Lumpy But Undaunted

Typically when I read your weekly, "Incoming" is usually filled with letters about how some reader is irate over an article one of your staff has written. Well, I feel that if you have to take your lumps, you should get praise when you deserve it, namely for two articles in Vol. 8, No. 15.

First, "Requiem for a Heavyweight" was a good write-up for Big John Tate. No, it doesn't have a happy ending, but this is about the real world; for every story about someone pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, there are dozens of others who try and don't succeed. Still, in a perverse way, Big John Tate was a success: For a brief time, he was known to everyone as a champion, and that has to be one of greatest feelings in the world.

Second, and the main reason why I'm writing, "Hell Is for Children" was one of the best-written articles I've read in a long time. This is journalism at its best (and the Knoxville News-Sentinel wonders why I won't take one of their &*%$&^ subscriptions: HERE'S the reason why!). Most papers just latched onto words that they knew would draw in readers and money: "Satan worshipers," "lesbians," "occult," etc. As I had suspected, the murders had little or nothing to do with the occult and a lot to do with more down-to-earth phrases like "child abuse" and "sexual abuse." I guess those words don't have the pull like they used to.

Perhaps these teens were vilified as Satan worshipers simply because it is easier to condemn their actions; as you said, to understand may lead [one] to excuse their actions. With the religious background of the victims, giving a "good vs. evil" spin to the story leaves no gray area. After the general public had been bombarded by all the sensationalism connected to the Lillelid case to the point of being numbed into an "oh, just gas the lot of them" mentality, someone actually writes a well-researched article. Finally we see the town in which these kids grew up, the families they belonged to, and the problems that went with them, and perhaps [gain] a little understanding.

I don't see the demonic monsters other papers would like you to see; I see a group of severely messed-up kids who needed help, but it came too late. I don't see this as a story about four unfortunate victims gunned down by soulless murderers; I see a story about the breakdown of our society at its very foundation, and the consequences that come afterward. J.B. Priestley once wrote, "Like its politicians and its war, society has the teenagers it deserves." This article should stand as a wake-up call to America. Our children are killing and dying, and we point fingers at TV violence, gangs, drugs—whatever—as the reason why, but we never point the finger at the true cause: ourselves.

Jeff Shoffner