Funny that I started writing again when I did.
While I was writing my last post, I got a call that my very first "boyfriend" ever had committed suicide. I put boyfriend in quotations because this is how he became my boyfriend:
Setting: Tall Oaks Camp
His friend: Andy wants to know if you'll go with him.
Me: Maybe...(giggle)...I don't know.
A few hours later...
My friend (to his friend): Tell Andy Amy said she'd go with him.
His friend: Okay.
And that was it. I'm not sure I sat with him at a meal or anything after that, or if anything changed at all. I was 12.
I had my first kiss at summer camp, too, the next summer. It was a different boy that I kissed. I hadn't broken up with Andy. But our relationship had never been mentioned again after that camp. In fact, I STILL haven't broken up with Andy, and we both went on to marry other people. Oops.
I loved camp. I was really popular at camp. Because, when you're in middle school and even high school, being popular matters. A lot. I had never been popular at school. And I guess that really begs to define popular. I'm sure you know what it means...but do you know what it MEANS? If you went to school, I guess you probably do. It doesn't just mean that people like you. It means that you're in the A crowd. It means that certain boys and certain girls like you just because you're in that crowd. They may like you because you're you, too, but you get the edge of being able to skip the first step in friend making...the part where you have to go up to someone and convince them to like you. On the other hand, you have to walk the line all the time to STAY in the A group. So it's tit for tat, I guess.
I was happy not being in the A group...not being popular...in school. I had my good friends, Leslie, Brooke, Dama. I didn't need any more than that. And I was never very good at walking the line. But at camp I could play the part of a popular girl and I only had to keep up all the bits that made it work for two weeks, tops. I always had a boyfriend at camp. I never had a boyfriend in school. And, if you've been reading this blog in order, you know that I met Leslie at camp. Now that I think about it, camp was incredibly good to me. I met some of the most incredible people at camp. My current pastor is someone I met at camp. Weird.
Anyway, Andy took his own life. And I don't know why. I wasn't friends with him anymore. I wasn't his Facebook friend. I hadn't seen him in well over twenty-five years. But I go to church with his dad. I knew of him...the basics of his life...that he'd married and had a little girl who had some health issues...that he lived in the city still. But I didn't know that he was so sick with depression. I didn't know that a switch had flipped in his mind that didn't allow him to see his own reality anymore.
And that happened while I was writing my last post. Actually during the time in which I was typing.
And two weeks after I started writing again...IT happened again. Someone took a gun into a public place and shot people. But this time it's different, the newspapers say. They say it's different because the shooter was "popular".
I'm going to call the shooter by his name. You know how I feel about giving them a name. I'm not like the people who say that we shouldn't say the names of the shooters, only the names of the victims. The shooters NEED names. We need them as a society because, speaking of popular, this is, unfortunately, a "popular" thing to do...to publicly kill others. And there are a lot of them. We need their names to differentiate between them. Saying their names isn't going to make others want to do it, too, any more than the grossly unprofessional way the media reports this stuff already does. And the shooters were/are people. Before they became murderers, they were people who had mothers and fathers and friends and ate sandwiches and bought toothpaste and behaved like non-murderers.
So Jaylen Fryberg was "popular" and, according to the news, that makes him different than Leslie's shooter, David Logsdon. It makes him different than Adam Lanza and James Holmes and Eric Harris and supposedly the hundreds of other mass shooters. I call bullshit. He wasn't different. He might have lived a different kind of reality than some of the others. But the thing is...he was sick. Something inside his brain was terribly broken. And that makes him the same as the others.
David Logsdon didn't kill Leslie, Andrew, and Patricia because he wasn't popular. Adam Lanza didn't kill those beautiful children because he had Asperger's. Dylan Kleblod and Eric Harris didn't kill students at Columbine because they were bullied. They all did it because something in their brains was not right. Something in their thinking was broken. In some cases, it might have been fixable if we'd known. In some cases, maybe not. But I tire of hearing that bullying or autism or getting fired causes killers. Mental illness unchecked and/or sociopathic tendencies cause killers. (I want you to see that I put and/or between mental illness and sociopathic. Not everyone of these shooters is/was sociopathic. Some were.) Bullying causes pain. Being fired causes pain...I know that all too well. Sometimes, having Asperger's or autism causes pain. For the mentally ill, that pain may be more difficult to bear than for others. But it's the mental illness that caused these people to make their tragic choices...not the pain.
Jaylen Fryberg was no different than other mass shooters. Here's what IS different, though... Jaylen was 14 and lived in the age of social media. I'm a teacher. My students are 14. And I teach digital literacy. I KNOW about 14 year olds and twitter and snapchat and instagram. This is their language. Friends of Jaylen and his victims, Zoe, Gia, Shaylee, Andrew, and Nate, are on twitter right now speaking in their language about the most profound thing that has ever happened to them. I've seen it. And there are people who think they should stop. There are people who say that it's not the best way to grieve. Those people are WRONG. There IS no "best way" to grieve. You do it how you do it. And for most of us, grieving includes communication. If your language is social media, then that's how you're going to grieve.
The heartbreak for me is that this language is so public. I have no problem with it being available to strangers. I may not have been comfortable with that for myself in the days following Leslie's murder, but I wasn't 14 and I had never heard of twitter. Had she been killed yesterday, I might HAVE been more public in my grief. These kids are accustomed to a world where strangers see their thoughts. I don't even have a problem with the "trolls." Most 14 year olds with a social media account know how to deal with trolls. (Although if any of you are reading this, PLEASE don't respond to trolls. You don't have to tell them they know nothing about the situation. They know it. So do other kind hearted individuals. Just ignore them. Their purpose is to create reaction. If you give them none, they WILL go away.) My problem is with the disgusting media. They are like emotional paparazzi. They will do ANYTHING to get a bite of information, and if it's emotionally charged information, they're even happier. These public social media accounts leave you open to constant monitoring by the media. And they'll put anything you say on the news.
Seven and a half years after Leslie's murder, I still get phone calls from the media asking how I feel about certain things that they've decided relate to the murder. But in my case, all they have is my phone number. For friends of the victims of this tragedy, the media has every word they say...even when it's not said directly to the reporter.
THAT'S what makes this case different. And I'm sure that we as consumers of news will be affected by it. We already have been. Things will undoubtedly be reported on the news that will be changed later because some reporter found some heartbroken teen's twitter account and misread what she posted. I imagine that, in this age of public communication, it will actually take LONGER to know the full story.
And I don't know the answer to this. I'm working on finding one, but I don't have one right now. The teenagers who have been affected deserve to grieve in their own way with their own language. But their language is a show for the world to watch. For now, all I can do is beg of others to understand... Think back to a time when YOU were grieving. Did you talk to your friends? Did you think weird things that maybe now you don't think anymore? Yes, you did. That's all they're doing. The difference is that strangers couldn't hear you. We're all watching them.