I read obituaries. I read them every single day. The ones that drive me nuts are the ones that don’t mention how the person died. (You can sometimes infer the cause of death from the charity the deceased’s family has designated. Sometimes you can’t.) I read the list of people surviving the dead person: were they still married? Do their kids have the same last name? Who predeceased them? I sift through all this data, making what I am sure are some incorrect assumptions. I’m looking for parallels with my own life. (Dead woman was divorced? If I just stay married, I’ll be OK.) Always, always looking for reasons why.
On Wednesday, a 77 year old man was stabbed to death in this city. It happened about 20 blocks from my house; I had driven past this spot 30 minutes before the incident. The local media reports that the man was helping his wife into a car, after their anniversary dinner. A youth walked up to the couple, and stabbed the man. No words were exchanged, nothing was stolen. The attacker and the man were strangers. The attacker fled on foot. The man bled to death in a strip mall parking lot.
I have a series of mental touchstones that I go through daily. If I don’t engage in behavior X, then consequence Y can’t happen. (If I walk fast and look tough, aggressive panhandlers won’t bother me.) They’re flimsy, these constructs. I know that. But I feel like in the face of an illogical world, they’re all I’ve got. This crime dissolves all of them. Totally random, completely unpredictable. No one’s fault. Could’ve happened to anyone.
Last night, they arrested the guy. He was on a Greyhound bus in Regina. The police received a tip, and now the accused is in their custody. I still don’t feel relieved. They said his name on the news tonight. They showed closeups of his Facebook profile. Maybe I could find some answers after all.
I looked him up. There was his profile, open to the public. I clicked on it. As his page loaded, my chest went tight, and I could feel every hair on my head. This was too close. I shouldn’t have done this. But I read anyway. His profile picture is of a young boy; maybe himself, as a child? He lists his political affiliation as “National Socialist”, and his religion as “Satanist/Atheist”. He’s posted some videos related to white supremacy, and drawn some graffiti that I’ve seen around (I’m assuming they’re gang symbols). He’d updated his status 5 hours after the stabbing. It’s cryptic and melodramatic. It only takes on an air of insanity once you know where he was 5 hours earlier.
But I just don’t feel a sense of “evil”. It’s the Facebook profile of a disaffected young man. If I had seen this profile a week ago, I would have thought this guy was just talking big, trying to shock some people, but essentially harmless. Granted, I’m no psychologist. But still, not a big threat. He has friends (50 of them when I logged in, 48 by the time I had looked at his profile. Apparently I wasn’t the only one watching the news). I’m sure reporters are feverishly trying to contact them, to get the quintessential sound bites (which will fall into two categories: “He was the nicest guy! I can’t believe this happened!”, or “He was always kind of weird. I thought something like this would happen.”).
I wonder what happened that day, to make him go over the edge, take his mental instability out on another person in such a final way. I am so sorry that an elderly man felt the brunt of the anger and insanity. And I have to accept that I’ll never really know why.