The moment Channel 8 reporter Teresa Woodard opened her mouth to tell viewers Dena Schlosser, the Plano baby chopper, had been seen working as a checker at Walmart, you knew Dena Schlosser was already no longer working at Walmart.
Of course they fired her before the story ever hit the air. What choice did they have?
Eight years ago Schlosser hacked both arms off her 10-month-old daughter with a butcher knife because she heard God telling her to do it. Once you know that about her, it's probably hard not to get the shivers when she asks you if you found everything you need.
But it's terribly sad that she had to get sacked. Here she was, working, trying to put together a productive life. She's not a criminal. She's a crazy person. Through the miracle of brain research and pharmacology, she can be rendered not crazy. Modern medicine can reach out, take her by the hand and lead her back from the gates of hell, all the way to Walmart.
I don't get why people hate her. I do get why people might hate Michael Lee Page, the Wisconsin Sikh shooter. From what we know early on, he wasn't crazy. He was evil. Evil and crazy are different.
Hating people for being crazy is part and parcel of the problem. Then we feel justified in doing less to help them. Then they wander around downtown crazy until they flip out and do something terrible again. Then we hate them again and rationalize not helping them.
How is that a winning formula?
The person who put all of this best may be Kimberly Bigler-Burnett of Frisco, a commenter on the WFAA website who said:
"I think it unchristian to deprive her of her livelihood and to continue her life. Just having the knowledge of what she did to her child will be with her the rest of her life no matter what judge or jury of what people say."
Bigler-Burnett spoke to the same issue I'm talking about, the extinction of compassion.
"If everyone including the ones who voiced their views on getting Walmart to fire her would VOICE it for Mental Health facilities here in the US, perhaps she could have been helped when she was having her mental issues. Her child could have been saved!"
Yeah, maybe. Certainly taunting schizophrenics and tossing them out on the street is not making anybody's babies safer. At the very least, it would seem like keeping Dena Schlosser stable is the safer course.
I groaned when I saw the WFAA piece, not because I didn't get the story from a news business point of view. Obviously I get the story. You find a famous baby-hacker working at Walmart, it's a story. People will watch or read the heck out of that sucker.
And I know that in this day and age, a lot of stuff goes on the air and gets published with something less than scholarly attention to balance. As an assistant city editor once said to me in my youth which was a long time ago, "Hey, kid, we're not gonna bind it in pigskin."
But the piece was so breathless, so shocking-news, so This just in! There she was, the poor lady, in somebody's cell phone photo, slaving away at Walmart, and here was Teresa Woodward in her excellent makeup and wardrobe telling us how this crazy bitch cut off the bay's arms because ... get this! ... "She said God told her to."
God! She tried to get God in on it! It would be one thing if she said it was Rick Perry. But trying to get God in trouble! This just goes too far.
There has been balancing coverage elsewhere since then, quoting shrinks about how damaging it's going to be to toss this lady out of her job brusquely and send her back to some shit apartment to stare at her medicine bottles. You get a sense of how much effort it takes for Dena Schlosser just to get up in the morning, push back her demons and trudge off to work. This lady's got demons that make most of our demons look like girl scouts.
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We need to leave this poor person the hell alone. The proper response, when that nosy customer spied her at Walmart, would have been to reach out, touch her on the sleeve and say, "You look wonderful. I'm so glad you have a good job."
By the way, speaking of the Wisconsin shooter, one "expert" on WFAA the other night pronounced the religious denomination of the victims as "Sheik," and I think Gloria Campos last night may have pronounced it as "Sick." Talk about not being part of the solution.
I'm not blaming Walmart for firing Schlosser. I have my own feet of clay here. If I had run into her, I might have said, "OK, I am going to touch you on the arm now, but you are not going to touch me on my arm." I hope I wouldn't say that, but ... you know. She's scary.
Scary people. They are always with us. What are we going to do about it? How do we think hating them makes anything better?