Accutane, adolescents and single-engine aircraft are the latest recipe for disaster, at least according to officials in my former home state of Florida. Well, at least a recipe for one case last week when 15-year-old Charles Bishop ran a Cessna single-engine aircraft into a bank building in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday night.
When I was 15, Saturday night was for going out with my friends and having a good time. Sometimes the night would lead to some sort of mischief, but I can’t really recall myself or any of my friends stealing an airplane with the intention of becoming kamikaze pilots. Some of my friends were on acne medication, too.
Along with the acne medication, a few of my friends also had, or were in the process of obtaining, pilot’s licenses. Yet none of them rammed any private aircraft into high-rise buildings then and I have serious doubts they will now.
When a person so young commits such a grandiose act, the witch hunt begins as to what led to the tragedy. It truly is tragic when parents lose a child, regardless of the cause of death. It is hard to understand why a young life is cut short. Harder to understand is why it was done by one’s own hand.
The immediate reaction is to pinpoint a cause that led to the committed act. School is a great place to begin since that’s where you’ll find the most social pressure from peers, teachers and counselors. Were there any bullies? Were there problems regarding schoolwork? Was too much pressure to succeed placed upon the victim by teachers and counselors?
But who doesn’t undergo those things on a daily basis in a normal school environment?
The next great place to search for clues is with the friends and acquaintances of the person involved. Were any of the friends devious, criminal types? Were there drugs involved? In modern-day society any of the above can, and usually do, happen in the life of the average teenager. No news here.
The next place to look for trouble is what kind of medication might have led to a mental condition that could have led to the problem at hand.
These days we have medications for anything under the sun, moon and stars. Depressed? We have Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac. Trouble learning? Ritalin is just for you. Have acne? Accutane is always there to help.
I always referred to these as the “happy pills” solution when I was much younger and the term stands with me today. My only question here is not how many kids are on these pills, but rather how many aren’t. I’ve met so many people on these happy pills that I’m beginning to think taking them is the norm.
However, the people on happy pills that I know all lead normal, productive lives with little chance that they’ll plow a small plane through a high-rise building’s window with a suicide note expressing sympathy for a terrorist.
This can only lead to one last sacred bastion in terms of an adolescent’s life: the home, where all the trouble usually begins to brew. But society forbid we “blame” the parents, with so many other scapegoats available. No need for accountability when we have rock and rap music, the internet, television, and violence in the media. And now we also have Accutane.
I don’t know too much about Charles Bishop’s home life, but I do know that somebody missed on something here. The myth that is shared by many that “something has to be wrong” is exactly that: just a myth.
In the case of Charles Bishop there existed signs that something was wrong, probably even before the Accutane went into his system. When words like “depressed” or “loner” or “withdrawn” come into play, then warning flags should go up in the home.
But these warning flags would require that magic word: accountability. Besides, society’s blame shifters need something else to blame it all on in order to justify crusades against modern pop culture.
This can lead to disastrous results, as we witnessed on the news last weekend, as well as in Columbine and even on our streets here in Isla Vista last March. Being a parent or guardian is never easy, especially when it involves getting into your child’s mind. But ignoring the signs and shifting the blame to avoid accountability once all hell breaks loose is not effective. And sadly enough it happens all too often.
I do feel sympathy for the parents, family and friends of Charles Bishop, but at the same time there’s a feeling that the failure to see the problem in the home has lead us to do the blame-it-on-society sidestep.
Yes, there’s plenty out there to blame our kids’ problems on. But what happens when we run out of things to blame. Maybe then accountability will prevail.
Henry Sarria is an Isla Vista resident and a frequent contributor to the Daily Nexus.