So we have this plant in our office that is rigged up with a water bottle to self-water when needed. It got moved to my window and I let it be known that it was not my job to take care of this plant and I washed my hands of it. Over the last few months, it has slowly been dying and withering away, but when I look at it, the water bottle is half full, so I thought that it was fine. Still, I said it’s not my problem because I already said I refused to take care of it. Last week, the dying leaves littered the floor around me and I was forced to clean it up. I thought that the water bottle may be faulty and poured water into the pot and when I did, the soil soaked it up and the water bottle started to actually leak out water. I realized then that the soil was so dry that the bottle couldn’t even properly work. I feel this is a good analogy for what’s happening right now in our country. We never said that it was our personal responsibility to take care of police brutality and racism against Black people, so we didn’t. It happened, but it was just there and we didn’t acknowledge it until it started dying on our very doorsteps. And when we looked into the issue, we started to realize that we were blaming Black people for not growing when it was really the system that was failing them. Perhaps we can stop refusing to acknowledge the root of the problem and what lies underneath because it actually does affect all of us.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed after police were called to an alleged forging incident at a store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Almost immediately, everyone in America began watching the video shot by bystanders and were horrified when George stopped breathing under the weight of 3 Minnesota police officers and another one that stood by controlling the crowd. I felt terrified as I watched the police officers callously kneel on top of him, instructing him to get in the car, and then admonishing him for not being able to. Because of this, they said he was not complying with their commands and continued to cut off his air supply. And finally, the moment came when George stopped moving and you could see that the officers did not care if he lived or died. What came in the aftermath of his death was outrage, fear, and calls for change. Inevitably, the rioting came and with them came discourse that we as a nation could not agree with.
Some have said that the rioting is overshadowing George’s death and undermine the calls for change, but those people must also realize that rioting after a Black person has been killed by police is a part of American history. For those that agree with it, rioting means that Black people are trying to be heard and taking back the power from the police and government by instilling the same fear they feel on them. They want them to feel as helpless as they did. For those that disagree, it means that the destruction is destroying homes and livelihoods while putting actual lives at risk. Although both sides may not see eye to eye, both are contending with real fear and to minimize either side means that the other won’t listen. If they don’t listen, there can be no real change because change is needed by the majority.
Tamir Rice was killed in 2014. Philando Castille was killed in 2016. Eric Garner was killed in 2014. All were unarmed and killed by police and multiple peaceful protests erupted to agitate for change, and yet in 2020, there is still no change. Why is that? We can train police better, have better techniques, and have more body cams, but it is still not preventing any deaths. In truth, any protests peaceful or otherwise will not change the status quo, but protest is still vital because it is an expression of the human psyche. They protest to be treated equally, and to be treated equally, we must change laws and society so that we can be closer to equality. We need opportunities for those who are poor and minorities to have an equal footing. We need school districts equally funded and affordable higher education. We need more social safety nets for all families who are experiencing hunger, homelessness, or abuse. We need affordable medical and mental health care so that we can live. And to get these things, we must stop gerrymandering, Super PACs, and stop all corruption in our government. And to have that, we must get ordinary people to care and the truth is that most of us just don’t care enough.
It’s hard to care when all these millionaires can buy and sell congressmen and big business can write new laws at will. How can the average person take part in change if they have no idea where to start? We can start by not hating each other. If we can stop hating each other long enough to agree on a different future, we can bring about change because we must realize it is our indifference that is killing Black people. However, if we ourselves are not Black, we care a little less. It’s natural to have an affinity for those like us because even babies are proven to choose someone that has the same choices as them. What isn’t natural is letting the killing continue. We must speak out, but at the same time, we cannot tell the other side they are completely wrong, for when we do that, we end up alienating them and lose them even further to the other side.
I myself am Hmong and with the Hmong officer who stood watch during George Floyd’s murder, there have been strong opinions on what should happen to him. My people are mostly outraged that some of their business and homes are being destroyed and they are being targeted for hate because of the Hmong officer. While I may not agree with some of their sentiments, I can’t discount them either. Their fear is palpable and very real, but so are the fears that Black people face every day. All I can do is advocate for what I think is right while still respecting their wishes, because if I don’t, they will stop listening. Whether you are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native, or anything else, you will usually feel more strongly for your own kind, but we must also try to understand each other for we are all in this together. We are not all on the same footing, but we can try to listen to each other because we need them more than we think.
It’s been a few weeks into our quarantine and we’ve just been told there are many more weeks left in isolation and many of us are freaking out. Some of us want to get back to normal. Some of us hate being told what to do. And some of us aren’t quarantining at all. Many of us do understand why we have to self-isolate and are doing so, but like those that aren’t, we aren’t coping with it as well as we should, perhaps because this is the first real big pandemic that we have faced and we’ve all been coddled all of our lives, living in bubbles thinking that nothing bad will ever happen to us.
We’ve been through recessions, 9/11, and other national issues, but those things never came close to what we are experiencing now and as such, we don’t know what to do. The truth is that we’ve never been prepared as the proliferation of anti-vaxxers have taught us that you don’t have to listen to science and the government if you don’t want to. We don’t have a social safety net to take care of millions of out-of-work citizens because we think everyone should be able to fend for themselves. And we think we don’t have to care about the outside world because we need to take care of ourselves first. It is precisely these ideas that have shaped how we have dealt with this pandemic and it has been disastrous. We don’t have to blame Trump or the government because we’re the ones who think this way and we’re the ones that let this happen.
There are no easy answers and no magic solutions that will happen overnight and that scares a lot of people that are used to instantaneous results. We’re a nation that runs on fast food and faster coffee, so when we’re told that they don’t know when life is going to return to normal again, we cannot comprehend that. There is a lot of uncertainty right now and so people are trying to regain some measure of strength by protesting, acting racist, and breaking rules; for in doing so, they feel they are taking control of something that they can’t control. This in turn creates more chaos and fuels narratives that people fashion into their own liking. We have to accept that there is nothing we can do about the virus right now, but there is a lot we can do about how we treat one another.
So how do you cope with everything that is going on? You take it one day at a time. Stand up for others. Help where you can. Keep your hands busy. And above all else, understand that how we view ourselves and others must change. What we’ve been doing barely worked before and the virus has laid bare the inadequacies of our rules, policies, and ways of thinking. Sometimes, change comes quietly and at others, it comes in on the back of a tidal wave.
The new documentary on Netflix entitled Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez offers a look back on the NFL player’s life and insight into his mind with interviews from childhood friends and jailhouse recordings of his calls with family members, but does it ever really answer why? Why would a successful, professional athlete with a 40 million dollar contract involve himself with unsavory characters and murder people? They and the whole world over are asking the wrong question by focusing on what he was giving up instead of asking what caused him to not care about a human life. The documentary focuses on his life-long involvement with playing football, which ultimately resulted in a diagnoses of CTE after his death, his undercover lifestyle of being gay, and his strict upbringing, but never really nails down what motivated him. What happened to a person that they thought killing was an acceptable response to minor issues in their lives?
The truth is that he was already who he was long before he started playing football in Florida. At that point, he had already formed the basis of who he was and everything else only magnified the situation. The one point that was most striking to me from the documentary was that he scored 1 out of 10 in the category of ‘social maturity.’ Although CTE contributes to impaired judgement, impulse control, aggression, and depression, I feel that the damage done to his brain exacerbated an already existing problem of immaturity. Coupled with the fact that his father forced him to become the athlete that he wanted instead of teaching him how to grow into a man, he never learned how to accept responsibility, how his actions affected others, or had empathy for others that he hurt. After his father died, he was free to be himself and as he had never been taught to be responsible, he became even more irrational. Although he had varying feelings for his father, his father was the one constant in his life and it was now gone, leaving him to feel abandoned and even more hurt.
As a child, he experienced the dual nature of his father, who strived to be a community figurehead but was also secretly physically abusive in the home, which Aaron unknowingly emulated. He had no one to turn to as he could not trust his mother after she essentially abandoned him in order to pursue a relationship with his cousin’s husband. Because he had no one to trust and no example to model himself after, he chose to become his father. Hernandez’s brother, DJ, also writes that he may have been sexually assaulted at an early age for a prolonged period, which may explain his confusion on his sexuality, his promiscuous lifestyle, and his drug habits. He was clearly abusing drugs as a cry for help, covering up deep pains from his childhood from sexual and physical abuse, feelings of abandonment from the death of his father and his mother, with no emotional outlet because it wasn’t valued. He grew up in a middle class family and neighborhood, but sought out those who were involved with drugs and destruction because he couldn’t control what was happening to him and he thought that if he achieved a certain image, he could control those around him. He wanted others to acknowledge him and accept him while never divulging who he truly was.
In one jailhouse recording with his mother, he states that he had to go to college, and it is reported that Urban Meyer appealed to his high school principal to let Hernandez graduate early so he could attend college. Although he had experienced a lot of trauma already, this may have been one of the more triggering traumas for him because he was truly alone and said so to his mother. He felt that his mother was not there to protect him as he was spirited away to a school he didn’t’ know and people who had no understanding of who he was simply so they could use him for his physical prowess. A 17-year-old boy who was emotionally damaged and using drugs to cover up for it with no support would not fare well and he didn’t. Because he never learned about becoming mature, he handled the situation as a 16-year-old boy, perennially stuck in the age he was when his father died, did. He was rash, moody, angry, and everything else that described a teenaged boy while everyone else saw a 6’ 2” man. For the first time in his life, he was on his own and tested the limits. He eventually came to see that he could get away with many things because of who he was.
He hid being gay because he was ashamed of it. He hid his personal life from his professional life because he learned it from his father. He sought out multiple sexual encounters because he was still emotionally scarred from being molested. He never learned to trust others because his mother had betrayed his, so he carried guns and knives and hired bodyguards, seeing problems at every turn. He caused domestic strife to his girlfriend and child because he had experienced it as a child. And through it all, he didn’t have the emotional maturity to deal with it, so it all came boiling out in various ways where he self-harmed, harmed others, and destroyed his own life. He killed others not only because he didn’t value their lives but mainly because he never learned to value his. He killed others because in a world where he couldn’t control the outcome of his life or the game he played in, he could control this. To him, he was only worth what he did on the field. Without football, he was nothing. And that may be why he killed himself.
None of these reasons excuse his crimes or exonerate him in any way, but they shed light on a troubled person who may have been helped if caught early on.
Betsy DeVos just commented on the recent 2019 Nation’s Report Card, which found that reading and math scores registered lower between 2017 and 2019 except in the category of math for fourth-grade students. Because of this, the Secretary of Education wants to implement a plan to introduce more funding for school choice. The reality is that a system that was designed decades ago is no longer working for today and no one has really addressed it and tackled the issue. Instead, people move their kids into the ‘right’ neighborhoods, bus their kids to the ‘good’ schools, and opt for charter schools. What this does is dilute funding for public schooling and aids in the failure of the kids who are left behind. However, I can’t blame these parents in wanting a better education because what they are currently offered right now is not good enough. What we need is an entire overhaul of the system so no one needs to attend a specialized school.
How do we do this? First of all, we must change how our schools are funded. Currently, schools draw their budgets from their surrounding neighborhoods, causing an imbalance where richer neighborhoods are able to fund better schools, which in turn makes parents want to send their children there. How likely is this going to change? Not likely unless there is more social uproar about it and until then, schools will continue to be imbalanced. When I attended high school, the only televisions we had were old, boxy ones rolled in on a cart, whereas the school in the neighboring district had a tv installed in every room. While a t.v. may not be crucial to a child’s education, it goes to show what resources are available to that school and what excesses there are. Is it fair that one school should have so much and another less? Are children entitled to the same education? Is it fair that a district may pay $100 per day for one child’s education and only $15.00 for another’s? The real question is why have we allowed this problem to fester? Who profits from this illogical and outdated system?
A big issue in schools that has been brought up by teachers is the attitude and outbursts of students, which disrupt classes and even endanger the lives of other students. Have children become more disruptive or have we just kept doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same result when our society, our children, and everything we know has changed? The times have changed and whether we can blame parents, students, society, social media, or teachers is not really the issue. The issue is that the climate has changed and we have not kept up with it. The issue is not localized to a few schools, but a nation-wide problem. When the issue is that prevalent, there must be ways that can be developed to help. We can look at schools which have been successful in dealing with these issues that have implemented programs such as meditation, yoga, and also monitored mentoring for those children who are on the periphery. Solutions are already out there, but the system as a whole refuses to acknowledge them and look for them, instead of just trudging on with the same rules in place.
I find that the largest impediment to education remains a child’s home life, but what can really be done about that? If you look at successful schools such as LeBron James’s I Promise School, students are allowed a safe space to voice their concerns about their daily struggles and something as insignificant as that can really make a difference in the day of a child who is not heard at home or is experience hardships such as poverty or hunger. We need to have more avenues for helping our students emotionally through social workers, understanding about bullying, and actually teaching our children how to react emotionally. If our children don’t learn emotional skills at home, we need to teach them at school so that they may function and actually be able to learn. If we can curb outbursts or disruptions at a young age because children don’t know how to cope, why wouldn’t we want to make the lives of these children and the teachers that serve them better?
Even with charter schools, ‘rich’ districts, and select ‘gifted’ schools, there are still children who are left out of this equation that no one is talking about. These children are left languishing in what is left of our public education system and are not receiving what they need to succeed. Public education is a right and as of right now, it is unequal and separate. Change is often politicized and criticized whether it is good or bad and in that time, millions of children will be left behind. We may not always agree on how change should happen, but we should all agree that it is needed. Ultimately, we are failing our children and the future of our country by not addressing these issues and implementing any sort of change. And with each year, the scores of our children will become lower and lower and we’ll grasp at what could be the problem and play the blame game. This is an wide-spread, epidemic problem that affects the whole nation, and yet, we don’t really care unless it affects our kid.
In a true story stranger than fiction, a man named William Boerum ran the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but was actually Raymond Matzker, a man who would go on to be convicted of 7 counts of sexual offenses against very young boys in Wisconsin and Illinois. The question everyone wants to ask is how was this allowed to happen as the state needed to verify his education, his prior work history, and pass a test . He was one of 30 candidates and after the first candidate turned it down, he accepted the offer. The incident also begs the question, ‘Who can run a mental institution?’ If a delusional man who preyed on young boys could do it and have the support of the community and a few of his superiors before he was outed, who else would be able to fill the role? Some may ask what would lead such a deranged man to falsify records for the position, but I think this story speaks more about who we are in the aftermath of his outing. Many people involved in his hiring at several positions refused to take responsibility for their parts in this story after being duped by Matzker, and it is this act of passing the blame that enables such a system to continue on.
At one point in time, Raymond Matzker and the real William Boerum attended Manhattan College together in the late 1960’s, with the real Boerum going on to obtain a master’s in business administration from Cornell in 1968. After befriending Boerum and standing as an usher in his wedding, perhaps Matzker had been infatuated with this man who would go on to become the vice-president of Crocker National Bank and decided he would take on his identity. Perhaps in taking on his identity, he shed his and was able to lie to himself that he was worthy and not someone who solicited young boys. Whatever his reasons, he assumed the identity of Boerum and moved to Illinois, where he obtained jobs as a mental health and nursing administrator in Rocky County and medical services director for the Lake County Health Department in Waukegan, Ill. He left the director position in 1979 to accept the position of director at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in 1979, being paid $42,000 a year for supervising 340 mentally-ill patients. He was able to run the institution without incident until January of 1981 and even made it past the obligatory 1-year probationary period.
After his 1-year probationary period, there were a few who questioned if Matzker should be kept on, but support from the local Winnebago area, Sen. Gary Goyke, Rep. Michael Ellis, Rep. Richard Flintrop, and even the Winnebago Mental Health Association helped to secure his position. It wasn’t until January 6th that the truth first came to light when authorities charged him with sex-related offences that his true identity was even found. A man masquerading as someone else was able to fool the community, a senator, state representatives, and a mental health association into believing he was competent enough to take care of patients while using resources to travel to neighboring cities with the intention of harming boys. Rep. Ellis later was quoted to say that he was not going to apologize for what happened in October, deflecting blame, while others played politics to reach their agendas, never really grasping the situation that they were conned and let this man run a mental institution. Even before Wisconsin, others deflected blame, allowing this predator to keep harming boys.
When Matzker was a director in Rock county in 1977, he employed a secretary that he instructed to send out applications with misleading information, including positions and degrees. Mrs. Klipstein, his secretary, eventually told county personnel director Susan Steininger and the executive administrator, Kenyon Kies, but no one believed her that he was acting erratically. She saw him changing locks on his doors, taking trips to Milwaukee and Chicago with county cars, and keeping an answering service in Illinois for no apparent reason. When this story surfaced, Kies said that he thought her story was ‘misleading’ and thought she was complaining because she was a disgruntled employee, but took no responsibility for not assigning any importance to Mrs. Klipstein’s allegations. Once again, the blame was passed and those involved absolved themselves of any guilt relating to this man. None of these people knew the true nature of Matzker, a fraud who was charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor and kidnapping on March 1, 1980 and other charges in Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha, Wisconsin and Lyons and Libertyville, Illinois.
After the authorities took Matzker into custody, he was the first person convicted under a new sexual predator law in Wisconsin that stated that if someone is viewed as a sexually violent person who may potentially commit more crimes, they can be subjected to be held indeterminately in a secure, mental health facility after serving their sentences. As such, the man who once ran a mental institution became a patient after experts that he once loosely worked with took the stand and testified as experts that he was a paranoid schizophrenic suffering from delusions. In this strange twist of fate, Matzker was remanded to the Wisconsin Resource Center, a mental health institution, as a patient, where Thomas Michlowski, the medical director, deemed him as still psychotic. Although this humiliating and preposterous chapter of Wisconsin’s history has been buried in the archives for ages, it still reads like an episode of American Horror Story and allows us see what happens when there is a breakdown in communication, the interview process, and trusting one’s own gut instincts.
Greta Thunberg gave an impassioned speech at the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York City and the animosity has been swift and fast for this 16-year-old from Sweden. A guest on a Fox news program The Story with Martha MacCallum called her ‘disgraceful’ and a ‘mentally ill Swedish child’ because she has Asperger’s syndrome. Laura Ingraham continued the hatred by equating her to murderous, zombie-like children from Stephen King’s Children of the Corn. Most unsettling is how regular citizens speak about her and discredit her desire to protect the environment. When David Hogg spoke out against gun violence, the very same people said the most vile things about this high school kid by threatening him and calling him all sorts of names. At least with David Hogg, I could understand why because these people perceived that he was ‘taking away their guns,’ but what exactly is Greta Thunberg taking away from them that they feel they must undermine her?
People have chosen to discredit her with her age, her Asperger’s condition, her nationality, and more. I’ve noticed that anytime high-school or middle-school children protest, people question if these children really grasp the concept of what they’re doing and say that they are simply doing it for fun. When athletes protest police brutality, they ask why they are being paid so much money. When women speak out about sexual violence, their authenticity is questioned. Let’s look at the inverse? Are old people ever wrong? Does anyone ever question why the owners of athletic teams make so much money? Are men held to the same standards as women in regards to their believability? The truth is, we use easy arguments against those we don’t agree with because it’s easier to attack these things than the real argument at hand. If we can discredit a part of who they are, then we can discredit their ideas as well.
What exactly is it about Greta Thunberg that makes so many want to discredit her? She is not trying to take anything away from anyone, but what she is showing is power and when someone gains power that we don’t feel they should have, we go after them to make ourselves feel better. As such, we must ask who has the most power? It is the latter examples in the last paragraph: older people, the owners, and men. However, we have already ascribed power to these people, so when they make a show of it, we don’t bat an eye, but when those we perceive as lower than us do it, we immediately try to take them down because they threaten who we are. They threaten our status quo and what we believe the power dynamic should be. When our perceptions are threatened, we are scared and as such, lash out at children that are innocent of any crime. Power is a tricky thing, but even more tricky is our perception of it.
We like to think that we are all good judges of character and imagine we’re able to see through to the heart of a liar, but the truth is, we rely too much on our own personal prejudices and experiences to really understand the differences. A new movie out on Netflix, Unbelievable showcases the true story of a young woman named Marie who was brutally raped and tied up in her own home by a masked intruder. When she reported the crime, her world turned upside down because she wasn’t believed, resulting in the police charging her with a crime. Marie grew up in foster homes and had been molested before in her past, and when she reached out to one of her former foster mothers, the foster mother said she didn’t believe Marie because she didn’t sound upset. Her foster mother said she had also been raped at one point and saw that Marie’s experience didn’t match up to hers. She told the lead detective this and he agreed with her when he would see her laughing and joking after the incident as if it didn’t bother her. Because of how they perceived what a rape victim should appear like, they concluded that she made up the whole thing for attention.
Another Netflix movie concerning Amanda Knox really underscores this point as well when she recounts what happened after the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher. She is first suspected of murder because she is not acting as a normal friend of a victim should act as the police viewed her calmly talking to her boyfriend and not being emotional. What I realized from watching the documentary was that Amanda Knox is a logical thinker and as such, she does not react emotionally to events, which the police mistook for clues of being a sociopath killer. If you tell an emotional thinker that you are having a bad day, they may commiserate with you and tell you to cheer up. If you tell a logical thinker the same thing, they may give you solutions instead, which some may view as cold because they didn’t react in the same way as the emotional thinker. Logical thinkers are not looking to emotionally support you, but want to provide actual solutions because that’s how they think. Because Amanda could not perform as a ‘normal’ person emotionally, many people to this day still believe that she had a hand in the murder of her roommate because they know they wouldn’t act in such a way during a murder investigation.
In 1988, Martin Tankleff woke up to find his father profusely bleeding and near death and his mother dead in their bedroom. When he summoned the police, he told them that he thought his father’s friend committed the crime, but all the police saw was that he was oddly unemotional about the deaths, leading them to believe that he wasn’t normal. And if wasn’t normal, he could commit a crime that no normal person could, assuming he murdered his parents for their great wealth. The police tricked him into an oral confession, telling him that his father miraculously awoke and told them his son committed the crime when he actually died at the hospital. As Martin was raised to trust the police knew his father never lied, he initially agreed, but refused to sign the confession. Because of his oral confession, the jury sentenced him to 50 years and he fought for 17 years to prove his innocence to finally be freed. Later on, Martin would say that he didn’t have a reaction because he was in shock, but it was too late as the police already thought they had their culprit. They just needed a confession and never pursued his father’s friend, who most likely orchestrated the murders.
Why do we think we can read people and think that we can parse the truth from other’s actions, but not their words? We want to believe that we are all masters of understanding how humans work and we will not retract our statements if confronted with the truth. Why? Because you must be a master to know humans if you know yourself. We think that everyone else thinks like us and therein lies the fault, for many people do not think and react like us. When we use our own emotional history and personal background to judge and condemn others, especially those in precarious situations, it ends with disastrous results. Marie didn’t act like an average rape victim perhaps because of her rocky childhood and how she had been molested previously. Amanda Knox didn’t think as an emotional thinker, so she didn’t understand that she was on display at the moment and needed to convey those motions. Martin Tankleff was too stunned to react and the police took this a sign that he was emotionally cold and capable of murder. However, it is those who are sociopaths who really understand this concept of playacting and feign emotions so they can trick us, but we don’t care to discuss them because we want to feel as if we are the ones who saw through someone, so we concentrate on those we think are trying to fool us.
The truth is, we are not good at reading humans. We don’t understand how an average rape victim is supposed to react. We want to think we are clever and as such, we deny those that we think are guilty because we have already assumed they are trying to pull the wool over our eyes. And in cases where the truth comes out, such as the Central Park 5, we do not back down because to admit that we were wrong is to admit that perhaps we can’t read humans after all and as such, we don’t know who we are. Instead of trying to read others in our own image, we should try to ascertain who they are and what their reasoning is. We may find that not everyone is like us and we shouldn’t fear the ones that can’t pretend to emote, but rather, we should be wary of the ones that do know how. Except, we can’t read them.
Day Street is a residential street that is synonymous with murder to many of the people who live in Green Bay. It is a street that is steeped in horror, legend, and fear, but also one that resembles any other street in downtown Green Bay. Located on the city’s near east side, it measures approximately 1 mile in length and includes many lower to mid-level income families in a mix of rental units and owner-occupied housing. You can see children playing in front yards, teenagers riding their bicycles on the sidewalks, and families out for a stroll on an average warm, summer day. However, you would’ve also seen multiple condemned properties in the past and the occasional police car stopped near the curb. Day Street is an aging street that has seen a wave of demographic changes over the years, but continues to remain a source of anxiety for residents because of the events that unfolded there and the stories surrounding them. It’s not that the concentration of crimes pertaining to that specific street are more numerous than any other part of the city, but rather the ones committed there have been extremely heinous, leading to this view.
The most heinous of all the murders that occurred on Day Street was the murder of a five-year-old Hmong girl named Nancy Thao, who attended a nearby elementary school. No one could have imagined that Johnson Greybuffalo, a young Native man with a child of his own, would be so cruel as to kill a small child that simply woke up to interrupt him stealing into their apartment in the middle of the night. If she were alive, she would be a few years younger than me today, but she never got the chance to live out her life. The most well-known murder that became national news was that of Tom Monfils, which took place at the James River Paper Mill at the start of Day Street. 5 of the 6 men who the courts convicted of the crime have been released or are just now being released after serving their time, but there are still numerous people who believe that all the men were innocent and continue to espouse the theory that the victim actually took his own life. From 1988 to today, the string of murders and crimes that have plagued this particular street continue to haunt its inhabitants.
The following murders occurred on Day Street: Clinton Cardish was beaten to death by his former cellmate on May 13, 1995, Lorenzo Ayalla was shot and killed by an acquaintance on January 28, 1995, who later left the country and was never caught, Nancy Thao was stabbed to death by Johnson Greybuffalo in the attempt of a burglary on July 22, 1994, Tom Monfils was beaten, bound, and thrown into a paper pulp vat by disgruntled co-workers on November 21, 1992, Eugene McIntosh was stabbed to death by his wife on April 30, 1988, Ouida Wright was killed by her boyfriend on May 3, 2013, and Ricardo Gomez was shot by Richard Arrington on April 2, 2016. It is hard to believe that such misery and crime could happen in the stretch of only one mile, but these murders now define the street and how people view it.
According to the United States Census, the population for Green Bay was 104,879 persons in July of 2018. In 2010, that number stood at 103,911 and 102,313 in 2000 respectively. Green Bay has not grown as exponentially as Madison throughout the years, but the suburbs surrounding the city such as De Pere and Howard have thrived. This was very apparent when we first moved to Day Street in the late 1990’s, when droves of families who previously lived there escaped to the suburbs and subsequently were replaced with a more multi-cultural landscape. Along with a more multicultural population, Green Bay also saw an influx of workers who always lived on farms or traveled long distances to reach work in the city due to a scarcity of work in their towns and villages. Although the population size has not increased much, the demographics of the inner city have changed over the years with different groups of people moving in. This has led to tensions in a small town that always identified itself as a small-town, all-American city.
I’ve lived on Day Street three times in three different houses in my life. The first time was when my parents bought a house, which was not an easy feat for an immigrant family that struggled to speak the language and understand the societal norms. I recall my mother saying that she heard terrible rumors about the street and wasn’t eager to move there, but with the low price of the house and how close it was situated to everything else, my parents changed their minds and closed the deal. We moved in after the murder of Nancy Thao and I would get chills every time we passed the former residence. At that time when we first moved, I distinctly recall many for sale signs planted in lawns all around our neighborhood. It was very apparent that families who had lived there for years had decided it was time to move due in part to the crime in the 90’s. The neighborhood was definitely changing and our family and others like ours were part of that change.
Green Bay has added multi-cultural events celebrating all this diversity to the city through picnics, town talks, and more. However, this doesn’t change the fact that more minorities and low-income families are affected by crime because of the lack of affordable housing and job advancement. The median income of a household in 2017 was $45,473 as opposed to the 2017 national median income of $61,372. While the official national poverty stats of 2017 was at 12.3%, Green Bay had 17% of its residents living in poverty. A majority of those living in poverty either live downtown or in certain areas that provide more affordable housing. These groups of people then experience more hardships because of where they live, making it tougher to rise out of poverty and where they are. Race also plays into how victims and perpetrators are treated in a town that is overwhelmingly white. In the trial of Johnson Greybuffalo, a juror expressed fears that she might not be partial enough because she thought poorly of both Hmong people and Native Americans. This casual racism is usually unspoken, but is always there as people fear a foreign race who they assume are taking over their lands and rights, leading to apathy for a little girl that was murdered and for those that continued to inhabit the space of those who discarded it.
My life has been intertwined with this particular street and with that, some of the crimes that have happened on it. My parents moved from Illinois to the city when I was barely one and I have spent the majority of my life here. While living on Day Street, I have actually heard a gunshot that killed someone, knew one of the murderers as a young teenager, and attended the funeral of one of the victims. Since Green Bay is a relatively smaller city, some residents have a connection to one or more the crimes that have occurred on the street, and some even have knowledge of the actual crimes that took place. Currently, I work at a correctional center that some of these same murderers have either lived in or moved through. Having worked in a maximum-security prison, I have seen all sorts of offenders from those who trafficked drugs to those who committed homicide. There are various misconceptions about what happens to inmates once they are incarcerated and what goes on behind the locked gates, but the truth is that although the whole prison system nation-wide could be reformed, it is not what some make it out to be.
Despite these things, I’m proud to call this city my home and am excited for the changes that have occurred so far. Although wages in the city are not as high as Madison or Milwaukee, the cost-of-living is very accommodating to growing families. Rents are relatively lower than the more populous cities and crime occurs at a much considerably lower rate here than Madison or Milwaukee. When I attended UW-Madison, I remember a body being dragged from the water the first few weeks I was there and it didn’t even make front page news. Many residents of Green Bay will claim that the city is becoming more and more crime-ridden, but the data shows that crime overall has been down over the decades. In 1993, the national murder rate was 9.5 murders for every 100,000 while it was 5.3 for every 100,000 in 2017. The reason it may appear as if crime is occurring more is that specifically for Green Bay, it doesn’t happen regularly, so when it happens, it becomes front page news, whereas it is barely a mention for larger cities. The more we hear about crimes, the more we think it is happening. However, it could easily be attributed to the fact that we are getting the information at a faster rate than we ever have before and that is why it feels as if there is more crime when there isn’t.
With social media, the spread of harrowing news such as kidnapping and lost children are rapidly fed into our Facebooks and Twitter accounts and continuously shared, with almost no lag time in between the incident and the post. If a child goes missing in a small city, even those in cities two states over will know and share the posts by the end of the day. Technology has allowed for information to proliferate like never before, allowing it reach people that may have never known previously. However, it also added an inflated sense of fear as people think that crime is getting worse, when in actuality, they are just hearing about it more. We thrive on fear because it is an innate, primal instinct that has kept us alive through the centuries. Fear is ingrained into our DNA whether we like it or not, and although we like to believe we are move evolved than that, we simply are not. We seek out fear. We court fear and we can influence people through fear. The more we deny this small truth, the more those who understand the power of fear can use it to control us. What is at the root of fear is the desire to stay alive. Those who spread fear are seen as heralders of safety even if they are wrong.
We don’t fault someone for spreading misinformation because we feel as if they did it in the hopes of keeping us safe. We also continue to spread misinformation even if it’s been proven wrong because we feel it’s our duty to keep others safe. To understand fear, we must understand how the instinct has worked for so long. We as a race have used fear to survive and thrive, and because of it, we seek out fear to keep us alive. We want to be scared to within an inch of our lives on roller coasters, haunted houses, and paint ball games. We want to know fear, but a controlled fear because it is exhilarating. I saw a post on Facebook on a community policing page where someone reported a group of men for trying to kidnap children into sex slavery. Some commenters stated that the police already investigated the situation and found that it was merely a bible group who was aggressively trying to recruit, but this did not stop people from sharing after the fact. We live for fear because it keeps us alive and we excuse those that rile up the fear in us because we thrive on it. Real crime does happen every day, but the perception of crime is what we hold on, for we have been conditioned to do so.
There is a difference between reporting accurately on crimes that occurred and willingly spreading false information that others debunked. With the first, one is simply relaying information about a crime that has occurred, but the latter helps spread an unfounded story that further causes more misinformation and fear in the community. With this book, I hope to accurately inform the readers of the crimes that took place on Day Street, but it is in no way a recrimination of the street or the people that live there. Oftentimes, we will indict a whole race based off of the crime of one individual or in this case, a whole street. Day Street is a street that I grew up on and holds many misconceptions about it due to these crimes, but it is still one that families have decided to live on. It is not always in the best of conditions and does not always house the best of tenants, but it still deserves the truth. For those who have chosen to escape it and those who have chosen to stay, the truth still remains.