Can someone please tell me? Anyone? How does one become a misfit? I mean, are some folks born that way? Do misfits simply pop into existence like some sort of subatomic particle? Can we pick them out of the crowd based on bizarre behavior like participating in role playing games and writing short stories about death as some newspapers seem to think?
Really! I want to know.
Because when Canadian Minister of Justice Peter McKay referred to a 23 year-old Geneva woman as a “murderous misfit,” I want to know exactly what he means. C’mon! If we can identify “murderous misfits” right out of the box, wouldn’t we all be that much better off?
So I suppose the real question is, do murderous misfits occur in a vacuum, do some of us do our damndest to help create them, or do too many of us sit back and simply let “misfitness” happen?
By now I’m sure you’ve all heard about the aforementioned Geneva woman who, after plotting with two or three young Canadian accomplices, was apprehended at the Halifax airport en route to perpetrating mass murder at a crowded mall on Valentine’s Day. There are numerous accounts on the web if you’re unfamiliar with the story.
And this young woman happens to live two and a half blocks away from me.
Over the years I’ve talked with her parents a number of times, not as much as some neighbors, but more than most. The mother would occasionally comment on my columns and the father and I frequently found ourselves walking our dogs at the same time. All I can say is, from all outward appearances, they’re eminently normal people.
Well, there is one obvious difference. The father is Laotian, and you don’t see too many people from Southeastern Asia walking around the west side of Geneva. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the average Genevan would be hard pressed to find Laos on a map.
But before we continue, I want to make it abundantly clear that, despite whatever trials and travails any of us have to endure in this often tumultuous existence, there is no excuse for embarking upon a path of self-destruction that includes taking out as many of your fellow human beings as possible along the way.
And God bless the Canadian tipster, who took the mile long trail this group left seriously and went to the authorities before the worst could happen. There certainly is a lesson there too.
But even though we’re talking about a truly evil act, to summarily dismiss a fellow human being as damned from the outset does both them and us a vast disservice. The Daily Herald’s and Tribune’s all-too-obvious inference that all overly quiet kids who participate in role playing games and write a short story about a young boy exploring the prospect of death are bound to become mass murderers, isn’t much better either
So where does that leave Rod Serling, Stephen King, and Marilyn Manson? None of them have ever murdered anyone that I know of. And M. Night Shyamalan certainly did alright with the story of a young boy who could see dead people. Shame on the newspapers for, once again, going after the lowest of the low-hanging fruit.
Of course, my fondest wish is that I could explain why some people can suffer a series of interminable setbacks only to come back stronger, while others with every advantage on the planet can’t handle their first real misfortune. But here’s what I can tell you. The Internet has changed everything.
Every last one of us has had to endure those youthful dark nights of the soul, but the difference between now and then is the ease with which you can find folks who are similarly sinking into the same abyss. Back in the 70s, you’d talk to your friends or parents about it and they’d help you work your way out. But now, you can immediately go online and find any number of similarly afflicted souls willing to talk you into it.
The Internet may be a marvelous tool, but it also allows us to indulge our deepest and darkest addictions like nothing before it.
Then there’s this. Though the west side of Geneva is not nearly the only suburban enclave prone to this kind of thing, I haven’t lived anywhere quite like the Fisher Farms subdivision. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great people out here, but to put it as diplomatically as possible, this ain’t the place to be outwardly and inwardly different.
Three years ago, on the same block this young woman lives, some of the local teenage darlings decorated various driveways with anti-Semitic slogans. And just last year, at the corner closest to her house, the same nitwits (I’m sure) wrote “F U [N-word]” on the pavement. I still have the pictures of that one.
Could the fact that being the only half-Laotian, half-Caucasian in a rather intolerant neighborhood have taken its toll? Again, there’s no excuse for mass murder, but most of the white folks I know would fold in their first half hour of having to being black out here.
Yes! In the end, this young woman failed both herself and us and she will suffer the consequences for that failure. But we failed her too.
Perhaps they did reach out. But what I’d like to know is, did those Geneva High School teachers who’ve so recently spoken up about how quiet this young woman was, ever get a counselor involved? After all, GHS has some of the best social workers on the planet.
Did the college professor, who’s suddenly reeling off all sorts of revelations about her “sick” writing, make any effort to reach out or to engage the appropriate college interventionists?
Did we, her neighbors (myself included), make the mistake of allowing this young woman to silently descend into her own desperate and dark world without a second thought?
To answer my original question, unless some sort of mental defect is involved, the only way anyone on this planet can ever become a “murderous misfit” is if we allow it to happen. It is the very essence of human nature to want to belong to something. And despite whatever the newspapers might say, the only way we can prevent it is by making sure that no one’s every truly separate.
Because if you really do believe in the Christian Bible, then we really are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.