Thursday, December 06, 2007

Charles Whitman and Other Celebrities

That young, fresh-faced fellow is Charles Whitman. His name is easy for me to remember, for obvious reasons. But a lot of people remember his name. He's a celebrity. In August of 1966 he killed his wife and mother, and then ventured down to the University of Texas, where he climbed the bell tower and started shooting random students traipsing across the campus. All told, he killed 14 people and wounded 31 others. Charles was the first -- or at least the first widely reported -- wacko sniper on the loose.

Yesterday a young kid who had just broken up with his girlfriend and been fired from his job at McDonald's walked into a mall in Omaha, Nebraska and started firing his rifle. Eight people were killed, falling amidst the holiday decorations, before he turned the gun on himself. He left behind a suicide note that read, in part, "At least now I'll be famous." His name was, apparently, Robert Hawkins. And I don't want to know his name.

For what it's worth, this is the fourth time this has happened in a shopping mall in the U.S. this year. I'd advise you all to shop online. And that doesn't include the horrific murders on the Virginia Tech campus this spring, where 33 kids who made the mistake of showing up for their early-morning French and German classes were mowed down by another crazed sniper.

But that suicide note bothers me a lot. It's probably asking too much for CNN and FoxNews to let it go, to not send their reporters scurrying to the scene of the crime, to not interrupt their regular programming to bring us live and up-to-the-minute interviews with terrified shoppers who hid in the clothing racks to avoid being plugged with bullets. But I still hate that suicide note. I don't want Robert Hawkins to be famous. I feel for his family, who apparently didn't feel much for him in the first place. I hate the destruction that brokenness brings. But I don't want him to be famous. Let the names of his victims be famous. Publish them far and wide. And forget about what's his name.

Feel like a failure? Does your life amount to nothing? Just go and shoot a bunch of random people. Then people will know who you are. You'll be famous. You'll be on the front page of the newspaper, and even American Idol winners don't get that kind of treatment. My heart feels sick. Charles Whitman -- and CNN, and FoxNews -- look what you have wrought. I remember the wrong names, and I wish I didn't.


Anonymous said...

maybe you should remember the wrong name. maybe we all should remember the wrong name. maybe there is nothing wrong with his name. maybe the next time we see someone on the city street who looks outside the box, or meet someone who seems a little off, we should smile and ask how they are. maybe if we became a little more friendly and caring to those that seem less lovable, and let them know they are someone, maybe then, people won't do such drastic things for attention. i wonder how many times this kid, and others who have done such things, cried out for help, and were ignored. written off as odd. i'm just sayin, maybe.


mosiacmind said...

amen...could not have said it better.

Andy Whitman said...

Nancy, I agree with what you're saying. I still don't think it's a good idea to pursue fame by murdering random, innocent people, and I do think the media has to bear some responsibility for creating an environment where fame-seeking psychopaths actually find their fifteen minutes of fame.