No, there is not a typo in the title. Any missing and exploited (white) children aficionados reading this essay should be warned that it may come across as tasteless and provocative, and that I do not give a suckling rat’s ass about your unctuous concern for the welfare of (photogenic white) children with which you fill the void left in your soul by the ennui of postindustrial life. (Yes, many people feel genuine, heartfelt concern for the welfare of missing and exploited black children, and certainly their friends and relatives do, but broadcast expressions of their anguish are so rare as to be exceptions that prove the rule.)
Those of you who live in blissful ignorance of the media circuses-of-the-month surrounding missing honky kiddos should be brought into the loop about this long-lost DiMaggio brother, James Lee. Neither a superstar like Joe nor a modest workaday smalltimer with an understated love for the game like Dom “the Professor”, James DiMaggio is merely a neighborhood oddity from the exurbs of a city lately best known for sexual deviant and mayor Bob Filner. That’s America’s Finest City to you, mister, a city also known for police recruiter, aviation officer, and felonious residential vandal Robert Conrad Acosta. It’s quite low of me to smear Acosta by mentioning him in the same breath as those freaks, but I can’t resist. I briefly met him in my days as a San Diego Police applicant, and I’ve discovered elsewhere (don’t ask where, now) that his name is mad good SEO bait. It amazes me that so little has been written about him by anyone but the Union-Tribune and that, last I checked, the UT hadn’t connected the dots of his career from Danny “the Walking Man” Woodyard (could there have been another Officer Robert Acosta of that age on the force?) through the powerful collection of Legends at the Recruiting Unit to the cypresses in the swimming pool.
Bad shit sometimes goes down in the suburbs. It doesn’t go down as often as the bottomfeeders in 24-hour broadcast news imply, but sometimes it does. James DiMaggio, for example, isn’t the first bougie guy to go cuckoo-bananas in East County. What shocks so many people (that is, the sheltered and the hypocritical boosters who lead them) is that the shit didn’t go down in the ghetto. It’s scary. What’s the point of telling one’s kids to stay the hell off East Colfax if a couple of emo losers in trenchcoats will shoot them in precious Littleton, in their own high school? Look: in the burbs, people are supposed to quietly medicate their problems away, preferably with some Xanax and way too much chardonnay. Guys like Andy Williams, Klebold and Harris, and James DiMaggio throw a wrench into the well-lubricated works and fuck that shit up. Really, it’s a lot more transgressive than pretend-settling some 38th Street beef in a Bloods-Crips shootout or being one of Daryl Gates’ street crime cretins. Red, blue, or navy blue, no South Central street colors will come close to providing the scare put into bougie honkies by the abduction of one telegenic white girl from a good family like Megan Kanka. Black kids are regularly being shot dead on their way to school in on the South Side of Chicago? Le snooze. Shh, don’t talk about the racial angle!
The polite thing to do, of course, is to wait until someone snaps under the pressure of the First World Problems of bourgeois life and then express shock that such a thing happened. Oh, no, there weren’t really antecedent problems, were there? Say it ain’t so. It must have been some lone nut psychopath. Seriously, let’s not blame the carnage on social atomization, the warehousing of poorly mentored children in the megacampuses of unified school districts, the cleavage of student bodies into warring cliques of Christian sectarians, jocks, and skater punks, or any kind of bullying. We live in the suburbs, and my God, these sociological explanations would imply that we have sociological problems, almost like they have in the ghetto!
I can’t escape the gut feeling that a lot of seediness has been swept under the rug in this DiMaggio case. I’m not referring to the seediness of James DiMaggio himself; I agree that he’s a weirdo and at the very least a moral failure for burning a mother and son to death in a house fire because he had a thing for the daughter. But that’s the only point on which I agree with the media coverage so far. No one, except perhaps conspiracy theorists a lot more marginal than I am, has examined the surviving father or daughter; instead, they’ve reflexively been given a free pass as victims of violent crime.
First, the father, Brett Anderson. There’s something off about him. He looks and acts like a character on King of the Hill. There’s no way that it’s just a manifestation of grief and worry. If anything, he’s probably been more controlled at the press conference than he normally is. It’s subtle, but he has a pompous, sanctimonious edge about him. I doubt most teenage girls would find it pleasant to deal with such a father. This isn’t just a matter of teenage girls naturally being hormonal wrecks; Brett Anderson looks like he’s exceptionally and unnecessarily a pain in the ass for those who disagree with him, especially those in his family.
The dynamics look even worse upon examination of the daughter. Hannah Anderson looks like an exceptionally immature young woman, not at risk of anything but bad grades and maybe a desultory career, but definitely not on a very promising track. I know, I could be wrong, but the pictures of her that have been broadcast are not promising. As a rule of thumb, in my own experience girls who pose for pictures like hers have a lot of disarray in their school and work lives, and they tend to be impulsive, flighty and unstable. It isn’t just ugly and socially stunted girls that age who stay home and do their calculus homework instead of going to the mall with their smitten neighbors to pose for kissy-face selfies. A longitudinal study of my female acquaintances, to the extent that one is possible for an algebraically challenged pedant such as myself, indicates that the women who spent a lot of time in shopping mall photo booths as teenagers are generally not the ones who ended up smoothly adjusting to careers of competence and responsibility.
It inn’t auspicious. It looks like a rotund and very square scold with badly outdated eyeglasses trying to raise a sixteen-year-old daughter whose sexuality has leapfrogged ahead of her overall maturity. Brett Anderson has said that he saw nothing amiss about Hannah’s relationship with James DiMaggio and that if he had “we would have quashed that relationship in an instant,” but still, it isn’t hard to imagine the relationship between “niece” and “uncle” becoming mutually sexualized, especially since they were not kin, either biologically or legally. Also, let’s keep in mind that Hannah Anderson has reached the age of sexual consent in many jurisdictions. If you’re thinking that these jurisdictions are all libertine train wrecks, consider that one of them is Switzerland, which is deceptively unrepressed but also hardly an orgiastic freak flag parade. (There’s barely a county in the United States that isn’t sexually deranged, disinhibited and hypocritical in comparison.) Of all the things that James DiMaggio is, there is no genuine indication that he’s a pedophile. None at all. Sure, he’s a smirking twit whose maturity level at forty appears to be on par with his crush’s at sixteen, and on the low side for a high school girl at that, but that’s just assortive mating, or maybe DiMaggio’s attempt at it.
The idea of James DiMaggio being in Hannah Anderson’s league may be creepifying or odd, but it’s not at all inconceivable. Relationships of that sort become consensually sexual all the time, and often with no psychic damage to the alleged “victims.” Hannah doesn’t seem like the kind of girl who wants to date engineering students. She seems like someone who wants to date at her own Valley Girl level, and Jimmy Boy looks like the kind of guy who’d drive her to Fashion Valley to spend the evening doing absolutely nothing of any value to society instead of bugging her to do her chemistry homework. Prior to the murder-arson outburst, the worst that either of them was was a consumer. They probably didn’t think of themselves as productive members of society or as citizens, but then again, haven’t our overlords spent the last three or four decades, more or less James DiMaggio’s whole life, encouraging us to be consumers? Hell yeah, let’s all go to Hazard Center and take selfies.
Judging from the photos that have been published of the elusive duo, I would never have taken either of them, especially Hannah, for backcountry campers. After an unprecedented multistate Amber Alert, the manhunt has moved to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Students of the national security state, take note. Either DiMaggio and Anderson or a couple greatly resembling them (don’t hate on me for living in truth, or at least a plausible version of the truth) were seen hiking in hella upcountry Idaho by a fellow outdoorsman who thought nothing of them until hours later, when he noticed their resemblance to the pictures on the wanted posters. Shortly thereafter, the much sought-after 6WCU986 was found in the brush nearby, to the extent that there is such a thing as nearby in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The car had been stripped of its tags. The really weird thing, to anyone who seriously thinks that Hannah Anderson is an unconscionably violated innocent, is that the tipster who encountered them found them both well equipped for and perfectly content with their backcountry adventure.
I think they’re playing synthetic cuts of Kansas right now on The Twilight Zone. Probably some of that spare, poignant fiddle music that Ken Burns wouldn’t stop playing on his Lewis and Clark documentary, too, and maybe a little Jim Croce and Rodriguez.
This whole thing is Romeo and Juliet-meets-King of the Hill-meets-Chicago Fire-meets-Law and Order: SVU-meets-Ferris Bueller’s Day Off-meets-Lonesome Dove. If James DiMaggio and Hannah Anderson come out alive, the trial will be a goddamn circus.