Sunday, December 30, 2012

That One Time "Fresh Prince" Made Me Cry

It is no secret that I grew up living with my grandmother, who I love and who loves me more than anything. For most of my life my grandma has been my best friend. But at the same time, growing up with her meant I had to grow up without my parents, and very recently it hit me that this fact that I had kind of brushed off for a very long time really hurt. It hurts that people talk about what jobs their parents have and I can't do that. That most girls I know will be given away by their fathers at their weddings and I won't, little things that shouldn't matter, really do, and it is way more painful than I thought it would be, coming to terms with this fact.

What does Fresh Prince have to do with this? There is an episode where Will's dad comes back and then leaves him again at the end of the episode. Which prompts this:

"You know what, Uncle Phil? I'm gonna get through college without him, I'm gonna great job without him, Ima marry me a beautiful hunny and have me a whole bunch of kids. Ima be a better father than he ever was, and I sure as hell don't need him for that. Cause there ain't a damn thing he could ever teach me about how to love my kids! How come he don't want me, man?"

Every single time I watch that scene I cry because I know that feeling. I've given myself that same speech so many times in my life that it's become a constant, running thought, especially when I'm around other people and their parents. And I always ALWAYS ask myself what I did to make them leave. It always ends with asking myself why am I not good enough? Could I be better? Will they love me and come back for me if I do things differently? 

And that's terrible. Those are such toxic thoughts to have. Because underneath those questions is the truth. That nothing that I could have done or can do will bring them back and wouldn't have made them stay. Yes, I still wonder why they gave me up, especially on lonely nights like tonight, but I've also learned that without them leaving I probably wouldn't have lived the life I've lived and I wouldn't be where I am today. 

Yes, it still hurts. Yes, I'm always going to wonder. But at the same time, would them staying make life any better? I know that there are many more people on this planet who find worth in my being, so I need to focus on that more than I focus on the one person who should have cared and didn't. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why The Media Should Keep Their Sticky Little Fingers Off of Mass Murders

In the wake of one of the most shocking mass murders of my life, and the second one in just a few short months, the new stations all over the country are running non stop coverage of Newton, CT and releasing news about Adam Lanza, the killer, every time a minuscule amount of anything is revealed about him. Just some facts I learned about him this morning: he was home schooled after 10th grade and before that he was in the Tech Club. Now I know that this a tragedy, especially where the families of the victims are concerned, but this constant and undiluted coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy is actually hurting more than its helping.

As it turns out, giving a murderer weeks of publicity on television, in papers, and in popular magazines - let's not even kid ourselves Time is bound to do an article on this - is actually a bad thing, because then he turns into this person of infamy, a celebrity for all the wrong reasons, and someone out there will want to be just like that. According to Forensic Psychologist Dr. Park Dietz mass coverage of murders is exactly what's propagating them. "Because every time we have intense, saturated coverage of a murder, we expect to see on or two more within a week."

For proof of Dr. Dietz's statement look to the case of Joseph Wesbecker and Patrick Purdy. In 1989 Purdy received prolonged attention after he firebombed his car, killed five elementary school children, wounded 29 more along with a teacher with an AKS and then killed himself with a 9 mm gun. Originally the story didn't get much coverage. But as time went on, the story got bigger and bigger, and pointed out the similarities between this murder and several others.

In September of the same year Wesbecker, a recently released mental patient, armed with the same weapons as Purdy walked into Standard Gravure Co., killed eight people and wounded 13. Upon investigation of Wesbecker's belongings clippings of the articles about Purdy were found, along with other articles about mass murders. Wesbecker's entire plan that day was based off of the crime that Purdy had committed 8 months beforehand. The media's coverage of Purdy had created a copy-cat killer.

The media can actually be credited with creating copycat killers all the way back in the early 1900's. Jack the Ripper was running around killing people and becoming infamous for it. During that time, all the media coverage of his crimes created a string of people who imitated Jack - only they usually got caught. There was a more recent copycat of Jack the Ripper, also. Fortunately he was caught.

The same thing happened during the time when the Zodiac Killer was in his/her heyday. So much attention was given the case that 20 years later Eddie Seda decided to use him/her as inspiration and was arrested after being found guilty of Zodiac style murders.

And then in the 90's a string of school shootings all eerily similar to each other spanned the country. In fact, between 1983 and 2008 50 shootings have occurred inside schools, all with similarities to each other, including the Columbine Massacre, an incident that was mostly played out on television which raised the question: would a televised mass murder contribute to copy cat killings? I think we have our answer.

After the Virginia Tech shootings and the weeks long coverage of the event and specials on the killer, Northern Illinois University canceled classes after a threat referencing Virginia Tech was found in a bathroom stall, BU and University of Cincinnati students were arrested for threatening to wreak such havoc that VT would be "pale in comparison." Why? Because the killer, and the event (which is currently ranked as the deadliest shooting in the United States) went down in infamy. And infamy still warrants mass amounts of attention. If the event had been localized and not given hours of coverage by the News, it is likely that this wouldn't have happened. In fact, associate professor of psychology Danny Axsom noted that the greater the amount of publicity a particularly criminal act receives, the greater the potential is for copycat versions of the same event to occur.

Even Adam Lanza's crime has signs of a copycat murder. In my mind, Lanza, Purdy, and every other school shooter have pretty similar crimes, all happening in schools with assault weapons, and ending in their eventual suicides. And why? Why? Because the news can't find anything better to talk on. Useless footage of killers doing sports or menial day to day activities suddenly hold the marks of a murderer. But then their every move is plastered across the news screens for everyone to see, those who can watch it and feel sorry for the people involved and those who want the same amount of infamy and decide to recreate the crime somehow.

Eventually the names of the victims are forgotten. But the killers, who go down in infamy, become immortal. Lizzie Bordon, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, The Zodiac Killer, The Green River Killer, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, those are names people remember. Because the media made a huge deal out of them, and while the victims names were once mentioned, more is made of the killer than the victims because how could someone do something so terrible?

Well they probably got their ideas watching the news.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Our world is full of labels. There are labels that come from the lifestyles one leads, relationship statuses,  the hobbies one partakes in, and some unfortunate people are labeled only by the opinion the general populous has of them.

But lets take a moment and examine why these labels are necessary. I mean honestly, I already have a name. It's Alexis Olmstead and I would prefer it if that was my identifier. Not "that geeky cheerleader" or "theatre nerd" or "Wanda's granddaughter" or "Russell's daughter" or "Drew's girlfriend". Because while I'm all of those things and more, I feel like they simplify me down to one thing. I'm not only a cheerleader, or theatre brat or family member of more recognizable people or girlfriend of a very fortunate Mac Man, but I'm also bookish, eccentric (or just plain weird), outgoing, easily amused, moody, loud, quiet, the list of my qualities goes on and on. But too often people's qualities and hobbies become the box they are stuck in. This is also true of one's religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, socioeconomic class, and IQ. What once started out as part of a person become that whole being.

What happened to the whole sum of our parts thing? Sum, not exclusive choice of the most obvious one.

But what really irritates me the most about labels or identifiers, is that a lot of times they come from a negative direction and they are unwanted by the person they are thrust upon, like the nickname Lex Luther that some random guy plastered on me one day during study period. I mean, yeah, being labeled as a cheerleader sucks when the only connotation of it is a negative one with airhead being a synonym, but I can't imagine what being called a queer or something worse on a daily basis feels like.

Believe it or not, the labels we thrust upon people are very often the labels that make them decide to hate themselves. The girl you decide is a slut today could be the suicide case on page 5 tomorrow. Obviously I'm dealing in extremes here, but even the extreme has a possibility to happen.

So let's not label people, okay? Put the label gun down and see people for their qualities and not their identifiers.