Forgive me of a proper intro, but I’ve been meaning to pen this for years: the most cruel part of getting older is seeing the failures and wastefulness of your youthhood peers
Ron Haskell I knew. I know. I still know him. He’s not a savage, or deviant, or a killer bred from the womb. He was one of the funniest guys I knew as a kid. He was friendly, and always smiled. He made you feel good. I’ve heard he sometimes picked on others, but what kid hasn’t? I can’t verify he or anyone in his family did, but when he dated one of my sisters, he was kind to me, and tried to gain my respect, while honoring my budding instinct to protect the household and the family from potential threats. (I was sixteen, and thought I was a man. This is that age when a boy stares other boys or even men—strangers—in the eyes, waiting for them to break contact, so as to establish virility and pack order. Ron never threatened me or my sis. He played along.) Ron was like a Chris Farley of Eagle River—even if he was trapped in a Philip-Seymour-Hoffman body. But had some surfer in him. His statement, that he was “Chill as a cucumber,” as he surrendered, is iconic of him. Fun-loving and jovial, he made an impression on many that is hard to forget.
Ron, I believe, is no different from any of us. You can see by his recent photos that he had some demons; that he was stressed (and I don’t say from external sources—all of this could be his own fault), and wasn’t taking care of his self. But if you look at the photo where he’s clean shaven, he looks like he did when I was growing up. He looks like any other suspect getting a mug shot, but he looks less villainous. He looks benign.
He executed four people, from toddler age to adulthood. He held his wife by the hair and twice punched her in the face. He duct-taped his mom to a chair and choked her out. He did heinous things! But my point is that he isn’t far from any of us. We all have tipping points. We may, like him, take a while to tip. We may become monsters. We may push away all those that would help us as they witnessed the transformation. We are all human.
And that is potentially a frightening thing.
What do we do about it? What law can we pass to protect ourselves? What conventions can we create that will stop this? Not a darn thing. The only thing that will save us from future crime—any crime—is a foundation of family relationships that are healthy, reliable, wholesome, and altruistic. We can’t stop violence through any other means. I know family life is frustrating. I’ve been around and heard my fair share of tragedy. But real relationships of love transcend helplessness, and it’s known that helplessness drives crime. Who knows why Ron felt this way. The most dangerous man is the one at the end of his rope.
It’s sad it all went down like this. I wish it didn’t, because the family, even if they were all degenerates or petty jerks, didn’t deserve it. The niece-in-law that survived: she’ll be the next Elizabeth Smart, and people will laud her for living a normal life with so much trauma. Hopefully my optimism isn’t foolish, and she makes it that far. I wish this didn’t happen because Ron had potential. His mother, father, and siblings don’t deserve this, and all he put them through in recent years. I won’t go as far to say that he doesn’t deserve this, that he shouldn’t be meted out justice, because a crime unpunished is arguably a crime worse than the deed. But I will give him credit that no other shooter has: he turned himself in. [Correction: allowed himself to be taken in, and didn’t go through with suicide.] Maybe it was fear of the afterlife that stopped him, but whatever it was, I’m glad that the survivors will get justice.
If I may be selfish and return this to focus on me, I again say that one of the hardest parts of life is seeing the world grow uglier, and at the hands of those you love.
Update: I just found out a friend knew the victims well, so the sympathy doesn’t go to me. It didn’t go to me before. It’s a crime, and should be punished accordingly, with restitution brought to the survivors. I’m saddened by what Ron did, but I want to memorialize that he wasn’t always a monster. He, like all of us can, snapped. He was good. Keep yourself good.
May the remaining family on both sides feel that justice is met.
Update: there are a few details that I left out in this piece. http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20140711/man-accused-executing-texas-family-was-voted-prom-king-class-clown-alaska
Update: I thought this accurate.
No change in human institutions can resolve the contradictions of human needs.
Tyrants are not only feared, they are often loved. States do not act only to protect their interest; they are also vehicles for myths, fantasies and mass psychosis.
Theories of rational choice assume human beings have reasonable goals, if people seem to behave irrationally it is because they are frustrated. The implication of this benignly reductive analysis is that if the causes of frustration could be removed, harmony will follow. But not all reasonable objectives are compatible, and rational choices can lead to horribly destructive conflicts.
John Gray, Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia