For now, I am still a madness shaman. Part of that job is to speak for those who struggle with their madness, who suffer from the inside from something our medical science has yet to learn how to treat effectively.
In that role, I feel it is my duty to say something about the terrible tragedy that happened in CT today. Before I say anything else, of course I have great sorrow for all the innocent children who were wounded or died, and the adults who tried to keep them safe. I have not forgotten them, nor do I intend to. But I think it’s easier for most people to hold that grief for me, to support those families and those souls, and I am only one person with only the focus of myself, and so I choose to look at this from a different angle.
No sane person wakes up and thinks killing innocent kindergarteners is a logical way to spend a morning. I do not feel saying that Adam Lanza had a mental illness is an insult. I have a mental illness, and I do not feel ashamed to say so. It is why I was chosen for this path in life, to speak for these people; it is what made me special, different, and skilled in the Work that I do.
First of all, I grieve for all those in Adam’s life who lost a friend today. Dorothy Hanson, his grandmother, not only lost her grandson and daughter today. His older brother (whom the press has not named) lost a large portion of his family today. And I’m sure there are others, who are ripped apart at the knowledge that someone they cared for and knew was suffering so deeply, so completely, that this was what it lead to.
This year, my friend Jon killed himself. And although in hindsight there were glimmers of things he did or said that may have clued us in, everyone in his life were pretty shocked that it happened. And although it’s not exactly the same, I know what it’s like to sit with your family of choice and wonder how you failed him. Why he didn’t reach out. Why he didn’t seek help, or say something, or even just act more like a stereotypical suicidal person so we could have seen what was going on in his head. He was a smart kid, and I know he knew that if he did, we would have done something, and that might have stopped him. And it hurts, deep in your soul, to feel like you failed as a friend, and for me, as one who is dedicated to helping those who lose themselves in the land of crazy. I, personally, felt like I had not only failed my friend, but failed my vocation.
I can’t imagine how much this is magnified with the shame of having your loved one being immediately branded as evil, sick, demented. I know these words are thrown around because it’s too hard to see things in shades of gray – it’s much easier to think of the world as good vs evil, sane vs. crazy, criminal vs. victim. We need someone to vent our frustration at, a figure to express our rage that things like this still happen. And in a way it’s safe, too, because he’ll never fight back. We’ll never find out that maybe he called an anonymous hotline last night and told them he was afraid of doing something bad, and they failed to stop him. We won’t ever have to deal with the gradients that come with knowing what lead him to do this, why no one saw it coming. Not that I think there’s ever a redeeming reason for killing a bunch of kids (y’know, unless they’re zombies or something), but it would be much harder to hate him if we knew the depths of his suffering.
But the shame his family and friends will bear, will long outlast the country’s notice of him. People barely know his name now, and as soon as the next big news story hits – the next storm, the next political disaster, the next tragedy – we will quickly forget anything about him at all other than he was “evil”. His family won’t be able to talk about him to outsiders; they won’t be able to hang pictures of him on their walls; people will feel odd looking through yearbooks and seeing his picture there, smiling like everyone else. No one will be allowed to feel sad for him openly, to talk about anything good he’s ever done in his whole life. His biography will be written by people who never knew him as a child, who saw him as a complex creature – it will only be, “That guy who killed those kids in CT”.
I dare you. Without Google, tell me something about Dylan Klebold, other than what he did. Or Marc Lepine. Charles Andrew William. Or Jeff Weise. I bet you only recognized one of those names, or maybe two, unless you grew up in towns near them, knew them, or have an obsession with school shootings. Even if you Google them now, all you’ll probably find is that short biography – “That guy who killed kids in a school.”
I obviously don’t condone turning these people into heroes, or to lessen the impact of what they did by excusing their behavior. I have never said, nor will I ever, that it’s okay to do whatever you want and then reason it away by claiming you are mentally ill. Everyone is responsible for their actions, even if they didn’t make them in a sane manner. But at the same time, we can’t forget that these people were people, not characters from some cop show called Reality. They are complex people who touched many lives, both positively and negatively.
So tonight, I am assured that many people will be there for the many families touched by this tragedy. I will be saying a prayer for Dorothy, and for the unnamed brother, and for everyone else who will live with this stigma for the rest of their lives.