Elusive Answers

We've called him a demon. We've labeled him a psychotic killer. We've called what he did in his apartment a massacre. We've looked to his family for clues, searched his face for motives, dug into his past for reasons.

We've speculated, analyzed and hypothecated. And the truth is, we still don't know.

So we've labeled Jeffrey Dahmer a monster.

A monster, as any child knows, has evil horns and blood-stained fangs and seven toes on each foot. In other words, it looks nothing like you or me.

But if Jeffrey Dahmer is a monster, the question remains -- who created him? In search of that answer we turn promptly to Dahmer's childhood and past. Possible abuse by his family? His rampant alcoholism? Or just a crazy, mixed- up mind in which the wires all got tangled up?

The answers to all these questions may be yes. But there are other questions we ought to be asking that we're not.

Why is it that Jeffrey Dahmer's victims almost exclusively happened to be black, Hispanic, Asian and gay? Is that merely a coincidence? Is that just where his tastes lay?

Or did a boiling pot of racism, homophobia and craziness create a wicked, volatile brew that spilled over into the lives of at least 17 victims? Was Jeffrey Dahmer ultimately just carrying out the mandate of a racist and homophobic society -- to rid it of its untouchables?

Because Dahmer preyed on those whom society very often considers to be ' disposable' anyway -- the faggots, the niggers, the junkies, the winos, the gooks and spics -- the ones that Andrew Dice Clay makes a fortune making fun of, the ones that the police beat up on, the ones that evangelists with large followings have suggested we lock up and segregate. He inhabited and stalked a world as subterranean and dark as the recesses of his own demented mind.

But, you say, I can maybe understand the bit about him being a racist. But being homophobic? Wasn't he gay himself? To which I would answer -- never underestimate the powers of self-loathing. Society has certainly given gay men enough reasons for self-loathing. Dahmer's existance appears to have been singularly joyless. If you hate yourself that violently it is probably impossible to like anyone else.

A street preacher at one of the bars Dahmer used to frequent has already talked about the deep hatred Dahmer had for blacks and homosexuals. Certainly that hatred exists in people other than Dahmer. If it didn't, we wouldn't have grown men dressing up in white hoods and pointed caps. And scientists wasting their brilliance on devising even more efficient gas chambers. And we wouldn't have cops turning away from rescuing Dahmer's 14-year-old Laotian victim because they were convinced by Dahmer that this was merely a fight between two homosexuals -- and therefore not worthy of interference.

Needless to say, most people don't have their prejudices come out as murder. They don't turn into the ruthless, mechanical killing machine that Dahmer did.

Most of us, luckily, have the wherewithal to know how far we can take our prejudices and biases. For some of us, telling a mean-spirited ethnic joke may satisfy us. For others, being part of the jeering, leering crowds that patronize Andrew Dice Clay's concerts may be enough. But a tiny minority like Dahmer may need the taste of blood, may feel compelled to take the seeds of hatred to their ultimate, logical culmination before they are satisfied.

None of this is by any means an excuse for what Dahmer did. Nor should it take away from the horror and sorrow of the event.

But the question remains -- if Dahmer went from being a human being to a cold, efficient killing machine, who programmed him? ds

Akron Beacon Journal
Monday, August 5, 1991