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Zenith Campus Lockdown: Watching, Waiting and Meditating on Violence Against Women

May 7, 2009, 11:36 am

Well we have a suspect in yesterday’s campus shooting at Wesleyan, and there he is on the left. For whatever posts remain in this series, I am forgoing my normal pseudonym for the college, “Zenith,” because none of my commentary should be perceived in any way as not-real, or as making light of what is a difficult and shocking situation. Furthermore, I have been alerted by my site meter and by at least one comment that people in our extended community (including parents) are checking this blog for actual news about the brutal murder of Johanna Justin-Jinich.

I’ll tell you right up front: I don’t know anything that you don’t know.

This picture will probably become iconic as the tragedy plays itself out to its predictable finish, where we find out through an attorney, or through a deranged group of documents, that this man “had” to kill Johanna because he “loved” her. The image depicts the perp, marching through Broad Street Books, probably shortly after the murder. In his right hand, which you can’t see in this photograph but you can see in others, is a handgun. I do not know whether it is the murder weapon or not, since we are being told that evidence processed at the scene gives the police reason to believe that he is armed. I can only guess — and I want to emphasize that it is only a guess — that this means the gun abandoned at the scene (along with the wig he wore to disguise himself long enough so that he could ambush his victim successfully) did not match the ammunition that killed Johanna.

Advocates of the unregulated, Constitutional right to carry a concealed weapon will, undoubtedly argue that Johanna’s life might have been saved if everyone in the store had also been carrying, or if Johanna herself had been well-trained in the use of a handgun and was able to draw and fire first. And I just want to tell you in advance: you are completely and totally insane. At no point yesterday, as we stayed in our locked building wondering if a killer was coming up the hill to continue his work did any of us (and at least two of us do know how to handle a weapon, however imperfectly) say to another, “Gee, too bad we don’t have a loaded handgun at the office.” Turning our university into a shooting gallery won’t restore our sense of safety, I’m afraid.

For those of you who don’t have fantasies about turning the whole world into the OK Corral, the suspect’s name is Stephen Morgan and he is 29. He is (we are now told officially) Johanna’s ex-boyfriend from her hometown in Colorado (a former teacher? The reason she was sent to boarding school in Pennsylvania? A summer fling who couldn’t let go?) The name “Johanna” and rumors of an angry ex popped up quite early in the crisis on a student blog, which caused me to assume initially that the murderer was another student. I am glad to say that is not true. It also allowed me to stop worrying on at least one other count: I know another female student who was brutally attacked by a male student a couple weeks ago. Although he was expelled, he apparently returned a few days later to throw the fear of G-d into her again because it was, of course, her fault that he had been expelled. But let me qualify what I just said by saying that relief like that is fleeting, because in the end it doesn’t matter whether it is a student you know or don’t know. They all have friends, families, teachers and webs of people who will mourn them.

As I said above, news I cannot really promise you, however, only my own thoughts and a sense of the climate here. The administration appears to be fully in charge, and the faculty and staff are at home, many of us riding an emotional roller coaster, waiting for news, and fielding phone calls from family and friends. Most of us know nothing worth knowing, although I suspect that Johanna’s friends know a great deal about what preceded the tragedy that they are wisely not telling anyone for the time being.

Should this play out as such tragedies often do, eventually I am sure we will hear from someone — the perp, a defense attorney, shocked relatives and friends of the indicted man — that he killed her because he “loved” her.

The police are saying that they are “interested in talking to him” because they “believe” he shot her. So let’s emphasize: the police are not committing to Morgan’s guilt, but they believe in it enough to publish his picture. And if, by any chance, you should see him, or if you met him through Johanna, no matter what he says, assume he is dangerous. Unless Wesleyan is being way overly cautious, the police must have some reason to believe that Morgan — or whoever the shooter is if it is not Morgan — is still in the Middletown area, because the campus is still locked down. We got another message at 6:45 this morning telling us not to come to campus, but even if I went to campus I don’t think I would know anything. Last night the library was closed, as were several dining halls. The student center was kept open, but then swept at some point. According to this student blog, which is doing a pretty good job of collating the local news and not spreading unfounded rumors, the police stormed one of our seedy motels on the edge of town last night and questioned someone, but no dice.

I’m going to risk speculation here: they can’t find him because he’s already dead. That is often how these things end.

Things in the larger Wesleyan community are, as far as I can tell, perfectly under control, in the sense that the administration has a plan and is keeping us informed. Simultaneously, we are in complete disarray because we can’t do our jobs and we have no idea what, of our tattered classes, can be recouped at this point and how. The end of the semester has its rituals: faculty meetings, thesis presentations, office hours, take-home exams, and a million other things. Everything is on hold for now: with no library, how can they finish their work, even if they are able to concentrate — and since I can’t, I doubt they can either. Many of them will, I am sure, be going home today if they are able to do so.

But can I say one thing? I am sad, but I am also angry. I am sick, sick, sick of men beating, brutalizing and killing women and children, of boys brutalizing their girlfriends, of fathers raping and killing their wives and daughters. All these years after second wave feminists first raised this as a fundamental problem in our culture during the 1970s, the media, the police and our judicial system still treats each of these things like an isolated incident of individual pathology. And there seems to be no organized feminist movement left to insist, in contradiction to this vapid construction, that the hatred of women by men is a systemic cultural and political problem in the United States. I am sick of men who think they acquire ownership rights to women because they fall in “love” with them, men who think that “love” entitles them to do whatever the hell they please to keep women under their control so they can “love” them even more. I am tired right now and have nothing eloquent or intelligent to say on the topic, but if this short rant feeds your feminist outrage too, go to this post by Historiann about the Loyola University tragedy, where Daddy decided that his life wasn’t worth living and then imagined that the rest of the family would be better off dead too, a not uncommon scenario. I end with a quote from Historiann’s post: r />
Just curious: how many women and children (especially girl children, as in this case–2 women and one girl were the victims here) have to die before someone notices? One woman is accused of a child murder out in California, and that’s all we hear about all day long. But husbands apparently have carte blanche when it comes to murdering the women and girls who lived in their homes?

What’s your guess, friends? (Are you holding your breath?) If 2,100 women and children are killed simultaneously on live television by their male partners and fathers, even if it’s not by jetliners crashing into buildings, do you think anyone will notice then?

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10:00 update: documents have been found. The community has just been informed that “Although [the suspect] apparently had a direct link to the victim but no other connection to the Wesleyan community, we have now been made aware that he expressed threats in his personal journal toward Wesleyan and/or its Jewish students.

10:55 update: A group blog called Jezebel reports that, according to friends, the late Johanna Justin-Jinich’s “passions included writing, her work in public health, and women’s issues. She had volunteered at various Planned Parenthood offices in Colorado and Connecticut and had a summer internship lined up on Capitol Hill with a women’s organization.”

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