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March 03, 2010

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Thank you, Kate. Few write as deftly as you do, and with as much sensitivity, on subjects that most of us do our best to avoid confronting. A question that occurred to many in the aftermath of the Amy Bishop shooting spree is what knowledge her university had of her erratic past. I am told that officials plead ignorance and I am prepared to believe they are telling the truth. But I suspect that there are cases where the warning signs are pretty apparent, and I wonder whether the mechanisms in place for dealing with such disturbed individuals are working.

"Who is?"--the most compelling question of all. How does Hamlet open? "Who's there?" I doubt if we will ever know "who is" Amy Bishop, but I am certain that she was aided and abetted by parents who protected her; a police division who would not pursue rich girls who live in big houses; a university (Harvard) which probably rubber-stamps Ph.D. degrees as long as a certain level of competence is met and a husband who seems staggeringly stupid and oblivious.

I, too, find Amy Bishop frightening and fascinating because she does not fit any paradigm. I wish people would stop talking about being denied tenure as if it is tantamount to becoming homicidal. People are denied tenure every year--yes,even Harvard Ph.D's--and they manage to survive the blow without retaliating.

"Who is?" Amy Bishop will be cloaked from us forever because her law team will shroud her reality under an insanity defense.

"Who is? Who is?" Perhaps if Robert Browning were alive, he might try to answer that.

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