I spent the week in another murder trial — this time a poor young man so mentally ill, so paranoid and delusional that he killed at least two people. The men he killed could not have been more innocent, more worthy of life and love. One, a building inspector on his way to his daughter’s softball game, his county car full of equipment for a happy time with family. As he stopped to inspect the concrete work at a new home under construction, this other man ran to him, stabbing him four times in the chest, taking his life.
Just days before, this same young man who has visions of demon faces and messages in garage sale signs, saw a red spot on a garage door and took that as some kind of indicator, a message that he was to do something. So he hid in a garage, one of those neat-as-a-pin garages belonging to the elderly, and pounced upon an 85-year-old widower as he stooped to get a scoop of birdseed for his birds before heading to morning Mass.
Two lives in three or four days in the summer of 2002. Now, two convictions. Three families grieving. And he did all this with knives.
While I sat in the courtroom, watching more sadness, families in Connecticut heard the worst, saw the worst, lived the worst. I cannot even begin to understand, to articulate, to even contemplate. I once covered the sentencing of a man who senselessly shot a 4-year-old in a careless act of rage with a mis-aimed rifle. It is an experience I’d like never to repeat. I found myself glad I was far away from this one, that I didn’t have to press for answers, watch the terror, the horror of realization and the relentless persistence of sorrow. I’m glad that my fiance was not the one through the door in that classroom to see those precious ones, bloody and lifeless on the floor. I close my eyes this week and see the old man, bleeding out in the birdseed and that is enough for me.
I am drifting left on gun control, I guess, seeing all the crazy, the senseless, and worrying that the man I love, that I want to grow old with, will pull over the wrong car, walk into the wrong house… I tend to think no reasonable person needs an extended capacity magazine. But a tactical shotgun was stolen from my house a week ago, so there’s that.
This much I know: we’ve lost our minds. As a culture, as a society, as a country. We have no right to stand in judgement of any other society ever, in the history of time or in the future. It’s because crazy people have guns. It’s because God isn’t in our homes, our families. It’s because our children aren’t raised with empathy. It’s because children are raised in homes where parents slave away for companies who find new ways to screw over their workforce. It’s because of video games and violent television. It’s because of Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo. It’s because of hormones in our food and e. coli in our peanut butter. It’s because of child abuse, and mortgage foreclosures, and divorce.
We’re all prey now, kids. We’re all old men reaching for birdseed, oblivious to what lurks behind us. We’re kindergarteners in classrooms at the start of the school day.