In the same way that it’s not appropriate to be an anti-Semite just because the Jews killed Christ, (so they say), it’s probably not fair to be an anti-Cheesehead just because Wisconsinites imprisoned Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for life.
In fact, almost everyone that I met while I was in Wisconsin, with the exception of a few intoxicated beldames well past their prime (who were nevertheless wearing the velvet pants from the days of former splendor) were exceptionally pleasant in an almost village-vicar-rosiness sort of way. If some of the scenes that I observed while there were evocative of a Norman Rockwell painting, I can imagine that sixty years ago, when the the edges of the place were even softer, even more namby-pamby, Rockwell himself would have sneered that the place was far too preciously sentimental to be the subject of one of his portraits. So, for the record, let me resolutely state that some of my best friends have been Wisconsinites. I have nothing against any of them in theory.
NONETHELESS, as David Lynch showed some years ago in his genre-bursting Blue Velvet, we should all be suspicious about what’s underneath a small town’s hard outer candy shell, and the candy-colored clowns they call the sandman usually found at the levers of power in such places. You know, the Pagels, the Weigert’s, O’Kelly’s, and Willises.
I hate to be the one to point this out, but the Steven Avery matter isn’t the first time the state has been the scene of what can only describe as mass blindness. From an article in the New York Times dating back to August of 1991
On May 27, neighbors called the police to report seeing a naked and bleeding boy run from Mr. Dahmer’s apartment building. After interviewing Mr. Dahmer, Officer Gabrish and two fellow officers accepted his explanation that the youth was an adult and his lover and that the boy was drunk. The officers went with Mr. Dahmer and the boy to Mr. Dahmer’s apartment. The other officers were also suspended. Incident Led to Protests
Before this there was Ed Gein, and more recently Ken Kratz and Scott Walker, and Paul Ryan. It’s gotten so bad, that someone actually wrote a book about it.
It isn’t that other states don’t have their serial killers, because they do. It’s just that there seems to be something especially bad about the ones from Wisconsin. In sum, Wisconsin doesn’t produce your garden variety serial killer, apparently, but the kinds who have the absolute worst reputations.
If I had to ask why the crocodiles grow so big in Wisconsin, so to speak, I’d have to say two factors stand out further than all others: unapologetic stubbornness, and smugness. The state is known even as the badger state, and why a badger? The only redeeming quality a badger is thought to have is stubbornness.
But is stubbornness really a redeeming quality? I frankly see it as a coin flip. If you’re called stubborn by someone else, it’s not likely meant as a compliment. Maddeningly, it is for this very reason that it is all the more a compliment to ears of a stubborn person as ridicule and opposition fuel stubbornness. Those of a truly stubborn nature are motivated to do something not because of the intrinsic merit of doing something, but merely because someone told them they shouldn’t or couldn’t. So yes, there have been plenty of occasions when I’ve admired the Gertrude Ederles of this planet, but just as often they’ve been unbearably annoying.
I have long noted that the most stubborn people are usually to be found where that trait is more a benefit than a liability, and those places tend to be the more isolated a place on the planet where those who live there, not knowing any better, develop a conspicuous and overweening pride just from being where they’re from. The expansive and reflexive trust accorded to members of the in group is just as systematically denied to outsiders who are universally regarded with suspicion. Is it any wonder, then, that Wisconsinites particularly, have been quite oblivious to the cannibals within their midsts?
So let me just tell you what pisses me off right now. Let’s say that Ryan Hillegas is totally innocent. If that can somehow be shown, I’m ready and willing to admit that I’m the biggest asshole in the world, and I owe Ryan a huge apology. Mike Halbach too. Fine. But where are all of the legions of people from Wisconsin stepping up to defend this guy? If he has an alibi, who is it? Why isn’t this person stepping forward? Of what possible advantage would it be to anyone to stay silent?
The people in Wisconsin seem to act like it’s not even a legitimate question, and they also seem to resent just as much the intrusion of outsiders. I got that a lot while I was there, by the way. People would say things like, “We lived this whole thing for ten years”. The implication was that no one could possibly know more about it than they. Their fine manners notwithstanding, I found the arrogance of Wisconsonites to be all but insufferable especially since it was the arrogance of the ignorant. I mean, it’s one thing for a person who knows more than you to be arrogant, but when a person is arrogant about their own misapprehensions, about their own faulty and incomplete information, they just seem purely pathetic.
If Ryan Hillegas was with one or more people on October 31st, of what possible good would it do to remain quiet at this point? And hell, I could ask the same damn question of Bradley Czech. Either he has an alibi or he doesn’t for October 31st, 2005. If he does, you would think that he would come out of hiding and say where he was. Or, you’d think that someone who was with him would pipe up and say something. But by the way things are shaping up, you’d think the whole state was under the unwritten law of omerta.
And let’s consider the obverse–that no one knows where either Bradley Czech or Ryan Hillegas was for the day and night in question. You’d think someone who knew him, or someone who knew someone who knew him, or even someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew him would have come forward by now to say, “Gee, you know, Ryan never mentioned where HE was on October 31st, 2005, suppose SOMEONE ought to ask him?” If a young woman turned up chopped to bits and thrown into a fire, would people from your town have a laissez-faire, everything-will-come-out-in-the-wash-one-day attitude, or would everyone be up in arms. Would you hand over your DNA, if asked, if it would help narrow the search? Would you want to know the alibi of everyone who knew the victim and had been seen with her in the last forty eight hours? And wouldn’t everyone without a solid alibi, no matter their peers or pedigree automatically fall under suspicion until further notice? Apparently, the folks in Manitowoc are perfectly fine without asking too many questions. They regard it as an affront that some of their finest citizens have been mocked and ridiculed. Instead of admitting that they might need to change a few things, they’ve decided to circle the wagons.
Well, fuck you Wisconsin. It’s not up to you, thank God. You’re not going to be able to stonewall the entire world forever. One of you motherfuckers had gotta start talking about what you know.
And fuck everyone waiting on Kathleen Zellner. I’m not against what she’s doing, and I certainly hope she succeeds, but you can’t leave justice to someone else. We can’t all sit around and trust, and continue to respect authority. We can all pick up the phone. We can all ask questions. We can all think for ourselves (hopefully). WE CAN ALL GET ON AN AIRPLANE. I’ve sat around long enough waiting on Zellner while all the while another day of prison goes by for Avery and Dassey. I’m fucking sick of it. If these guys didn’t do it, they need to be turned loose TONIGHT. Not tomorrow. Not next week, or next month, but TONIGHT. We’ve all seen enough. We all saw what happened. If they refuse to let these men go, we need to turn up in Wisconsin to throw MASSIVE protests. General strike. Boycott. And we need to keep doing it for all the people, and there are a lot, who have been bum-beefed.
So far as I know, we’ve gotten no information from anyone in the entire state of Wisconsin about ANYTHING even though the entire world wants to know. How can this possibly be?