Red Lake

From the Heyes Collection

For some reason tonight I can’t stop thinking about what happened in Red Lake yesterday. According to the local news, Neva Rodgers, the 62 year old teacher who was killed was going to retire after this summer. It just shakes me to the core. I started looking, somewhat obsessively, at the photographs on the Red Lake Net News site. They don’t have anything to do with the shootings, but they make me remember high school.

Neva Rodgers was the yearbook advisor. The 1972 Red Lake High School Yearbook reminds me of the sort of photographs I took for my own high school’s yearbook in 1975 and 1976. The pages of clumsy rephotographs of the Reverend Heyes Albums with their scratched and obliterated faces make me think of the cruelty we so willingly inflict on each other. The pictures could be small town anywhere.

Looking at the stats for the school, it seems that only 67% of the students passed the basic writing test in 2002. It is very sad to me that a zombie-obsessed kid could bring such tragedy down on this tribe. The ratio of students to teachers at the school seems reasonable, and yet no one made the difference for this kid. What really ripped me up the worst was listening to former students of Neva Rodgers talk about how she let them stay in her home when they had no where else to go. I think most people go into teaching because they want to make a difference somehow. But no one made that difference for Jeff Weise.

2 thoughts on “Red Lake”

  1. It always struck me as strange that as a high school English teacher I taught all kind of students, even one convicted of murdering his wife.
    The first year I taught a well-behaved, excessively polite young man took his father’s rifle and started sniping at people driving by on the highway. I would have never imagined he had such problems from the papers he wrote in my class.
    Tragically, teachers are like fire fighters who are the last line of defense, and too often there seems to be too many brush fires to put them all out.

  2. The following is an introduction to my blog posting on this terrible tragedy.TRAGEDY at RED LAKE
    Once again we collectively have to face the brutal fact that what should not have happened – certaintly not happen “here” – did, in fact, tragically occur “here” . “Here” is specifically Red Lake but it was Columbine {yesterday}, and could be Scarsdale {tomorrow}. The undeniable fact is that the tragedy at Red Lake can happen anywhere at any time to any one.
    The central question is: what can we learn from these dark experiences to effectively prevent them from happening rather than denying their complexity only to passively react in horror and confusion the next time they happen.
    I conclude:
    What stands out loud and clear in this now fairly typical portrait is the woeful lack of careful good guidance clearly needed by this angry youth. Jeff, clearly depressed, cynical, and disturbed was made even more isolated by a culture who viewed him as wierd, odd, and potentially dangerous but, at the same time, kept him at a distance with respect to really attempting to understand him.
    {There is a concept in family therapy called the identified patient. Such a patient is the one that the family points to as in obvious need of therapy. When interviewed the identified patient is actually the one who is the most forth coming about his troubles and is crying out for good guidance that is not made avaiable. Could it be that we often fail to take seriously the clear warning signs because we need to have a convenient scape goat to avoid a confrontation with our own dark individual and collective underbellies? Such a thought, I predict, will elicit scorn from some readers but it resonates with a ring of truth.}
    That he had a desperate need to feel special, experienced as a sense of at one ment, unity, pride in something substantial – is painfully obvious. That he, like others, was easily seduced into cult like organizations like the Nazis is because such organizations speak to the direct experience of such disaffected cynical youths. In the atmospheres of these extremist clans isolated souls like Jeff will experience themselves at least taken seriously.
    That his ideas were extreme should be no surprise to those of us who have survived and hopefully transcended the black white dichotomous binary thinking appropriate to teenagers. Such black – white thinking sees reality in extremes. You are a winner or a loser; you are either in or you are out; you are either powerful or weak and the like. Piaget – a brilliant developmental psychologist has made it clear that until the age of 12 a child finds it nearly impossible to think in terms of complexity. As my psychoanalyst said: In between black and white are not shades of grey; rather there are colors.
    What Can We Conclude from this Dark Research?
    Someone in authority must have the responsibility of identifying such troubled youth and corrordinating appropirate interventions.
    Along with accountability for increasing tests scores in math and English there should be an equal investment in emotional education.
    There should be a reemphasis on the pressing need for empathic, skilled guidance counselors that are available as needed by any youth who needs to be understood in breadth and depth.
    The managed care providers should stop their nonsense perpetuating the grand illusion that with only 12 – 30 sessions of psychotherapy deeply troubled youths can be freed of their self imposed imprisonments. It is patently unfair that a million dollars can be alloted for managing a heart attack whereas only a few thousand dollars are typically allocated for mental health problems.
    The drug companies should begin to tell the truth that anxiety, depression, and frustration are not pathological derivitives of a chemical imbalance as much as they are normal instinctual reactions to natural life limitations. Instead of popping pills trouble youth should learn natural ways to cope with these so called negative affects. This approach in negotiating normal stresses and strains of the human condition is called growing up.
    In this connection research concerning normal devleopment of the self (identity) indicates that a solid self will spontaneously develop to the degree to which a person learns to bear increasing dosages of frustration and other so called negative affects. Among these affects are not knowing, ambiguity, complexity, helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety, fear, depression, and frustration.
    People at large should wake up from their collective denial and understand that any one of us under the wrong conditions can “lose” it and go beserk. My psychoanalyst said – and I concur – at root everyone is a larval psychotic. If my memory is correct he was quoting Freud.
    Since the Congress as well as the President of the United States have so dramatically gone on recent record to be deeply concerned about the quality of life of one individual on the verge of dying – I propose they take an equally strong interest in adopting the above measures in helping our mulititudes of disaffected youth to be able to make meaningful connections with themselves and others.
    We should instantly change our simplistic non helpful explanation for such horrendous occurrences as due to the “killer’s need for attention. Such an attitude implies that the need for attention is akin to sinfulness. The truth is that Jeff as well as any human being is in need of attention – to be carefully attended to-taking the form of really being heard and understoood – in fine detail should be considered a basic right.
    I have no doubt if the above suggestions were really implemented – nothing less than a carefully crafted strategy of preventative “psycho/spiritual” medicine – the Columbines and Red Lakes tragedies would notably diminish in frequency.
    March 23, 2005 in A GROUNDED SPIRITUALITY | Permalink

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