‘A trembling’ still echoes
LEO received a number of responses to “A trembling in the universe,” Scott Robinson’s June 27 cover story, which detailed his firsthand experience on the night that 15-year-old Tyler Dumstorf shot two Indiana sheriff’s deputies, killing one before fatally wounding himself. Read that piece here: http://leoweekly.com/?q=node/4962.
This week, we bring you a sampling of the responses.
invite parents to discuss
I do not condone the use of weapons. I wish the cops did not feel a need to bring guns with them, and I wish Tyler Dumstorf had not reverted to one himself. I want the young people of this world to learn how to speak for themselves, and I want the adults to listen.
I did not know Tyler Dumstorf. My connection to him is due to my understanding of his situation. I have never shot two police officers, but then again, I’ve never felt the need to. I can only empathize with him, and hope to speak for him when no one else seems able.
One may not realize the importance of Tyler’s last words: “I just killed two cops. Goodbye.” This indicates he was not delusional, as you might suspect, at the time of the shootings. He knew what he did, even going so far as to say “goodbye,” knowing that such an act meant the end of his freedom. (He chose to die, rather than to suffer more imprisonment. I do not consider death to be freedom — freedom is real.)
Put yourself in his situation, not in the parents’. Recall when you were 15, entirely dependent on your elders, even at an age where you are capable of defending yourself with a firearm. (This age, in most cultures, is well past or near the age of initiation into manhood.) Imagine living in an environment where you’re still considered a child, not permitted to make your own decisions, not allowed to get a job.
Tyler was torn between two worlds — one of what people told him and showed him, the other what he found in himself and through outlets such as the Internet. The author of “A trembling in the universe” offers only one side, but he does it well:
“This is a quiet neighborhood, an easy, peaceful place where everyone gets along and kids run the streets, laughing and skinning their knees and growing up happy …”
One may then wonder how this could have happened in such a place. Indeed, the act alone destroys this entire description. My guess is that the parents of this neighborhood lived in this illusion, or tried to —they needed their kids to supplement themselves, and consequently suffocated their children, forcing them to believe what they know is not true.
Maybe Tyler didn’t feel as safe as those “above” him tried to make him feel. Maybe Tyler discovered that if he wanted to have meaning in this world — if he wanted humanity to have meaning in this world — he would have to fight. I’m not saying the police had ill intentions — but they were ignorant ones.
Robinson writes: “For myself, I want to believe this terrible, violent moment was a random act, not about good and evil and the forces that shape us …” and, “Yet that is the last thing I want my son to believe. I do not want him to know that the world can be so suddenly dangerous for no apparent reason. I do not want him to finish growing up looking over his shoulder. I want him to believe, against all reason, that the universe is Good guys and Bad guys and that it is easy to tell which is which.”
This is perhaps the most telling statement I’ve read from a parent. “For no apparent reason,” and “I want him to believe, against all reason,” indicate the insanity, literally, of what parents try to teach us. Tyler seems to say, with his action, that the world is not this way; it is not easy to tell who is “bad” and who is “good.” The world can be suddenly dangerous, and we must be careful.
We are beginning — adult and young adult alike — to realize this. Tyler, although his neighborhood and given life were isolated, had access to tools such as MySpace, which let him know that more exists, and that there is death and trembling all over the world, that it was his job to confront it — it is our job to confront it.
He may have began to wonder why the other world, the neighborhood he actually lived in, was so different. He may have begun to draw conclusions, and to realize that he had been lied to, and that his “freedom” was only freedom within a small circle.
Imagine if you were him, being confronted by the very people you’ve realized are sheltering you. Imagine them confronting you, threatening you with more restrictions … (Tyler’s use of marijuana seems a further indication of his dissatisfaction.) But then the cops come, because you become “unruly.” What conclusions would you draw if two men with guns came to your house, and spoke to your oppressor, with NO regard for your side of the story? What would you do? The only thing you knew how to do, that you’ve realized you must do: fight.
I submit that Tyler Dumstorf was, in reality, greatly threatened by his situation, and that his use of a firearm was only because he felt powerless in words.
More of these events can be avoided. We must let each other be free, and begin to make our own decisions. This way may be “dangerous,” but it is the only way we remain authentic — the only way to gain freedom is to have freedom, no matter the cost. Tyler Dumstorf is not alone, or isolated; many “children” now feel the way he must have: trapped. I ask them to organize, to discuss. To invite their parents to discuss as well. Some may not step down from their pedestal, but try anyway.
Many people will try to alienate Tyler — hoping that he is an isolated being in a now interrelated world. These attempts are impossible, Tyler was like me, or like you — it does not matter who you are. Tyler spoke for all of us.
Eric Moore, Louisville
Concern for the smallest victim, Nolan Dumstorf
Thank you Scott Robinson for writing a heartfelt article about the tragic event that took place in your neighborhood. I have made copies and sent them along with a letter about empathy and compassion within your own family to all the mothers in my family.
Today I again passed one of the countless signs asking for prayers for the Denzinger and White families. I can’t count all the signs for prayers and benefits that are being held for the officers. My heart does go out to these families. But my biggest concern is for the smallest victim of this: Tyler’s younger brother, Nolan Dumstorf. How tragic that no one has spoken for this innocent little child. Has no one stopped to reach out and offer help, answer his questions? His life will forever be changed from the day he was a little boy playing in the neighbor’s yard.
I find a kinship with Nolan. I, too, had a brother who took his own life when I was young. The events of that day never leave me. Most of all, we will never really know why. What leads a young man to that? As you said, I have friends of uncommon insight who have offered to make sense of things. Now, as a parent, and along with other parents, we can only do what we think, as Gail Dumstorf did, is the right thing.
Jackie Neely Johnston, Greenville, Ind.
to the slow breakdown
of our children
A very sad, poignant article, but it points out a couple of things we can no longer ignore. The first:
“I spoke with a friend two days after the tragedy, a friend of uncommon insight and maturity,” Scott Robinson writes. “I needed to make sense of things, for myself and for my son’s sake. He suggested that what had gone wrong with Tyler had been a failure of empathy — a moment when he experienced a cutting-off of his sense of the humanity of someone else, a loss of compassion and the universal sense of common bond — and that this loss enabled Tyler’s terrible act (emphasis added). That seems right, and it is another step toward understanding. He also pointed out that we live in a culture that provides so many freedoms for young people that it is all but impossible for a parent to cover everything. That, too, seems right.”
The “freedoms” wouldn’t be bad if the first, “a failure of empathy,” wasn’t taking place on a country-sized scale. “A cutting-off of his sense of the humanity of someone else, a loss of compassion and the universal sense of common bond.” Perfectly said. That is exactly what has been happening since Kennedy got shot in front of hundreds, Johnson lied about the number of soldiers killed in Vietnam, Nixon flat-out lied, period, and Reagan ushered in the excessive ’80s to the exponential. We don’t need to speak of the last 17 years …
Which leads to the statement that adults have adopted now for years, as a mantra:
“For myself, I want to believe this terrible, violent moment was a random act, not about good and evil or the forces that shape us. I do not want to believe evil can reach that far and pervade our homes so deeply. I want this to be an accident, a tragic once-in-a-lifetime trembling in the universe.”
This can’t be said anymore. Either that boy was brainwashed by government subliminal messages to freak out suddenly and kill, or most likely what has happened, and what continues to happen, is the willful ignorance to the slow breakdown of our children in front of all of our eyes, until one of us hits the lottery — only it’s not the kind of lottery you want to win; instead of getting something, you usually get a child taken away from you, slowly and inexorably, or suddenly and violently.
Steven Bond, Louisville
What is government’s role?
“A trembling in the universe” was poignant. The details of the families destroyed and traumatized by this event are heart-rending. An explanation? Notice how it started.
Police charged Tyler with having marijuana. Aside from local law enforcement acting to enforce the federal government’s war on drugs, was there any rational reason for law enforcement even stopping Tyler? Was Tyler committing any act of violence against persons or property? Apparently not.
Is marijuana a drug? No.
Is it addictive? No.
Is it harmful? No.
Has anyone ever died from using it? No record of it over the past 10,000 years.
Tyler’s mother was upset that he’d been arrested on marijuana charges. Apparently, he had some with him when he got into a dispute with her about the marijuana charges.
The tragedies inflicted on families and friends are the effects of the federal government’s war on drugs. So, who’s at fault? None other than the Congress that funds the failed war on drugs. Why does the federal government put out false and misleading information about marijuana? It certainly isn’t to help parents, kids and others understand anything about marijuana.
“Marijuana” is the pejorative unscientific term for one of the cannabinoids of the cannabis hemp plant. Hemp has been around some 500 million years. It survived the dinosaurs, an apparent impact meteor that caused their extinction, and it survived several ice ages.
Mother Cannabis is likely our botanical ancestor. Her cannabinoids fit our brain and body’s cannabinoid receptors like a key. Over the past 10,000 years, Mother Cannabis has played a major role in the rapid development of human evolution. This evolution has been astronomically fast by evolutionary standards.
Historically, cannabis hemp was likely humanity’s first cultivated crop. It was used for clothing, shelter, making weapons (bows and arrows), building fires, and oil for lighting and food. At some point in human evolution, cannabis was found to be an effective medicine. It was also found to give spiritual insight. It then became used as a sacrament. Its recreational use led to creativity.
The federal government’s war on drugs seeks to instill fear. Government does nothing to accurately inform anyone — kids, parents and others — about cannabis. It has no such data available. It refuses to allow research on the uses of cannabis and its risk/benefit ratio.
So why did Tyler shoot two police officers, and then take his own life? Likely fear. Fear of what could happen to him because of the marijuana charges. And the fear of what could happen to his family. Tyler could get jail time. He would lose any opportunity to get college loans. He would have difficulty finding a job other than menial ones. For Tyler, it probably seemed like his life wasn’t worth living. Possibly his parents could lose their home, possessions, assets and be thrown out on the streets.
Government has no mercy on marijuana users, possessors and their families. Government would rather let robbers, rapists, murderers, terrorists and child molesters go free than a 15-year-old who had a small amount of marijuana. Yet Tyler’s only “crime” was being caught by local law enforcement with a small amount of cannabis.
Lives have been lost, families destroyed and traumatized. The etiology of this tragic event lies squarely at the feet of the federal government’s failed war on drugs.
David Dunn, Louisville