*Over and again the media has reported that Stephen Paddock appeared to be just short of a “model citizen.”
According to the preliminary examination of his personal life, this was simply a financially well-off guy who liked to gamble, take boat cruises, keep to himself and who lived a relatively anonymous life.
After searching the Nevada home Paddock shared with girlfriend Marilou Danley, a police officer pointedly told reporters the place was “neat and clean.” Apparently nothing in there to suggest Paddock, 64, would go to Las Vegas and in nine minutes kill 59 human beings and injure more than 500 others before turning a gun on himself.
Paddock was what I call “crazy in a normal way.” That is, he walked through life seemingly sane and in control of things—before revealing to the world anything but sanity.
I say “before revealing to the world,” because there are others acquainted with Paddock who had to have known something was up with this man long before Vegas.
Truth is, we’re all dealing with something. Emotional doo-doo from childhood learned at the feet of parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, older siblings, an appointed guardian—-anyone who, when we were pure and most impressionable, had influence and/or control over our miniature minds and bodies.
What they left us with is called dysfunction. Anyone declaring immunity either can’t see it, is in denial or has pushed the emotional manure so far down that they don’t believe it’s there.
But it IS there and it routinely presents itself via garden variety fears and insecurities. Some of us are able to conceal and cope. Others are brave enough to get help. Most of us are harmless to everyone but ourselves.
And I know that “crazy” is a relative—and for some, offensive—term. I apologize. But I’ll be the first to tell you I’m a little crazy. Oh, there’s baggage, baby. Sturdy, stylish and conveniently (dys)functional. Samsonite ain’t got shit on me. It’s just that I also happen to be one hell of a Skycap. Or so I think. See what I mean?
In any case, few of us can hide our dysfunction all the time. The more dysfunctional, the tougher to hide. Read: Trump. Friends and family might willingly ignore it or not recognize it as such;they’re busy dealing with their own. But we all reveal it, some more than others.
Which brings me back to Paddock. Apparently, he wasn’t messy with his madness, but SOMEBODY witnessed this man’s woe. They didn’t think it would drive him to slaughter 59 people and himself; perhaps they didn’t characterize his behavior as critical. But they saw something.
Because no one just “snaps.” You often hear this reasoning in reference to violent human behavior. It’s not true. A volcano does nothing “suddenly.” Villagers and scientists notice activity increasing over days, weeks and months before it finally erupts.
Likewise, you don’t just wake up one day with bad knees or cancer. These things develop over time. If not treated, they get worse.
Same with mental illness.
Someone glimpsed Paddock’s emotional sickness and pain. Whether it was during an unsual exhibition of anger, the severe need to control or an instance where his response to feeling wronged or disrespected was way over the top, there were clues.
In the days to come, people who knew Paddock on various levels will come forward with things like, “Come to think of it, there WAS that time when…” or “You know, one day he said” this or that, “but back then it just seemed normal.”
Right. But in a crazy kind of way.
Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]