I'm guessing that everyone who's reading this is familiar at least to some extent with the recent activities of mass murderer Derrick Bird. 12 people dead in a 'shocking surprise attack', allegedly. Although of course media coverage has been at its highest in the UK, where the events took place and where the media in general is the trashiest in the world (and thus of course collectively faints with joy when something like this happens), there's been a lot in the media here too. (Can you say 'media'?? Whee!!) And there's something that is so typical that I've seen quoted from like four different sources ... something that I was expecting to see from the moment I heard about what had happened. It never fails. He was such a nice man.
No matter how messed up the person or how disgusting and fucked up the crimes, the reaction of the perp's surroundings is always how they never saw it coming and they would never have thought him capable of anything like this, he was such a nice man. Every time a serial killer is caught or a mass murderer goes on a spree (I'll assume you know the difference between the two) it's always the one reaction you can count on like clockwork. The only exception seems to be school shooters - they only get like half of it, they usually get 'he was always a weirdo/outsider, but we never thought he'd do anything like this'. So it boils down to the same thing - people never see it coming.
Although, in fact, this reminds me of a funny story. Well, funny maybe isn't quite the word. But I like it. This is a supposedly true story that happened sometime in 1988. Some of Jeffrey Dahmer's friends, if that's the word I want, from high school had met up for coffee and were reminiscing about people they'd known back in the day. They were talking about people like that guy still lives in his parents' basement and that chick's been divorced three times ... stuff like that. One of them would throw out a name and everyone would share whatever they knew about what that person was doing. So then one of them mentioned Jeff, and it turned out that not a single one of them had heard from him or of him or has seen him at all since graduation. And they're all saying fuck, that guy was weird ... !! But they had no idea what's become of him. And then as a joke one of them said, He's probably a serial killer by now! And they all laughed. But by that time Jeff had actually killed four people ... and would kill thirteen more before the Milwaukee police finally stumbled across him. Funny joke, huh?
So, back to my point ... it's always the same, he was such a nice guy, always helped his landlady with her groceries, no one ever thought he'd ever be capable of harming a fly. I just find it so hard to credit that. Parents especially are maybe the worst. Yes, it's natural to want to see the best in your children, I guess. But if you genuinely want the best for them, does it really help to pretend like nothing's wrong and you're all one big normal family ... like the rape case in Sweden I posted about a while back, where a woman's teenage son has been convicted of rape twice in two totally separate cases, and she refuses to believe he can have done anything wrong. How does that help?
And how is it even possible? I don't mean any offense to anyone reading this, if you feel I'm pointing fingers at you, but seriously, how is it possible to not notice anything amiss if someone close to you and/or someone you spend a lot of time with is so completely fucked up mentally and emotionally that he's planning to brutally kill his own brother, the family lawyer and two coworkers ... and whoever else he comes across as well as, finally, himself? Just to stick with Bird as the example. Is it really possible to genuinely believe 100% that everything's fine and dandy and he's just so happy to be a grandfather for the first time and nothing to see here, move it along ... I don't buy it. I think it isn't a matter of genuinely believing that everything's fine, it's a matter of wanting to believe it - and wanting it enough that you trick yourself into thinking it's really what you feel.
Derrick Bird allegedly said to someone the day before the murders that 'there's going to be a rampage soon'. Yet no one reacted. Jeffrey Dahmer was in the hands of the police or other authorities a number of times, but he fell through every crack in the book. Harold Shipman was suspected by how many of his patients' relatives and friends, but who did anything about it? Jack the Ripper* was interviewed by the police as a witness, but told an obvious lie and totally got away with it. With both the lying and the killing. To paraphrase Poppy Brite, murderers are blessed with tremendous skills of adaptation ... so many of them fly under the radar so well. But I'd say it's likely that they are helped by the vast majority of people in their surroundings not even having their radars switched on. o_O
I do understand that it must be incredibly traumatic to be one of the bystanders caught up in this - to be a close relative, especially, of someone who carries out an act like this - but does it help to refuse to acknowledge reality? My little boy could never have done what those girls say he did, I raised him better than that. The Ted/Andrei/Dennis/Peter/John I knew could never have done anything like this. I'd never have seen this coming in a million years.
If those among us who are, if you'll pardon this cliché, walking time bombs, wouldn't it be more helpful for both them and their future victims for them to be seen and taken seriously for what they really are - people with serious problems that need to be acknowledged. If it's not acknowledged, it certainly can't be fixed. I can't see how it ever helps to bury one's head in the sand.
Jeffrey Dahmer's father felt, after his son's crimes came to light and Jeff made a full confession, that he should indeed have seen and understood. But it was so much easier to pretend the danger signals weren't really there. At least, easier for him ... >:-(
*I am of the George Hutchinson persuasion.
3 days ago