done!
Of course Feldman knew why he acted the way he did–check out the interesting comments from his devastated mother, regarding his miserable childhood–but taking responsibility is hard. So much easier to blame the world for your pain. Well, “easier,” except that, in Feldman’s case, two innocent people’s lives and potential were wasted, and their families will never get over the pain in their hearts.
Feldman was a tough man only when he had a gun in his hand. He was unable to do the toughest thing of all: get help.