WARNING: This poem relates a historic murder that readers may find disturbing.
"Certain Superior Qualities"
Nathan Leopold believed in
Nietzsche's concept of supermen,
transcendent individuals who possessed
extraordinary and unusual capabilities,
whose superior intellects allowed them
to rise above the laws and rules that bound
the unimportant, average populace.
Believing himself to be above it all,
Leopold did not feel obligated by
any of society's ethical norms.
He convinced his friend Richard Loeb
that he, too, was such a paragon.
"A superman is, on account of
certain superior qualities inherent
in him, exempted from the ordinary laws
which govern men," Leopold wrote in
a letter to Loeb. "He is not liable
for anything he may do."
Together they kidnapped
and murdered Robert Franks
a teenager from Chicago.
It was meant as a demonstration
of their intellectual superiority, which
they thought enabled them to carry out
a perfect crime and absolved them
of responsibility for their actions.
Society described it as
"the crime of the century."
Despite their beliefs of impunity,
Leopold and Loeb were both
convicted and sentenced to
life imprisonment plus 99 years.
Loeb was later murdered
by a fellow prisoner in 1936,
fatally caught in a false friend's web.
Leopold was released on parole in 1958,
slipping out of his debt to society.
He worked in health care and
took up birdwatching.
After all his ambitions,
he wound up aspiring
to mere mediocrity.
* * *
Leopold and Loeb were privileged young men who committed a famous murder.
Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher with some pretty harsh ideas about existential issues.