Take yourself to the generic news story following an act of violence. You can write it out as a script, the people interviewed always say the same things.
“I can’t believe this kind of thing happened in this neighborhood”
“He always kept to himself, never caused any trouble”
“He was always very quiet”
“He didn’t seem like the type of person who would do a thing like this”
Really? What kind of person usually does something like this? Isn’t it usually a quiet guy who kept to himself, not attracting attention, living in a quiet neighborhood?
Not that it never happens, but how often have you seen someone say “Oh yeah, this kind of stuff happens all the time around here, we were all just waiting for him to go off”?
When I worked in Animal Control, there was a guy who did stand out. He appeared to be running for “Least likely to be missed” in his neighborhood. He had two nasty shepherd mix dogs that were the focus of numerous complaints, either for running loose or attacking other animals. He was surly and threatening to anyone who complained, and threatened me with a firearm. One night after he beat up his girlfriend, the police got involved.
As the police climbed the steps, one of his dogs came charging towards them. The officer shot the dog. The nasty guy was arrested, drugs were found in his apartment, the girlfriend taken to the hospital.
The next day I was deluged in calls, complaining about the officer shooting the dog. The very people who had complained about these vicious animals were the first to come to their defense. They called the media, and took donations to care for the surviving animal, and tried to find a home for the poor sweet thing. None of them volunteered to take it in.
A few years ago, a spy cell was uncovered. A total of nine people living in suburbia were exposed as deep cover Russian spies. This time, when the neighbors said “I can’t believe it happened in this neighborhood, they always kept to themselves, never caused any trouble, they were always very quiet, they didn’t seem like the type of people who would do a thing like this” it fit. Sure, everyone knows that the best way to maintain a cover story of being locals is to fly a Russian flag and wear a black trench-coat at all times. Speaking with a heavy accent and screaming at neighborhood children rarely draws unwanted attention, so of course that would be what to expect from spies.
Most of this I write off to the general cluelessness of society. The kid torturing cats for years was screaming “I’m going to be trouble” at the top of his lungs. The kid who was a loner and never made any friends was screaming “I’m working on a heavy-duty anti-social personality”. These are not terribly subtle signs. When it comes to spies in the neighborhood, you weren’t supposed to suspect them. That’s because they were spies.
The difficult part of all this is when you see such clueless behavior in people close to you. One of my kids recently stated that I never made much money, because their mother was always broke. I’m not sure how they thought their mother went directly from social housing to a two story house on a fairly large lot, while attending nursing school, or how their mother hid her various substance abuses all that time, but the conclusion that she was “broke” befuddles me the most. It’s not the only breakdown, it’s just difficult acknowledging your children are as confused as their mother.
But really, what did I expect?