The word “tragedy” is defined as an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress. Students at SUNY Geneseo are coping with genuine tragedy. The things they’ve been dealing with since that 9-1-1 call on January 18 are horrific. What people often forget about tragedies is that there are a number of tragedies that follow. Hundreds of micro-tragedies that are all because of that initial, horrifying tragedy.
However, the tragedies that follow a tragedy aren’t just limited to the people who knew that person; they spread like an aggressive form of cancer, for which there is no cure. And unfortunately time is not guaranteed to heal all wounds, especially those the community of SUNY Geneseo are suffering from. The tragedy involved here is no secret, the loss of life is apparent, and the real details are not likely to be found.
While law enforcement does the best they can to fill in the gaps, specifics get lost in translation. The problem is that Kelsey Annese, Matthew Hutchinson, and Colin Kingston will be remembered together. Not because they were universally loved, or because they all had a positive impact on the community, but because Kingston murdered them, before taking his own life.
The narrative that law enforcement created, right or wrong, frames this as a jealous ex-boyfriend being overcome by rage. He is labeled as being “distraught,” and in this lies a huge problem.
Unfortunately, the jealous ex-boyfriend narrative is not a new one. Regularly, when a murder-suicide takes place and a couple, or former couple are involved, this is the cookie cutter response to sooth the public’s nerves. The problem is that this narrative creates pity and creates compassion for someone who did something awful.
Even worse, the bi-product of pity and compassion is justification.
Another problem with the way these tragedies are covered is where the narrative leads after an explanation is provided. In this case, it led to speculation about Kingston coming over to find Annese, his ex-girlfriend, with Hutchinson, her presumed “new boyfriend.” Everyone can imagine how that might have felt for Kingston, if that is actually what happened, but we don’t know what took place in that bedroom and we never will.
Again, we’re walking down the road of justification.
Perhaps we do so subconsciously, without ill-intention. Perhaps though, we do this to avoid talking about the real issue at the core of this tragedy, and all of the tragedies that followed in Geneseo. Three lives were undoubtedly cut short, but one of those lives committed an absolute atrocity. Lost while murdering Kelsey Annese and Matthew Hutchinson with a knife he brought that morning for the purpose of seeking revenge.
Let’s just stick with calling Kingston a murderer, while we call Annese and Hutchinson victims. If we aren’t going to address the fact that this was and remains an act of domestic violence then let’s not even mention that any of them were romantically involved. It simply detracts from the raw problems at play here.
If the jealous ex-boyfriend narrative is going to be employed, or the number of years Annese and Kingston spent together is going to be served on a platter to detract from the crime that took place – or in an effort to highlight Kingston’s mental state – then let’s put that information to good use.
Let’s address the fact that we live in a world where, after a breakup, a small percentage of people feel inclined to take the drastic measure of killing their former significant other, instead of getting the help they need. It starts with talking about domestic violence, because there are a number of people out there – some of which may be reading this right now, or standing in front of you at the grocery store – who are living through the personal hell that is domestic violence. They haven’t been murdered, but they’ve been beaten, bruised, tattered and are helpless because we’ve stigmatized the victim, as well as the perpetrator.
Victims of domestic violence can’t get help because we’ve stigmatized them. The perpetrators of the domestic violence can’t get help either, because society has built a wall around them. The funny thing about that though is that the wall wasn’t created to spare the perpetrators of domestic violence.
It’s become obvious that the wall was created by bystanders, for bystanders, to avoid the discomfort of ever having to deal with domestic violence directly.
And that’s the real shame of every tragedy like this.