Waukesha Stabbings – Questioning America

by Danny Zawacki

The weekend Waukesha stabbings, WI by two 12-year-old girls have me a bit more captivated than usual. As far as I can tell, I care more because I live in Waukesha. Yes, the stabbings were as tragic and unfortunate and “Why didn’t we see this coming” as all the other media storms where someone does something that seems off their rocker, but because I know the city and the people it just feels more real to me.

Waukesha Stabbings

For some reason I didn’t see the news of the stabbings until yesterday, three days after they happened. Maybe the media didn’t see it either or it just was kept under wraps before it made it to the front page of CNN. Whatever the reason was, it gave me a bit of a shock when I found out. Initially, I thought about where I was on Saturday morning. I went to the farmer’s market and was attacked by a bird. Had Ellie not been around, I would have gone for a run. That run, while unlikely, might have taken me past the place where the victim was found. I could have been that guy. Realizing that, it really hit home.

All of the articles I read about the Waukesha stabbings said roughly the same thing. The two girls, 12-years-old, planned the murder of their friend for months. Finally, on Saturday, they carried out their plan in a local park by stabbing their friend 19 times with a 5-inch long kitchen knife, leaving her for dead, and then started their trek to meet Slender Man. The victim crawled her way to a path where she was found and helped.

It’s very cut and dry what happened. After being taken into custody, the girls seemed to confess everything. Their motives, their thought process, and how it all happened. Some say they’re children, living out a fantasy, others say they’re disturbed. I’m in the latter boat. I don’t care if they are children and they were living out a fantasy, they still attempted to murder someone. Name a place where some murders are less than other murders. One of the attorneys is pressing to have their client tried as a juvenile (while they’re only 12 and juvenile would apply, murder trials in the state of Wisconsin are tried as adults, so why make exceptions?).

While I think these children committed the crime of an adult and they should be tried as adults and punished as adults, I do not think that they are above counseling and rehabilitation. Those things are not and should not be mutually exclusive. They are young, which is all the better of a time to try to help them. You don’t help them by keeping them from punishment. To me, all that teaches is that you can attempt to kill someone and if you plea the right way, you don’t get punished. That’s counseling and that is not rehabilitating to its fullest.

Cultural Appeal of Going Out with a Bang

This isn’t the first case in recent years, or months, or even weeks it seems, where someone commits a terrible crime that we all see as terrible. Sadly, there have been many. Far too many if you ask me. So many, that more and more people are starting to question why and asking what we can and should do about it. That part of it is good, but the part where it continues to happen is rather bad.

Last week, we had Elliot Rodgers. He made it known that he had a lot of problems which people should be trying to help him with, and they were. But someone wasn’t keeping as good of tabs on him as they should have been. His public videos on YouTube are enough to seriously and deeply question him. Only when it’s determined he’s stable and not going to go out on his promised killing spree do you consider leaving him alone. Lives are on the line if you don’t.

The media, his videos, and personal manifesto told us that he was upset that he was a virgin and that he wasn’t invited to take part in the “college life”. The laid out his retribution plan, and would have followed it until the end had there not been a locked door. Unfortunately, he improvised and took 6 lives with his own.

Then there was Sandy Hook Elementary School in late 2012. A 20-year-old, Adam Lanza, went into an elementary school and killed 20 kids and 6 adults. His motives were unknown but because of him, new legislation has been proposed surrounding the sales of ammunition and firearms. It’s unfortunate that it takes a tragedy where 20 children are shot to even propose the legislation. Even then, it’s a tragedy that there are still plenty of people who oppose it because they’re afraid they’ll lose their guns. Even if the legislation did make you lose your guns, it’s a small price to pay to keep our children and ourselves safe.

In 2012, James Eagan Holmes went into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado for a screening of The Dark Knight Rises and killed 12 and injuring 70.

I went through the end of elementary school all the way through graduation with the threat of another Columbine on my mind. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 and injured another 24. Because of them, schools got metal detectors and “Hold, Lock, Secure” plans and drills. I went to school always wondering whether my classmates decided that today was the day. Fortunately, it never was.

Part of the problem comes from the fact that I can mention Sandy Hook, Aurora, UCSB, Columbine, and Virginia Tech by name and you know what I’m talking about. It’s more than the guns alone, or the exposure to violence. It’s the access to information–everyone has it. It’s the media making them household names. Hated, yes, but everyone knows their names or at least what they did. I think these people got what they wanted. I think they wanted to be remembered and this was the best way to do it once they were fed up with it all.

So how will it play out for the girls responsible for the Waukesha stabbings? I can’t say. There’s a chance they might not be remembered. Partially because not all media sources are releasing their names because they are minors and partly since I started writing this and the time I published it, there has been another killer on the loose. A man up in Moncton, Canada has gone and killed three Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Maybe his story will overshadow these girls.

All that being said, I still think there’s too much violence in the world now. Too many people resort to the wrong actions to feel justified, glorified, whatever it may be. As a society, we are instilling this idea of going out with a bang. But even before that, we are pushing these individuals to the point where they think they need to. We need to be more aware of the people around us and we need to reach out to them and offer the help, comfort, or care they need before it’s too late.

I’m just one guy and these are just my own thoughts. I’m curious to hear what you think about the problems we seem to be having. It’s more than a phase the nation is going through and we better do something to alleviate the problems before they get worse. How would you do it?


9 thoughts on “Waukesha Stabbings – Questioning America

  • Rose Cheyette

    I’ve also been thinking about this stuff a lot lately. There are so many factors involved. The gun issue. The mental health issue. You’re right; the violence in this country is absolutely insane. The most horrifying thing about the UCSB shooting was that it was not horrifying. These mass murders have become a way of life. There was a time when the school shooting seemed to be a onetime thing. A horrible plan organized by a couple of kids that were deeply disturbed. Now, it’s commonplace, as much as we don’t want to acknowledge that or think about it.

    I’m glad that people are no longer blaming rap music and Marilyn Manson for school shootings. But it’s true that violence is everywhere, and it does seem so easy to get access to guns, find recipes online to make bombs, find ways through easily accessible means to be violent, like these 12 year old girls and the Slender Man thing (whatever the correlation was between the Slender Man and the stabbing, if there is a correlation.) Nevertheless, it was something that they saw online that they claim inspired them to commit this horrible act of violence. Clearly there is something within these girls that influenced them to commit this crime, aside from anything they saw online that “spoke to them”. I agree that they should be tried as adults.

    The politicians can continue to fight over this and nothing will change and these shootings will continue. Like you, I am also at a loss of how to alleviate this problem. If we’re looking at this from more of a mental health standpoint, I think that we probably can do things to make mental illnesses less stigmatized. Simply talking about it more and being more honest about it is an important first step. It seems like a small thing, but I think the more people talk about such stigmatized things as mental illness, depression, suicide, addictions, the more people that suffer from any of these will be more likely to seek help, realize they are not alone, and maybe set up support systems that could be preventative down the line.

    I don’t talk about it too much, but I volunteer at a suicide prevention organization, and recently I’ve made the switch from answering the suicide hotline to texting with teens that are in crisis. Many of them self-harm, are bullied at school, are struggling with their sexual identity, feel isolated from others and yes, many are suicidal. Many feel like they have no one that understands them or anyone to talk to. I think that this organization and others like it are so important, and I really hope that by being an outlet where these young people can reach out for support, maybe it will prevent them from doing something violent and rash, both towards themselves, and others, if that is where their mind goes. I think that breaking down some of the stigmatization is a first step, one that is attainable by regular people like you and me. Hopefully at a policy/governmental level things will change, but I just don’t see that happening any time soon, despite the fact that the shootings will continue, and innocent people will continue to pay the price.

    Reply
    • Danny Zawacki Post author

      Rose, that might have been the most thoughtful response I’ve ever received to one of my posts. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say.

      I don’t know if what I wrote really made sense or if all my facts were straight but what’s important is what you said, these things aren’t horrifying anymore. This morning, the first headline I saw was about a shooter at a university in Seattle.

      I wish I would have known that you volunteer for a suicide prevention organization. That’s extremely noble, and probably something I’ll brag to my friends about when you come up in conversation.

      Reply
      • Rose Cheyette

        What you wrote totally made sense and the facts seemed straight. There are aspects to these shootings that certainly are horrifying. Columbine was horrifying because it was one of the first (if not the first?) time a school shooting took place. Newtown was particularly upsetting because it was very young children. The UCSB shooting added a new level of anger towards women at the hands of the shooter that was disturbing and scary. Yeah, and I saw yesterday that a shooting took place at Seattle Pacific. It just won’t stop.

        I think that the conversation definitely is too focused towards the gun stuff than the mental illness stuff, but it probably should be 50/50. It definitely shows how messed up this country is. Why can’t the gun lobbyists understand that no one is trying to take their guns away? Why can’t we have more open and honest conversations in more public forums about mental illnesses and disorders, and how to best help those people without isolating them?

        I have heard some of my coworkers say suicide is selfish. Addiction is selfish. I don’t think they have any idea what they are talking about because they have never been there, and I believe they are part of the problem. No I myself have never felt sad or helpless to the point of considering suicide, nor have I ever struggled with addiction, so I am not in a position to really know what someone is going through. But I would never say that these two things make someone selfish or worthless. People that deal with these things that are made to feel that way are probably more likely to go out and hurt themselves or others, because they get the sense that no cares or no one is there for them.

        Dammit, this is why I need to apply to grad school and get my MSW and work in a school.

        Reply
        • Danny Zawacki Post author

          In what world is suicide or addiction selfish? If anything, it’s selfish of the person to say that. They’re probably think about how that person’s suicide affects them personally or how the addiction influences their lives, not the sole person it really affects.

          While I currently am not addicted to anything, I do think it would be an easy slope for me to slip down. I fortunately, have been blessed with the ability to quit things cold-turkey and this isn’t something that most people can do.

          Your coworkers need a good slapping, if you ask me.

          Reply
          • Rose Cheyette

            You’re exactly right: they are thinking about how it affects the people around that person who is in that situation. That’s why so many people that are forced to go to rehab, or forced into interventions, or forced to go to therapy often relapse or don’t change at all. I don’t think that rehab, interventions, or therapy are bad things at all, but the fact of the matter is, someone is not going to change unless they have that will within them. The will to quit drinking. The will to seek help for their depression. The will to see a doctor about their eating disorder. And so on and so forth. It has to come from that person.

            It’s fine to think about how things like suicide or addiction (since we’re sticking with these examples) indirectly affect people, but like you said, it doesn’t get to the core issue of what drove that person to suicide. Or what drove that person to their addiction, and so on.

            I’m glad that you’re not addicted to anything. I have gone through phases where I felt that I could get addicted to something and I think that I do have that within my personality or psyche. The ability to quit something cold turkey definitely is a good skill to have though. I’m not sure I could do that.

            I really like my coworkers, but they are quick to judge people without having any context or understanding of a situation. I am trying to be better about not judging them and it is basically the first time I feel like I can tolerate being around pretty outspoken republicans. We have such different points of view on so many issues, and I genuinely like hearing their ideas. But yes, I get very frustrated at times when certain topics come up, like this one. I’m sure they get frustrated with my points of view too, though, so it’s certainly a two way street.

          • Danny Zawacki Post author

            That last paragraph relates to my office as well, though I don’t think many if any are Republicans.

            I’m actually working on a blog post about a bit of a disagreement I had with them the other day.

  • taplatt

    I also worry about this kind of thing. You are right that we/our society need to pay more attention to people. But what would help the most would be gun control. Europe has super tight gun control laws and it does, in fact, prevent shootings (who’d have thunk?!). Doesn’t help with the stabbings, but it would be a start if the conservatives could get their heads out of their butts.

    Reply
    • Danny Zawacki Post author

      I completely agree on the gun control. The problem is that if the government tried taking the guns away from everyone, I wouldn’t doubt if there was a large group which would be literally up in arms over it.

      It needs to be done, but there needs to be a good way to do it.

      Reply

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