By Mike Wilcox
These supposedly-civilized times we live in are mighty unusual. I say that because two occurrences last week have my head spinning.
I’m talking about the attack on the Maryland newspaper office in which five innocent journalists were killed, and the later attack at a 3-year-old’s birthday party in which nine were injured, six of them children.
The world has turned ugly. More and more we read about deranged individuals killing and injuring others. I have said before mental health may be the biggest problem facing society. We have to figure out how to identify and treat those with mental illnesses or the uptick in gruesome killings and horrific injuries will only get worse.
The newsroom incident really hit home. In this business we’ve all experienced enraged readers who threaten us over an article written about him or her. Several years ago, I was put up against a wall with a gun to my head because an individual didn’t like what one of my reporters had written.
I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the times I’ve received verbal threats from angry people about what was written. Usually it’s an idle threat like, “I’m going to sue you,” or, “We’re going to contact all your advertisers.” But occasionally it is more serious. It kinda goes with the turf.
But after the Maryland incident I am taking these threats more seriously. In one of my offices a man keeps showing up, always angry, demanding we write something negative about a local school system he feels has mistreated him. In the past, we have kindly put aside our work to listen to him, but each time the threats become more violent.
He’s not threatening us, but we still are uneasy around this person. I suppose next time he shows up we will ask him to leave. If that doesn’t work, we’ll call the police.
It’s too bad we have to think that way, but in these screwed-up times we have to be vigilant. Imagine preparing a birthday party for your 3-year-old and the parent of one of your guests goes berserk and stabs anyone within reach.
That’s what happened at the Idaho apartment complex last week. When I read the account, my heart fluttered. How could anyone stab a 3-year-old (yes the birthday girl was a victim too), let alone five other children between ages 3 and 7? Birthday parties are about cake and ice cream, gifts and party hats, not a deranged parent going on a stabbing spree.
Postscript: Oh my God, I just read (Tuesday 8 a.m.) that the 3-year-old birthday girl was pronounced dead last night from complications caused by the stabbing. The perpetrator claims not to know what he did.
In both these instances, the killers suffered from mental illness. Mental illness plays a part in most crimes involving murder. It’s time the president, Congress or both appoint a special commission to take steps to better help those who suffer.