Today Colton Harris-Moore pled guilty to entering the Bahamas illegally and was released to U.S. custody. He is now in Miami and will appear in federal court tomorrow. Harris-Moore told locals that he’d planned to travel to Cuba from the Bahamas, but told authorities he wanted to land in the Turks and Caicos.
There’s fresh video of him telling reporters to go to hell when asked for a comment, as well as a brief interview with his mother. There’s also video of him running through a marina armed, looking for another boat to steal. This story is everywhere.
More details are emerging about his arrest. He was armed when arrested and fired a “warning shot” before holding a gun to his head while threatening suicide. A desperate, potentially suicidal fugitive firing off a round for any reason is extremely dangerous.
At some point, officers had opened fire on the boat’s motors, disabling the craft. Real cops aren’t usually allowed to fire warning shots, unlike TV. Harris-Moore then threw the gun and a backpack (including a laptop and GPS device) overboard and went into a fetal position. He was unhurt.
His fan base continues to surge, prompting me to ask what compels these people. Some are posting comments like “f— you, haters!” on the fan sites, “haters” being the people who want him to face justice. Rants continue about how Harris-Moore’s victims, all of them supposedly undeservingly rich people, had it coming to them.
This issue seems to have ignited the worst in some people, and there is an obvious hypocrisy afoot. Some fans cheer on the victimization of others, but probably wouldn’t like it if someone victimized them. Media outlets have noted that Harris-Moore’s mother has a “trespassers will be shot” sign at the end of her driveway.
Some fans are already engaged in a “Free Colton” movement. Others justify his actions on the basis that high school kids nowadays can either join the military, take a dead end minimum wage job, or indulge themselves in a life of crime. There seems to be a feeling of helplessness.
Really? Those are the standards they set for themselves? I’m sure a lot of us can say that we had to start in those low-paying grungy jobs and work our way up. Many of us have earned our college degrees as adults while working because that wasn’t an option when we were 18. What is up with this entitlement mentality? Aren’t we ultimately responsible for our own success?
Another theme in the media this week is supporters of Harris-Moore, including his aunt, blaming his problems on a failure of the school system and other institutions. There’s also a major emphasis on his less than ideal childhood. Even though he’s an adult who consciously makes his own choices, some people act like he’s been forced into this predicament.
Again, really? I know a significant number of people who as children suffered from poverty, parental substance abuse, absent parents, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, rape, neglect, and other injustices. And they may not have had the best education or ample opportunities. But with rare exception, those people have picked themselves up and made something of themselves. They’ve never acted like the rest of society owes them.
It bothers me that so many thousands of people have these victim and entitlement mentalities: “The system failed him.” “His mom’s an alcoholic.” “The cops targeted him.” “His victims deserve it.” It seems that anyone but Harris-Moore himself is to blame for his reckless crime spree.
It’s also bothering me that people are so easily seduced by the man, the myth, or both. One of his victims said that there was always an evil in his eyes, even when he was a child. The way Harris-Moore has been described fits a common description of psychopathic people—there’s something odd about their eyes. His own mother has described something “off” about him early in life. Psychopaths are often believable, cunning, and charming.
Whether or not he is a psychopath, something that would take an expert to diagnose, his actions have certainly made a number of people swoon in a quizzical way. I’m not talking about the people who merely admire his abilities or think it’s funny that he outwitted the cops. I’m talking about a great many that defend him no matter what, as if he’s a wayward little brother in need of protection. It’s almost like a mass brainwashing, like a cult.
This phenomenon in many ways seems to be a profanity-laced circus of wounded souls. As I wade through the minefields of fan comments online, I consider what might be lurking behind the intense love and ravenous hatred. As much as I want to give a lot of those people a piece of my mind, I feel somewhat sorry for them.
Some quips are dripping with double standards and driven by emotion instead of reason. People who claim to be compassionate are blasting their four-letter lexicons at others without restraint. Pro-First Amendment folks are only okay with freedom of speech if they’re speaking. Empathy is something they only have for Harris-Moore.
People seem to be in need of a savior who is willing to justify self-indulgence and the trampling of others’ rights for a “good” cause. They want a hero, but a hero who fights for what benefits himself. The God of the Bible doesn’t meet this criteria; He wants us to treat our neighbors as ourselves.
So I am now addressing this as a possibly spiritual issue. There just seems to be something in certain fans that is crying out for salvation. They want to be liberated from their circumstances and free from society’s constraints. Don’t we all want more breathing room and flexibility?
True freedom is found in surrender to God, though, not in surrender to self. Self-indulgence eventually leads us off a cliff. Once we start saying, “okay, what did You create me to do?” rather than “what can I do to feel happy today?”, we find that there is a plan and purpose for our lives. Someone has been waiting for us to ask what that is for a long time.
It might take hard work to achieve that plan. You may have to overcome many roadblocks and endure some bomb blasts that throw you far off course. People may despise you for following your heart instead of conforming to their wishes.
But everyone has a choice—they can feed on their own drama and misery, blaming everyone else for their station in life, or they can discover their true purpose and work to achieve it. In that purpose is your greatest power to help others.
I wish Harris-Moore fans that are unfairly attacking others would stop and ask themselves a question: what is really behind their passion? If it is a sense of injustice, they should seek opportunities to achieve justice for true victims. If it is dissatisfaction with their own life, they might consider a new job, hobby, or going to school. I want them to realize that this energy can be turned into something life-changing for themselves and others.
They might also find that they strongly relate to some aspects of Harris-Moore’s life. Were they abandoned by a parent? Did their mother make an addiction a higher priority than love? Did their father hurt them in inexplicable ways?
Were they neglected? Did they grow up lonely or without an appropriate creative outlet? Was school a frustrating place because they were faster or slower than others, who bullied them for it? Many of us can identify with these questions.
I don’t even know if Harris-Moore’s experienced all of that, but when we’re aware of one similarity, we tend to extrapolate it. Perhaps some fans are seeing parts of themselves in Harris-Moore, and defend him with such fury because their own pain has risen to the surface in this course of events.
None of this is an excuse for committing crime or hurting others. I just think that if some fans will dig deeper, they might find unresolved issues or raw loose ends in their lives that influence them to cheer this guy on.
And I am advising you—as T.D. Jakes says—to turn your misery into your ministry. There are so many people out there who’ve gone through similar hells that need your help. You may be crying out for a hero while you could be a hero to someone else.
We are all composites of experience, biology, environment, learned behavior, and free will. The latter trumps all of the other factors though, because no matter what has happened to us in our lives, we always have a choice.
Harris-Moore chose wrong.
As an adult, he can only blame himself.
Quit being victims and start being victors. There are nearly seven billion people out there who might be helped by your successes, and only one lifetime to achieve those in.
Nothing truly stops you. Nothing truly holds you back. For your own will is always within your control. Sickness may challenge your body. But are you are not merely your legs. Your will is bigger than your legs. –Epictetus
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