The West Memphis Three are Free

One thing I appreciate about my dad is that, even though he is a minister, he wasn’t overly concerned with what non-Christians were up to, even if those non-Christians were Satanic. I know he kind of thought that playing Dungeons & Dragons might lead you to Satanism, but, eh, if that’s where you went, that’s where you went. He didn’t believe Satanists were sacrificing people across the heartland. And he didn’t believe one’s musical choices meant anything other than that you might have bad taste in music.

This was not the case with other ministers in the towns we lived in. I can remember two record burnings the Assembly of God church threw. I remember the town meetings about the menace of Satanism. And I remember being afraid. Honestly, both afraid that Satanism, as preached by these community leaders, did exist and was a threat to me and afraid that my friends and my brothers, skulking around in their black band t-shirts might be perceived as targets.

It’s funny. Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” was not a song I liked until recently. Not just that I didn’t like it, but that it kind of made me ill to listen to it. Now I get he’s kind saying that there’s something sad about people for whom high school was their “glory days.” I like a lot of John Mellencamp’s songs, too, but the “woo hoo, small town life, it ain’t great, but it’s mine,” strain deeply bothered me.

I didn’t like it–growing up in small towns. And I was happy to escape.

It’s hard to explain the era if you weren’t there, but I think the reason the plight of the West Memphis Three struck the chord it did is that a large chunk of the people my age and in my demographic felt like that was a possible end result for any of us–that terrible things happened and we could be blamed for those terrible things because we were already considered unwelcome outsiders in our own communities. Any excuse to get rid of us. I don’t remember hearing about it, thinking, “Oh, that’s just Arkansas. What backwards fucks.” I remember thinking “That could be Darren or John or Allen or Steve or…”

I tried to watch a little bit of their press conference, but I just couldn’t do it. They still look like guys I knew in high school.