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Dead Men Tell No Tales

Professor Reinscheid faces 12 years in prison for writing down violent fantasies. But how would you face the violent death of a loved-one?

One night my 23 year old sister took her five-year-old daughter to a Winn-Dixie store in Tampa to buy dinner for her family. My sister’s husband had stayed home with their two-year-old daughter. While my sister and niece were standing in line, a man walked in with a large, plastic pail of gasoline which he threw at the cashier and then tossed in a match. My sister, Marty, died at the scene. My niece Jenny lived for three days. Five people died in all.

The man with the gasoline was named William Ferry. A few weeks later, while sitting in my apartment on Ashland Avenue in St. Paul, I imagined restraining Mr. Ferry naked on all fours to a wooden floor. The floor was scarred and scuffed with years of use. I imagined using a ten penny nail and a hammer with a red head and a black handle to nail his tongue to the floor. Then I imagined taking a red hot poker and shoving it…that was one of the more mild fantasies I had in those days. Some of them I wrote down.

I was a college student majoring in English with an emphasis on creative writing and I had learned that sometimes it’s helpful to write down something in order to think about it, and sometimes it helps to write it down because its the only way to get it out of your mind.

I suspect what I went through was completely normal after a loss like that. I have no idea what it’s like to lose a child, but I did see its horrific nature in my parents’ eyes. That look actually changed the shape of their eyes; it dulled the color of them; it was there when each of my parents took their last breath.

That was 1982 when I wrote my fantasies down. In today’s world if the cops found them on my cell phone I would immediately be considered guilty by my fellow countrymen. I would, in effect, lose my right to due process. People would make statements like "I hope they fry him!!!! What about the poor people he was going to kill or rape?" Or "Severe dangerous mental illness (sic) probably just runs deep in that family." Or "dis guy was sick in d mind (sic)." And if someone did express concern and sympathy over my rapidly diminished and temporary mental state, they would be chastised crudely.

Somehow, as a nation, we have lost our humanity. We just pronounce people guilty without any evidence at all. The cops, or some other authority figures, come out and proclaim that someone is a danger. It’s never a psychiatrist who does that, because they know better. In the case of Professor Rainer Klaus Reinscheid, it never occurs to us that someone who has made a study of psychiatric disorders might understand there are real benefits to writing down fantasies in graphic detail. There may have even been benefits in acting out and starting small fires. It’s possible, at least in my mind. And if the person does it knowing they will have to face the penalty for arson…

The truth is we really don’t know what was going on in the case of Professor Reinscheid, but if you’ve already decided he’s guilty of something like rape, aren’t you more of a danger to our way of life than he? If you’ve made statements like "it’s not an excuse for killing and raping, should we let him go free and hope he gets help" you’ve already pronounced him guilty without the benefit of a fair trial, without so much as a glance at the actual evidence. Isn’t your behavior a danger to all of us because it undermines our system? If you’re willing to dispense with his right to due process doesn’t that mean the same rules will apply to you? Are you really so sure of yourself that you can condemn when you really know nothing at all?

I don't know what was going through his mind, because he lost his son and I can't relate to that level of loss. I can get part of the way because Marty and Jenny were murdered in a particularly gruesome manner.  It could be that his son was gay and being bullied and thought hanging himself was the only solution. Around these parts that's a very real possibility. Far more so that his son was just mentally disturbed, as people with no knowledge of the events have already pronounced him.  I've seen the bigots around here. It would be Hell to be a gay kid. And extremely hard to be an enlightened parent of a gay kid. But that's just more dangerous speculation.

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Bruce Thew August 13, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Nope read it twice before I wrote the first time and again just now. You rambled a bit about a fire, which had nothing to do with either the subject, yours “people half read things” or mine the in justice you see being done to Prof R. Then you jumped to you writing your Fantasies, which leads to people hearing about Prof R writing down his plans to burn down a High School. Now on your 7th paragraph you try to make me think that if I hear something about anyone that I am pronouncing him guilty before his trial. But you are the one telling me about “something like rape”, and “going to Kill or rape”. Your creative writing class is doing good here, it’s keeping me reading but no real subject matter to follow. If you are going to leave those hanging out there that someone is spreading these statements, then you either need to state that there is no proof to those statements or you are spreading the rumors just like the people you claim to be only partly reading information and jumping to conclusions.
Bruce Thew August 13, 2012 at 04:11 AM
2nd part As far as bigots go OC not bad, grew up with lots worse, and being the parent of a gay kid would only be hard if you were ashamed of him/her. So now you only half read things yourself didn’t you. My question was not about how people rushed to judgment on your example, but what you thought the difference was between the two examples; yours and mine. And in the 2nd par it would have been my 2nd comment since you want to go point by point. Please don’t count comma’s I suck at that. Well on the second person stuff you got me and if you want to read it your way ok. I think 99% of the people here will read it as a question that you have not answered. The question either good or bad was elicited because of what you wrote. Which, as a writer is what you want right. So if I wrote the wrong question, isn’t it on you to write a better article to get me to the right question, after all you are the English major / creative writer, where I am your reader.
Dan Avery August 13, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Bruce, I don't spoon feed readers and expect them to make connections as they read. Did you notice who was on fire? You don't see a connection between that and what you call my "subject?" You can't see a connection between who was on fire my "Fantasies?" You really don't see any subject matter there and how it might apply to our society's tendency to prejudge? If you really can't connect each paragraph and see how one leads to the next, there's not much I can say except you're not in my audience.
Bruce Thew August 13, 2012 at 08:32 PM
So you wrote about your experience with a fire, 4 paragraphs out of 8, which has nothing to do with the subject you stated to me “people half reading something”. And the only thing you tied that into was that you and Prof R sort of, maybe, had some of the same feelings. 4 paragraphs to say what you could have said in one, do you have a word quota? Then you tried to relate your fantasies to what Prof R did in his writing and I got that. Now your statement “That was 1982 when I wrote my fantasies down. In today’s world if the cops found them on my cell phone I would immediately be considered guilty by my fellow countrymen.” You didn’t say that you also set fires about the home or some such structure of the people that were friends and family of Mr. Ferry. So no, go right ahead and write all your fantasies on your phone computer or paper, until you do something about it I DON’T care.
Bruce Thew August 13, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Part two Yes I might think you were sick, nuts or crazy but go right ahead. Is that your point? I judged him/you with only the facts I have therefore I am jumping to conclusions, half reading? If so then your article is worse than I thought, because you might be able to diagram as sentence but you don’t understand the human being. (see one paragraph, cover a lot of ground but on point) I see the connection of the two fires, but there is no half reading or jumping to conclusions in your fire. You show how you and Prof R are the same BUT different. You wrote your fantasies down and did nothing. He wrote his fantasies down and followed through on some. (Maybe you just picked a poor example, but then you story about your fire would really have no place to go.) And to the people who judged him with the information given to them found him guilty. You say they can’t, won’t or are to stupid to read / know everything about the case and therefore our system of law is dying on the vine. You are any idiot done.

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