My community had a school shooting yesterday.
Tacoma’s name has re-entered the true-crime lexicon, as it did when it had a hometown serial killer, a local rifle used in a series of East Coast shootings, and a police chief who killed himself and his wife.
We all—humans, that is—are sick fucks on the inside (ask any Colorado Springs Baptist), but here in Tacoma it has a nasty way of oozing out all around the gilt edges, no matter how hard the city works at improving its reality and its image. I’ve gotten used to it, so yesterday’s shooting at Foss High School, while tragic, doesn’t make me think all my neighbors are crazed killers or that kids these days are insane or, even, that the school system is shot to hell so much that the kids shoot one another. It’s just that Tacoma lies at the psychic heart of the great middle ground that is American culture.
Tacoma has a lot to be proud about, if only we wouldn’t worry that it will reflect on everyone here when:
- some dimwit from Tacoma has sex with the family dog (and the wife shoots some footage on her cell phone for the cops);
- goes to the mall with a gun;
- gets a job as police chief and then shoots his wife (Police Chief David Brame;
- your kid’s school crossing guard gets nailed on gun and explosives charges;
- or shoots people in Washington DC (John Muhammed, the DC Sniper);
- or kills dozens of women (Ted Bundy, fellow alum of WIlson High School here in Tacoma).
Each time the act is that of one sick jerk, yet Tacoma takes their crime and wraps it around itself like a homeless person does a cardboard box against the cold. Our city mothers and fathers think the stories in the news will change our reality and still crave more stories about Tacoma in the news—if only those were positive stories, they lament—so they end up beggared by a history of accidental history of their most bizarre neighbors. They want media coverage, which invites attention to the bad as well as the good.
Really, it’s just coincidence made worse by articles in our newspaper every time another bizarre event takes place. There’s nothing in the water or our genes that make all of us a certain kind of psycho peculiar, so relax Tacomans. Be less concerned about branding.
Imagine how the people of Waco feel after the Branch Dividians thing—you can’t get away from that kind of sticky weirdness, but they don’t publish stories in their papers about how bad being from Waco is portrayed in the press.
That dog guy wasn’t even from around here. I think he was from somewhere in the South.
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