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Kathleen Burk Henderson Pity, Fear, and Catharsis: Purging Millennial Fever The newspaper account read: "The slaying, allegedly rooted in infidelity and fueled by jealousy, has shocked the communities where the students were raised and puzzled those who study human behavior"1: yet another violent death ofa young person, ofthe sort that is reported ad nauseam by the popular media. Instant fodder for talk shows; a made-for-TV movie has already aired; in fact, one of the accused sued the local television station to block the broadcast in the trial's broadcast area. So it is the second statement that reveals the most. Given the common predilection for turning horror into entertainment with dizzying speed, it seems certain that local communities were thrilled, titillated, with the revelation of this story, rather than shocked, and ifthose who study human behavior are puzzled , they have not studied enough. Only the word "student" gives any specificity to the story: it might be a drive-by shooting, a random crime spree, children killing children, the details are almost irrelevant. In this case it is the story of two intense, passionate young people striving for perfection and intolerant offailure in themselves and in each other, who blindly and LOGOS 2:3 SUMMER 1999 PURGING MILLENNIAL FEVER I37 impulsively strove to remove the obstacle to the realization of their idealistic vision ofa golden future. Two young people, Diane Zamora and David Graham, consumed with a passion for each other and determined to transmute that passion into the highest level of achievement have been undone completely by the inability to acknowledge imperfection, and a lovely young woman is dead. It sounds like the plot ofhalfa dozen tragedies familiar to those who still know these things. Just as John Wiley Price resembles the title character in Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound, having stolen fire from the gods to empower the downtrodden, suffering endlessly the talons ofanger and bitterness, raging tirelessly against the imposition of power from above, or as Darlie Routier or Susan Smith recall Euripides' Medea, who dared to murder her two sons, though they share none of Medea's outrageous grandeur, seeming rather, just desperate and sad, Zamora and Graham look a little like Juliet and Romeo, a little like Antigone and Haemon, a little like Camilla and Turnus, a little like Klytemnestra and Aegisthus. Some would argue that the resemblance ofthese young lovers to others from myth and literature who were caught by forces and emotions stronger than they were and undone by them is unimportant ; these are often the same people who argue that study ofthe arts and humanities is an irrelevant, impractical, and therefore expendable component ofa young person's education. But, as the newspaper report reluctantly admitted, those who scientifically study human behavior are puzzled because this drama does not fit the "profile." In rude terms this means that these people were not poor, were not members ofthe underclass, that is, were not disadvantaged persons of color (although Ms. Zamora is, clearly, Hispanic), were not gang members (JROTC and CAP, excepted), were not educational failures or welfare recipients, or drug addicts, or demon worshipers or anything other than bright, attractive, overachieving, suburbanites from sound families, who, according to the data, are not supposed to do these sorts ofthings. ?38 LOGOS It occupied our collective attention as long as news directors and editors deemed it to be a hot story; we listened with at least one ear to the legal proceeding, paid attention to the verdict and sentencing, watched some shameless, vulgar reporter in a trench coat hold a microphone in the victim's mother's face and ask her how she felt, heard with sympathy that motherjustly complain that, whatever the outcome, her beautiful daughter is forever lost and that unless we, too, have lost a child to violence we cannot possibly know the pain she will bear the rest of her life and the enmity she feels toward David and Diane. And then we forget because another prurient story has splashed across our collective consciousness. The distance implicit in the technology of television and radio assures that we will remain emotionally and psychically detached from the tremendous damage caused by these events...


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pp. 136-166
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