The Boston Marathon bombing: Now there’s a crime that speaks directly to us about the dangerous times in which we live, the inherent growing isolation of the individual in “society,” our perpetual pathological unawareness and psychic blindness, the helplessness of entire law enforcement bureaucracies in the face of one or two renegade lunatics – heavy stuff not the squalid, sordid tragic mess with which I became so entwined, the salacious Bernardo/Homolka saga that consumed ten years of my life and from which I will probably never fully recover.
As usual I’m on about unlearned lessons from Nut Island. My two arrests in 1998 and 2003 and subsequent decade-long prosecutions had nothing to do with “free speech” or “free expression” as many journalists and media-types and writers’ groups conceived – nothing so lofty.
(I was, of course, thankful for the Writer’s Union, PEN’s and CJFE’s and the Human Rights Watch support which was hung on that hook. Any writer in trouble with the police and/or government deserves that support providing they have not robbed a bank or killed their partner.)
Even though my arrests and prosecutions were “personal,” the consequence of a perceived offence that I had, unwittingly or not, levied upon a couple of politically powerful men, still none of it would ever have happened except for a quirk in the space – time continuum, a small “c” classic case of two or three people being in the wrong place at the right time for the wrong reasons.
Neither can anyone draw any survival lessons for the young and innocent from the story I was somehow destined to chronicle in “Invisible Darkness” and “Karla“. What lessons can we teach our daughters from the Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French abduction, rape and murder?
What is to be garnered from already street-wise and aware teenagers who approached, in Kristen’s case, a late model car with an attractive young couple in a church parking lot in the middle of a sunny afternoon in response to an ask for directions in a city in which people perpetually get lost and constantly ask for directions?
Is the lesson that you never ever talk to a stranger (or stangers) Susie, under any circumstances, regardless how innocent they appear. If some one asks you for directions you must immediately tell them to “fuck off” and run into the nearest house and phone the police?
Or in Leslie Mahaffy’s case: Is the lesson never practice “tough love”; never lock your teenager daughters out of the house in an attempt to teach them lessons? Maybe, but when mothers’ are at their wits’ end, tactics can get weird.
Does a “mistake” like that (if that’s what it is) deserve such an horrific and final restitution? Of course not.
But that would be the sum total of any lessons this reality show the Bernardo’s created conveys: “Don’t lock your daughters out of the house at night.” But what about all the tens of thousands of sons and daughters who don’t care whether their parents’ doors are locked because they long ago decided not to go home at night anyway? It’s a hopeless tautology, and hardly one from which lessons can be drawn.
And are we any closer to understanding psycopaths or sociopaths or whatever term is au current for this fictious character than we were when the figure was first coagulated in that unreadable book “Mask of Sanity” by Hervey Cleckley published 1941? Even if you buy into psychopathy, how does it explain or deter murderous creatures such as Paul and Karla?
There is however a lesson that can be taken from all extreme cases such as the Boston Marathon bombing, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, Amanda Knox and her incarceration in Italy and the arrest and “successful” prosecution and wrongful conviction of the five young men who were convicted of a rape in Central Park ten years ago: The lesson is as unattainable as solid explanations for “Why Hitler“? We must scrap our institutions of law and disorder and start again because they are completely disfunctional and beseiged by a kind of organizational necrotizing fasciitis.
Read about it and watch: I wrote a piece published in Walrus Magazine in 2007 and soon to be released as an electronic long-read called “Life on Nut Island“. Amanda Knox has just published a memoir “Waiting to Be Heard“. And then there is the documentary called “The Central Park Five“?