Critical Reasoning Human Sexuality Project
The Pathological Thoughts of John Hinckley and
His Obsessive Love for Actress Jodie Foster
Art Madsen, M.Ed.
(On Behalf of a Foreign Student)
When I first arrived in the United States, I was unaware of the dynamics of sexual emotions in North America. Having been raised in a traditional Islamic atmosphere by loving parents who taught me the values of my culture and who helped me plan the pathway I would follow toward marriage of a respectable young and virginal woman from my region of Saudi Arabia, I could hardly have imagined the types of freedom and the liberal attitudes of Western Societies.
While studying contemporary American history last year, I came across a fascinating story from the early 1980s. President Reagan was the target of an attempted assassination as he emerged from the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. The would-be assassin was John Hinckley, a young man from a wealthy Colorado family. His motive in shooting the President was to impress Jodie Foster, a popular and beautiful movie actress, with whom he had fallen in love. In Saudi Arabia, and in many Islamic countries, movie actresses are viewed with disdain because of the low moral values they often project in using their bodies in public. But in the United States, these women become icons of adoration.
As part of my critical reasoning process, I obtained a copy of the letter John Hinckley wrote to Jodie Foster just prior to the assassination attempt. Surprisingly, it was online at the push of a few buttons, and its location is quoted under the reference section. I wanted to examine the sequence of Hinckley’s thoughts and see to what extent they might represent American attitudes towards women – minus the insanely pathological assassination attempt, of course.
In his first paragraph, he throws his life into the bargain, so much he seems to adore her. He mentions in the second paragraph that for seven months he wrote poems and love messages to her, expecting her to return some sign of affection. Of course, Jodie was probably receiving several hundred pound sacks of mail at her college dormitory each week containing similar material.
In the third paragraph, the reader learns that Jodie was at least aware of him. He frequented her dormitory; but instead of respect, he reaped ridicule. In Saudi Arabia, this would not have happened quite this way. The woman would have been under some ‘obligation’ to return the affectionate gestures John was making in a polite, but perhaps distant, manner. At the end of the third paragraph, he places the onus on Jodie. If she would only grant him some small piece of her life, even in obscurity, he would not shoot the President.
In the last paragraph, he can wait no longer, he claims, to impress her. It is at this point that Hinckley turns totally pathological, i.e. away from words, affection and sentiment and towards evil deeds. The strength of his initially adolescent argument breaks down under the absurdity of his act, which, far from impressing Jodie, will further alienate her. He begs her to love him for committing "this historical deed."
After examining Hinckley’s pathetic letter, I could not help but think that there were many symptoms of affective or sexual pathology in American society that can potentially lead to aberrant behavior. While Hinckley’s thoughts and deed were widely publicized, there are many similar scenarios in this country occurring daily in the nation’s cities and towns. There are only limited deterrents available under law to prevent the worst types of acts, such as sexual crime or overt violence, as in the case of Hinckley’s demented act.
Surely, there is considerable improvement necessary in many Islamic societies, but I believe that the groundwork laid under Qu’ranic Law is somewhat preferable to the tremendous personal latitude and socially destabilizing autonomy granted individuals in Western societies. During my critical thought process it occurred to me that there might also be a middle road, between these two systems, that may be workable in some countries such as in Canada where the laws are strict, but personal freedom is still respected. It is important to prevent the recurrence of future sociopathic minds such as Hinckley’s.
Primary Reference Consulted
Hinckley, J. "John Hinckley’s Letter to Jodie Foster Written Immediately Before Assassination". http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/hinckley/LETTER.HTM