In what appears to be an isolated incident, a Wesleyan University student was shot and killed yesterday by an unknown gunman while she was working at the café at the campus bookstore. An article I just read and link at the end of the following paragraph says it may not be an isolated incident, but that remains unsubstantiated for now. This story was all over the news and gets extra special attention from me as it took place at my alma mater. I received several emails about the incident and the facebook status message of many of my old schoolmates was something referencing it as well. I hate the news report manner in which I opened this entry, but I can't think of how else to put it.
It is indeed a terrible thing, and you feel for this girl's family and friends. What else can you say to those most closely affected? You think about it, and you let those people know, but words...words fail. With the possibility that it was an angry and/or disturbed ex-boyfriend that perpetrated the crime (fostered by the caption in that Fox news link), I couldn't help but be reminded of a shooting that took place at a mall in my hometown less than two years ago now. I just read through my thoughts on that, and a lot of them hold true for this. There will always be outliers in the mental community who, when pushed, will take extreme actions such as this, but I really do think we need to take a step back and look at the culture that fosters incidents like this. When or if we'd be able to eliminate all such incidents it is hard to say, but we need to strive towards it. I wrote the words that follow before reading this update on the shooting. An italicized addendum follows.
I do wonder how much talking might help. As a generalization, many of us crave attention. Even if it is not the search for mass celebrity, we probably want the attention of those close to us. We like to feel like we count, like we amount to something, and the nature of that is context, the context of our peer group, our culture, our family, our friends. This is not to say all such incidents can be resolved through dialogue, but for all that the digital age has increased our ability to communicate, the nature of what we are communicating about seems to have dropped down several notches. Think of any argument you've ever been in. Rarely is an argument resolved quickly, and it often devolves into one party having the final word. It seems idiotic, but I know I've been there. Somewhere it is supposed to say that we are mature for knowing when to stop, but we want to say our piece. We hope that it sinks in with the other person. Being right would be an added bonus, but so much of it amounts to just letting it out.
Actions speak louder than words they say, and it's hard not to believe that. Sometimes the extreme actions taken by individuals, that is their voice, their last gasp that instead comes out as a shout. Some individuals are disturbed enough that nothing short of locking them away or medicating them might prevent their taking horrendous action but I like to believe more than we think can be done through a cultural revision. What that constitutes and where that starts, those are difficult questions. Being nice and listening to others have roots in good intentions, but that alone can start to give people the wrong idea. That can foster misinterpretation of the strength and importance of a relationship.
Reading that second article only makes this all the worse. The precise nature of the relationship between the suspect, Stephen Morgan, and the victim, Johanna Justin-Jinich, is not stated, but it seems as if there could be smatterings of what I just alluded to. Justin-Jinich had already filed harassment charges against Morgan two years ago. It's plausible she was friendly towards him to begin with (worked at a café, described in that article by a classmate as having "a great smile"), he got the wrong idea, and when perhaps she wasn't fueling his obsession, Morgan took things to a whole new level. But I don't really want to make any assumptions about this case. The mind is complex and for all that we connect on many things, every mind is different. Why I want to avoid assumptions has basis in this second article as well.
I took the "angry ex-boyfriend" angle from the caption of a Fox news article, and if I go with this NBC coverage I will be confirming a targeting of Jewish individuals. That might be the case, but if NBC can't substantiate their source, I think it should be left out rather than planting these strange seeds in our, or at least my, mind(s). I admit I am bothered as well that there is a history of harassment from this man and that wasn't an initial clue. Perhaps there had been no contact between suspect and victim between then and now. How much would talking to the suspect bring to light. Regardless of his true thought process, he can say whatever he wants. We can't crawl into his mind or anyone else's. Would we want to? I don't even know how to put a period on my own musings, so I close instead with some words from the Pixies, a question: Where is my mind?