• Daniel Ethan Finneran

In The Mind of the Murdered

September 2018

(In the mind of Mollie Tibbetts, recently departed of this world)

To what do I owe this posthumous fame? I can assure you, in life, it wasn’t something I sought. Believe it or not, but from the day I arrived in Iowa until that of my recent death, I hadn’t a care if I’d end up famous or not. The idea simply didn’t stir me as it seems to all others. The temptation never moved me. Strange though it must sound for a twenty-something-year-old to admit, it’s true. Perhaps in this way, though doubtless in others, I’m an anomaly of sorts.

Well, since I’m on it, maybe I ought to be a bit more forthright. At least not openly I didn’t want to be famous. Do forgive me, but I’m only twenty years old—hardly a whisper away from my teens! At my age, everybody wants to be known—wants to be felt as if she’s seen. No—to be honest, we’re all hunted by that insidious beast, that monster that is fame. I’m not so conceited as to think myself peculiarly immune to its bite. But it’s not something toward whose acquisition I’d ever been moved as if addicted by the poison in its fangs. When it comes to fame, at least from what I’ve seen, some are content with a passing whiff and having sniffed just that, happily get on their way. Others need in their veins a full dose. Still others, the most dangerous of the lot, become so enthralled by the very idea, that after having pursued fame so long, they can’t think straight.

Yet thinking straight, so far as my thinking goes, was something I did rather well. Heavens, I’ve spent all my self-effacement in the words up above! Suffer me at least a moment here to eulogize myself and gloat. Let’s just say that when it came to straight thinking, I was darn good at it. In fact, to be clear-headed and frank was a task at which I excelled.

That being said, however, I didn’t take it for granted. I placed great value on straight and clear thinking and I thought seriously and frequently about its alternative. To have a mind plagued by disease, what a subtle burden that must be. To have an affect troubled daily by an invisible pathology—that’s no small thing. Worse still, such a mental blight hasn’t a remedy, nor a clear manifestation. Often untreated, it’s obscured beneath layers of compensatory cheer and masks of amiability. Its mysterious nature is why, at my university, I chose as my field of study that very thing—the mind. I was a psychology major entering my second year.

Far too inexperienced was I then, having only completed one full year of coursework, to even obliquely attempt a diagnosis of my murderer. I hadn’t even an inkling as to what compelled him to do what he did. Not that another year of Skinner or Jung or Erikson or Piaget would’ve helped all that much. You see, I hardly knew him—my murderer, that is. I was jogging and he followed me in his car. The next thing I knew, I was dead and he was gone. And now here I am, talking to you in the thought cloud of a posthumous muse.

Nevertheless, being as I professed to be a rather straight-thinker, I can only assume that he was afflicted by some kind of mental disease. To what other reason could I attribute the motive of a man who beat, killed, and left me to rot in a cornfield near my home?

I’ll never know that answer. Nor, very likely, will the authorities who succeed me in its pursuit. But through the ethers, I have learned a few things about the man—the last on this earth whose face I saw. He wasn’t born of my state nor of my country. He’d only recently entered this nation at the age of seventeen. Now, having since been apprehended by the police after a weeks-long search, he’s twenty-four—the age at which I planned to finish my post-graduate degree. All of this I’ve come to know, as the details of the final day of my life have become something of an uncomfortable cause célèbre.

Unwittingly, I’ve become a political lightning rod in death. So strange is it for me to think that as my heart’s fallen silent and my pulse extinct, the political drumbeat in my name has grown ever louder by the day. Across the aisle and across the country, the noisiest of timpanists have gotten out their instruments and are marching under the banner of my name in force. All of them are banging their chests and their drums wanting to be heard and seen dancing on my grave. A familiar song made shrill as of late, it’s to the tune of immigration that they organize and play.

On the right, those blue-blooded drummer boys blame its laxity for my premature death. Our borders are too pervious, they say, and our government too generous in allowing people in. The result is this: violence unimaginable and crime to a gratuitous degree. Mine is the prime example that lends credence to this thought. Far too many legal and illegal immigrants are granted admission into our state and, once here, are given the freedom to commit the most heinous of acts. They’re not vetted upon their arrival at our gates nor properly assimilated once inside. What’s more, they didn’t have to contend with a wall. Not just any wall, mind you, but the wall. Surely, had that vaunted and impregnable barrier been erected, none of this would’ve happened in the first place. All that considered, my name has become for the right a modern-day Alamo or USS Maine; Remember Mollie Tibbetts! is what you’ve heard for the past month. It’s the new battle cry ringing from Iowa to Texas to Arizona and D.C. My name, if not my memory, will fix our broken immigration system.

On the left, my death is mourned, but the sympathies don’t stop at my grave. My murderer, the Democrats claim, shouldn’t be seen in so facile a way. He and his status as illegal immigrant shouldn’t be understood in one and only one dimension. He’s not to be viewed in the light of a detestable alien nor a violent immigrant who but seven years ago arrived improperly to this land. The fact that he crossed into our country illegally at the age of seventeen is merely coincidental to what happened to me a few weeks ago. It’s coincidental, not essential. Rather, he should be seen as maladjusted young American and tragically so.

He’s to be perceived as a man whose inner torments, quite beyond his own grasp, caused him to lash out in the worst way. It just so happened that I was on the receiving end of his stroke. What we need are not walls, says the left, but bridges. We need to ford our way to sanitariums and build paths to mental health clinics and happier futures, while still allowing everyone in. By those routes prosperity can be achieved.

Both arguments are sound, but neither was my own. Both sides are fully convinced, but I’m ambivalent. And I can’t help but feel that I’ve been used, much to my distaste, for one or the other’s political gain. My name has become a synonym for immigration reform and for strife. My life has ended as a martyr’s has begun. The problem is, however, that I’ve been made to die for things in which I never believed. To be known is nice, but I don’t want this posthumous fame. I don’t want the political fight. I’m neither right nor left, hawk nor dove. I’m Mollie Tibbetts and I’m dead.

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