Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Killer Shall Remain Nameless....

First a disclaimer - I'm supposed to be posting the first in a series of discussions on The Mists of Avalon that were arranged on my old blog at writingup, Merryone That discussion will start tomorrow, for anyone stopping by for the book club blogs - or anyone interested in following the discussion.

The Killer Shall Remain Nameless

This topic has caught my attention and I'd like to take a little detour from my normal 'writerly' discourse to address it. Of course, you've all been bombarded with the same media frenzy as I have over the last few days. My mind is on the horrific massacre at Virginia Tech.

Here's where my mind reels - articles upon articles, press clips upon press clips, all about the killer. The killer shall forever remain nameless on this blog, and I'll tell you why - he deserves neither fame nor infamy... mental illness is not a good enough claim for what this is - obviously he wasn't sane, I got that. Maybe things should have been done... whatever. But let's look at this for one second. He took a two hour coffee clatch in between shooting unarmed people to send scads of material to NBC News!!! He did this so that you would know his name. It seems to me that most of what he did was so that you would know his name.

To me, he remains nameless. He decided that. He left nothing of worth and, in fact, left a debt so deep that I doubt a life time of good deeds might balance it. He took away a life time of positive influence that thirty two other people might have had on the world.

The other thing that struck me, besides the fact that this fellow's name is all over the news... speculation about his reasoning... what was it in his life?.... why was he so troubled?..... The other thing that struck me was that in one of these rambling tirades he made mention of the columbine killers, who shall also remain nameless here... he called them by name, he spoke of them in reverence... perhaps if their stories weren't propelled to the spotlight... perhaps if the news did not focus on the killers, their lives, their names... this nameless lost soul would have self destructed without taking any innocent people with him... perhaps he wouldn't have self destructed... or maybe at least, he wouldn't have seen a viable way to make his name forever known at the expense of innocent lives.

So let's not speak of the nameless killers. Just for today, for this blog, maybe forever would be a better fix. Let's not look with kindness on his tortured life, giving a new generation of the criminally insane a glimmer of immortality at his example. Why not, instead, remember the lives he extinguished... the ones who deserve to live on in our minds... the ones who deserve the fame they may have earned through their lives and actions had they only been left with the chance.

There's a site up, devoted to these victims.... if you must study some portion of this tragedy, honor them, rather than the nameless killer...

Names to Remember

One person that I will spotlight here, because the story so touched me, was a professor at the school named Liviu Librescu. He was a Holocaust survivor... The man made it through the terrors of the holocaust!!!!! He died, holding the doors closed in order for his class to escape through the windows.... He was shot through the door in his attempt to hold off the killer and allow his students a chance to get to safety. His heroism saved his students' lives.

Liviu Librescu, there's a name to remember.


WordVixen said...

Thank you for mentioning the professor's name. The media quickly mentioned him giving his life to protect his students, and then immediately focused on a student making a tourniquet for himself (it is a big deal, but bigger than self sacrifice?). I never even knew his name, but his story is the one that I remember.

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Wordvixen,

I did see the student who saved his own life using a tourniquet made of duct tape or something... something he learned in boyscouts - that, too, is quick thinking. Bet he never thought he'd owe his life to the boyscouts.

I've seen a few wonderful epitaphs of the victims here, but they are far too small of glimpses. Putting your body between bullets and a room full of students deserves more than a 30 second timeslot on late night news. His life story should go down in our history books, his name should be taught to new generations... instead we focus on the killer.

I think we should stop. I understand the need to delve deeper, to root out what went wrong in some vain attempt to rectify any future happening from coming again... I get that. I get that we, as a society, focus now on the perpetrator, understanding that there must be some great chasm of pain to cause this type of destruction... but maybe, just maybe, he was broken without any help from society. Certainly insane, but what good does it do to immortalize his name, over all of the other people involved here, who never chose to enter this drama on that day?

There was a girl from Columbine, and I don't remember her name. What a pity, as I do clearly remember the killers' names. She was asked, with a gun pointed at her chest, if she still believed in God... Without hesitation, she answered yes... and then she was killed. She was martyred for her faith, the same as any Saint during the middle ages, and she did not hesitate. That rings in my mind, because I don't know that I can honestly say I would have answered so unflinchingly, even though the outcome would likely have been the same regardless.

I think making these killers larger than life, spotlighting them and making their names remembered is a disservice to the families that are mourning - if it was me, I'd never want to hear the name again... It also gives other troubled people the idea that this type of depravity will lead them to fame... and we, as a society, our news and our readers, are making the insane right - we're making them famous...

Maybe it's time to ask ourselves who is really running the institution, us or the inmates...

Can you tell I'm a little heated on this topic. Thanks for the read, and the ear. And thanks for adding so thoughtfully to the conversation. You have the professor's name - make sure you pass it on.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Pointedly refusing to acknowledge the killer just may dissuade others who are looking for a way to "be known" from taking such measures.

Do I feel for the people who are in such states of anguish as to commit these crimes? I absolutely do. I can't imagine living a life of pain and disconnection. Yet by focusing enormous attention on violence born of mental illness, we plant seeds in others who feel alone and unheard.

It is unspeakably sad that there are people who are so out of touch with their humanity that they would choose to hurt so many others -- not just their victims, but the victims' loved ones, those who cared for the killer, and also every single person who heard the news. Each time such a story emerges, people feel a little less safe in the world, a little more fearful to allow their children the freedom that they need to flourish. Each time that such a horrific crime takes place, all of us are damaged by it.

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Beth,

I agree. I even understand law enforcement and mental health professionals viewing these things to study the killer - I just don't agree with all of the coverage to the public - I think the media is far too concerned with ratings where they should be concerned with the news. Of course they should release his name, but countless stories about the killer? His name everywhere?

Now I've seen some articles about the parents... I think they should center more on that; the families and the victims, their stories and lives are more important here, and I'm sure they don't want to be regaled with the killer's name all the time.

Thanks for stopping in and commenting.

night lightning woman said...

Being a Bear of Very Low Tech Skills, it will take me a while to link, but I've saved you in my favorites. Great thoughtful blog on the killers with no name, and the hero's name to remember. I've been wanting a book club; you may have shown me a way to get it.
Re: book list--another writer noticed there was no Twain. Huge oversight. I agree good lists should contain hearty content mixed with light, flavorful snacks. I, too, have enjoyed the Stephanie Plum series. If you are not reading Crystal already, try Boobs, Injuries and Dr Pepper--there's a link on my site. Sigh. No, that's not to lure you back, I just have the computer skills of a Neanderthal after using the things for almost 40 years. I am a little intimidated to have to put in my google account, since I didn't know what I was doing there, either, and it identifies me completely. Oh, well.

Jerseygirl89 said...

Thank you for writing the blog that I could not figure out how to write.

There was a photo in Newsweek of one of the victims that I can't get out of my head. It was the RA, the second victim. He was with the VT band and he just looked so full of joy. It breaks my heart to know that he is dead, just as it breaks my heart to know that Cho probably never felt that kind of joy.

bluelady said...

Too often the criminal is remembered while the victims are forgotten. You have handled this in a very poignant fashion. Maybe the mainstream media can learn something here.

Merry Jelinek said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

night lightning woman, you don't have to put in your google account, you can just comment under anonymous and then type in your name or link. I haven't read the Crystal books, but I'll stop back over at your place to look, definitely... and don't apologize for the 'ploy' if commentors didn't leave links, how would I get to meet fabulous new bloggers to read?

Dana Prince said...

Thanks for posting this Merry.
It's definitely very hearty food for thought and I agree with you wholeheartedly.


Quantamama said...

Thank you Merry, you have summed up my thoughts on this matter. The killer was insane, those he killed or tried to kill were often heroes and held promise for the future of us all.

Why must the media focus on the whackos? I personally turned off the news after a bit, went to the VT website and read about the victims and cried a bit.

The killer may have been insane, but not so insane that he forgot how to do some self-promotion. That really bugged me too.

I admit that I had some sick fantasies in high school and college. Of course, I never acted on them because I was never so disconnected from the consequences. These days I would've been suspended or worse just for laughing about it.

On a new topic, I've finally started migrating to blogger and I'm trying to get used to a new interface. Bleah. Slowly but surely, I'll figure it all out again, but I'm really missing the recent comments function that WU had.

As soon as I figure out how to do a blogroll, you'll be on it.

Merry Jelinek said...

Hey Dana and Q-mama, thanks for stopping by!

You'll figure out the blog roll soon enough, it's really not much different than wu's was, if you're on the old blogger, though, you have to go into the html code and add it there - but you'll find the instructions right on your dashboard.

Now that I know where you are, though, I'll add you to my blogroll so I can stop and visit.