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Saturday, October 24

Placing Blame

I’ve never been one to subscribe to the notion that bad shit happens for a reason. There’s no moral, no silver lining, no lesson to be learned from the death of a child – especially when that death is at some monsters hands. I’ve noticed pundits and newscasters no longer even try to classify something like this. They just report that it happened – then go for the money shots photographing and profiling the child’s devastated family. Some, like carrion crawler Nancy Grace, cast themselves as crusading angels – making sure to report every sad and salacious detail; a kind of verbal autopsy: how many cuts, how many broken bones (with emphasis and breathless discussion of any perceived sexual deviance). No rules, no license - the more horrific and graphic the material the better. CSI on a stick.

What no one ever does is look into the happenstance of it all – the under the skin, emotional assassination of the left-behinds. Much more has been slaughtered than a single child. Every member of that family has, in some indefinable way, died. These are the true zombies; parts inside rotted away; some through neglect, others the result of further and continuing abuse. It’s the blaming, you see – the assigning of ‘responsibility’. Somebody (or a whole passel of ‘somebody’s’) has to shoulder responsibility for the child’s death. The killer alone is no longer enough – not for today’s constantly on the lookout for the next shocking thing punditocracy. Modern media demands a full-on Roman orgy; gladiators, tigers, vomitorium (and you’d better not forget the popcorn). That usually masticates and digests the entire family – no matter if their involvement was merely peripheral. And god help those caught in the blast zone. Demon press excoriates and filets to the bone.

Which brings me ‘round to my point. Something struck me the other day....a throw-away report of a little girl lost and found dead. Lost in Florida, thrown away in a Georgia landfill. Her name isn’t as important as the ‘before’s’ – those ‘Seconds from Disaster’ moments. Perhaps I should say the incidents long term effects. It’s all in the ‘how’ she disappeared, you see; the ticks and tocks of what led up to the taking. Evidently she’d been walking home from school with her brother, her older sister and some other school friends. There was an argument – one news outlet reported she was being teased by her brother, another said she was arguing with a school friend prompting her sister to yell at her – I’m not exactly sure of the details (nor were they – but hey, who cares?). Still – such speculation was reported as verified fact all the same. Whatever really happened – the situation ended with the little girl in tears, running ahead of the other children, never to be seen alive again.

Do you see? Do you get what I mean....what’s happened here?

It’s the other children - her siblings in particular. I’m concerned about their mental and emotional state. They will blame themselves for her death. It’s inevitable. Especially if their parents blame them as well. I know a little something about how that kind of thing works, unfortunately. My sister committed suicide when I was 7. She was 27 – old enough to be my mother. Of course – I never knew about it, was never told the truth. I only knew she’d suddenly, inexplicably, disappeared. It was my mother who filled in the blanks – and used the lies she concocted to control me. You see – just before my sister died, she’d stopped by to visit and brought along her dog, a Chihuahua. Now – I was afraid of Chihuahuas as a child. A neighbor had one she’d turn loose on all the local kids – especially while walking home from school. I’d been bitten numerous times by the nasty beast – so I was terrified.

Thankfully he never chased past his own territory. Oh – he’d chase you down in the street (seriously – the little monster knocked me off my bike once) – but never past his own house. You had to run awfully fast, though. I was a tad clumsy – so more often than not I got nipped by those needle teeth – and yes, my mother knew all about it. As far I know, she never once approached the woman to call off her dog. But that was the nature of my family’s dysfunction. It’s why I was considering (and attempting) suicide by age 10. Anyway – despite my saying I was afraid – into my arms goes the dog. The creature was keyed up from the drive (squirming like mad), my mother and my sister were fighting - my brother (sensing my unease), used it to torment me (he was 22 at the time and a real piece of work). End result? I got bitten and accidently dropped the dog. The poor thing broke its leg - had to be rushed to the vet. Needless to say I was horrified, I felt terrible – and I was blamed. Not by my sister (she understood) – but by my mother (who said I did it on purpose), and by my asshole brother who used the incident to taunt me. The whole thing was so traumatizing, I used to hear the awful sounds of that little dogs pain in my nightmares.

Then poof - my sister up and disappears; and when I asked why she didn’t come visit me any more – my mother had her answer ready: My sister didn’t come around any more because she blamed me for injuring her dog. Sobbing, I begged my mother to just let me speak to my sister – to apologize again, make reparations – anything. I was only 7. Loss is especially hard at that age - and I loved my sister dearly. She was my only anchor in a terrible and terrifying world. No, my mother said. She hates you. She never wants to see you again. She wishes you were dead. Then she added the coup de gras: she told me the little dog had died – that I’d killed it - that I was a horrible killer of dogs – and my sister could no longer stand the sight of me.

Well. I believed her. I believed her for years. No one gainsaid the bitch, by the way – not my father, not my asshole brother, not my next oldest, stick up her ass sister (18 years my senior – I was the youngest by an entire generation). Everyone just let the lies stand. And they shattered me – absolutely shattered me. I was 12 before I sussed out the truth; and when I did – the overweening hatred I felt for my family knew no bounds. To make a child feel responsible for a sibling’s death.... I’ve never forgiven them – even after all these years. Oh – there are worse things I suffered at my family’s hands....but this stands out in my mind as especially heinous. The mental images of dropping that dog remain as fresh and clear as if they had all happened yesterday.

How does this relate to the murder of that poor child? In how her siblings feel. See – I know. I know how they blame themselves right now. How they believe they were responsible. If only they hadn’t teased her, if only there wasn’t an argument.... The ‘if only’s’ can be killer. Add in news agency after news agency repeating and re-treading constructed versions of the abduction narrative (child runs from disagreement with siblings and is slaughtered)....and how on earth are they to feel any different? I only hope the adults in their lives aren’t reinforcing all this. Oh - I can understand how there might be anger. That’s natural. Anger/fear after something as traumatic as this is an instinctual trigger. What parent wouldn’t lash out, perhaps scold without thinking? It’s what happens after that counts. The dysfunctional response is a need to place blame. Those surviving kids will eat themselves alive if they’re allowed to go through life blaming themselves for their little sister’s death. It isn’t their fault. I don’t know how many ways or times I can say it: It Wasn’t Their Fault.

But this kind of in depth analysis isn’t what you’re likely to hear on what passes for the news. No one’s even going to think about the survivors; well, not beyond the tears and the screaming; unless, of course, it’s about blood or sex or hysterical crying. That will be graded on whether or not it’s believable, by the way. Nancy Grace thinks she’s an expert on discerning capital ‘T’ Truth. But the left behinds? The kids? Their friends? Nada. Oh – some enterprising young ‘reporter’ might sidle up and ask how it feels to be responsible, blah, blah, blah....but to follow the healing process through to its conclusion? Why bother? It only leads if it bleeds.

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