Before anybody accuses me of sympathizing with the murderous ex-cop Christopher Dorner, or of being part of the online fan club that idolizes him, rest assured, I do not, and am not. I’m writing this merely to focus on one aspect of that horror story that seems to be falling through the cracks.
A few days before the standoff that culminated in Dorner being incinerated at Big Bear Lake, his meandering manifesto was published online. Being curious to see what sort of man he was, I read it, and one thing jumped out at me… something from my own past.
On thirty-two occasions, he used the word “name” in his manifesto. On fifteen of those occasions, he used it to refer to his personal reputation… i.e., how his “name” had been smeared. Whether or not that’s true is irrelevant. Only that he himself believed it had, to the point that it literally drove him berserk. And in his case, berserk enough to kill.
I think I get it.
Many years ago, I worked for a department store chain, and I had a boss who smeared me by confiding to her superiors that I said and did things that never actually happened. Her superiors of course believed her, and I became obsessed with clearing myself, as I had plans to retire from that company one day, and all indications were that I was being led towards the door. I remember night after night, laying in bed thinking to myself; “God damn them, they took my NAME!” For a solid three years, I reminded myself that my very name had been attacked. Not just my job or my career — but the very essence of who I was. And like Dorner, I poured my fury out on anyone who would listen, to the point that I ultimately isolated myself in a bubble of seething rage. I was losing it. So I broke down and talked to a psychologist, who basically told me; don’t get mad, get even. So I did.
In my case, I settled things by suing my employer (mass-murder just isn’t my style), which brought me the closure I craved, to say nothing of the satisfaction of watching the people who screwed me out of my name … the only thing that’s truly yours … get fired for what they did. But as gratifying as that was, it was really just halftime. True, I managed to convince the powers that be that I wasn’t the monster I’d been painted to be, but now, there was a different problem; I had dared to humiliate the company by challenging them in a court of law, and they didn’t appreciate it. So the process repeated itself, and I sued them AGAIN!
Christopher Dorner was also obsessed with restoring his reputation, but he took a very different route. Whether or not he deserved that reputation, I can’t say. But in reading his manifesto, and his repetitive mentions of how they took his name, I know what was going on in his head, and it is a very dark, and tumultuous state of mind. I know from personal experience that watching helplessly as everything you are, are capable of, and are most proud of, is muddied and defamed by someone with more power than yourself. And it is infuriating beyond words! Particularly if you didn’t deserve it, and the rest of your life is contingent on your reputation… as I’m sure Dorner believed.
I know that over the next few months or years, there will be investigations into what made Christopher Dorner snap. They’ll look over his psych evaluations, his personal life, his relationships with his co-workers, etc. And I predict that they won’t find him to be especially unique. But if they take a hard look at the manner in which he was treated; how he was demoted, reprimanded, terminated, etc., I think they’ll find their answer.
Clearly, Christopher Dorner was a very troubled person, and only someone with serious mental issues could take the life of an innocent person just to teach the victim’s father “a lesson.” But I contend that the fuse was lit by someone who botched Dorner’s termination. Another man or woman would possibly have dusted themselves off and walked away, but Dorner put all his eggs in one basket; that basket being the immense pride he took in the policeman he envisioned himself to be. And someone, somewhere, crushed those eggs along with the man’s very “name.” As he himself said, no less than 15 times in his manifesto.