One night my 23 year old sister took her five-year-old daughter to a Winn-Dixie store in Tampa to buy dinner for her family. My sister’s husband had stayed home with their two-year-old daughter. While my sister and niece were standing in line, a man walked in with a large, plastic pail of gasoline which he threw at the cashier and then tossed in a match. My sister, Marty, died at the scene. My niece Jenny lived for three days. Five people died in all.
The man with the gasoline was named William Ferry. A few weeks later, while sitting in my apartment on Ashland Avenue in St. Paul, I imagined restraining Mr. Ferry naked on all fours to a wooden floor. The floor was scarred and scuffed with years of use. I imagined using a ten penny nail and a hammer with a red head and a black handle to nail his tongue to the floor. Then I imagined taking a red hot poker and shoving it…that was one of the more mild fantasies I had in those days. Some of them I wrote down.
I was a college student majoring in English with an emphasis on creative writing and I had learned that sometimes it’s helpful to write down something in order to think about it, and sometimes it helps to write it down because its the only way to get it out of your mind.
I suspect what I went through was completely normal after a loss like that. I have no idea what it’s like to lose a child, but I did see its horrific nature in my parents’ eyes. That look actually changed the shape of their eyes; it dulled the color of them; it was there when each of my parents took their last breath.
That was 1982 when I wrote my fantasies down. In today’s world if the cops found them on my cell phone I would immediately be considered guilty by my fellow countrymen. I would, in effect, lose my right to due process. People would make statements like "I hope they fry him!!!! What about the poor people he was going to kill or rape?" Or "Severe dangerous mental illness (sic) probably just runs deep in that family." Or "dis guy was sick in d mind (sic)." And if someone did express concern and sympathy over my rapidly diminished and temporary mental state, they would be chastised crudely.
Somehow, as a nation, we have lost our humanity. We just pronounce people guilty without any evidence at all. The cops, or some other authority figures, come out and proclaim that someone is a danger. It’s never a psychiatrist who does that, because they know better. In the case of Professor Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, it never occurs to us that someone who has made a study of psychiatric disorders might understand there are real benefits to writing down fantasies in graphic detail. There may have even been benefits in acting out and starting small fires. It’s possible, at least in my mind. And if the person does it knowing they will have to face the penalty for arson…
The truth is we really don’t know what was going on in the case of Professor Reinscheid, but if you’ve already decided he’s guilty of something like rape, aren’t you more of a danger to our way of life than he? If you’ve made statements like "it’s not an excuse for killing and raping, should we let him go free and hope he gets help" you’ve already pronounced him guilty without the benefit of a fair trial, without so much as a glance at the actual evidence. Isn’t your behavior a danger to all of us because it undermines our system? If you’re willing to dispense with his right to due process doesn’t that mean the same rules will apply to you? Are you really so sure of yourself that you can condemn when you really know nothing at all?
I don't know what was going through his mind, because he lost his son and I can't relate to that level of loss. I can get part of the way because Marty and Jenny were murdered in a particularly gruesome manner. It could be that his son was gay and being bullied and thought hanging himself was the only solution. Around these parts that's a very real possibility. Far more so that his son was just mentally disturbed, as people with no knowledge of the events have already pronounced him. I've seen the bigots around here. It would be Hell to be a gay kid. And extremely hard to be an enlightened parent of a gay kid. But that's just more dangerous speculation.