I was sixteen and starry-eyed when the handsome, eighteen-year-old G asked me out. For two years I had secretly swooned over him but I never dreamed that he would notice me. I felt like the luckiest girl alive!
When he told me that he was going to be the next drummer for The Who, I didn’t think anything of it – who didn’t want to be a rock star in the ’70s?
When he said he’d talked to Pete Townsend, I was impressed with his ambition and the lengths he would go to in pursuit of achieving his goal. He spoke with such intensity, his dark eyes gleaming with a far away dreamy glint that pulled me in. I just wanted to bask in the light of his enthusiasm.
Then he borrowed my sister’s car so that he could deliver Christmas cards to all the churches. While the gesture was nice, it also seemed odd.
“Why?” I asked.
“Look at me,” he responded. “Look into these eyes. Who do you see?”
I saw G.
“Jesus Christ,” he stated emphatically. “Don’t you see it? I am the second coming!”
I broke it off with G. and didn’t think much about him until I received a phone call months later from a prison. It was G.; he had stabbed his father and stepmother.
“Why did you do it?” I asked, stunned.
He might have said they were the antichrist, or that they were Judas, or some other such nonsensical explanation, I don’t remember. I just remember wondering how this young man’s mind had led him so far astray.
In her book, A Mother’s Reckoning, the mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Kiebold describes her son’s journey through mental illness, culminating in the violent death of many. Sue Kiebold’s courageous exploration of her son’s motivations points to a system that failed to recognize the depth of his angst. In the end, his act was ultimately a tragic form of suicide.
As the sister of a paranoid schizophrenic, I can relate to how difficult it is to find quality health care, and help during crisis moments. The number of individuals needing help far exceeds the available health care professionals in our city. Waiting lists are long, and the care offered limited. My family has despaired for many years over the lack of solutions offered to our often suicidal loved one.
It seems to me that the greatest threat facing society today is not the radicalization of our youth, but the lack of effective treatment for those suffering mental health conditions. While the media rushes to identify terrorist connections they are overlooking the more essential question.
The unbalanced mind, bent on destruction, will align itself with forces that aggrandize and support its need for validation. (Perhaps that is not the right word, but I think my point is made.)
While fear sells – and that is basically what journalism is pandering for – it is socially irresponsible that media is ignoring the real issue here.
9/11 was an organized terrorist attack. It involved in-depth planning, spread out over a number of years. It was not a random, nor isolated event.
Individuals seeking media attention, who follow trends in violence, will associate with factions such as ISIS, more out of misguided delusions than true affiliation with any one cause. These individuals should be forcing society to ask the difficult questions, including what needs to be done to better address the needs of the mentally ill.
The energy with which the media sensationalize the perpetrators of mass killings only fuels further acts of violence. Imagine what would happen if that same fervor was invested in identifying and providing help for those at risk.