"Back then he was completely different of a person, very caring, very gentle, very sweet, kind, a little quiet, but altogether pretty great guy," she tells an Early Show interviewer. The 21-year-old added, in an interview with the Daily Mail (among others) that after she ended things "I remember his face clearly — he just looked like he had nothing to live for...He was definitely in love with me but I'm not sure if I could say I was in love with him – it was typical teenage stuff."
We're not here to decide whether this breakup was a factor in the tragic shooting that killed six; we'll leave such specifics to the psychiatrists. But it seems pretty clear that while breakups can indeed be traumatic, they probably can't spontaneously induce mental illness where there wasn't a predisposition. And while it's easy to accuse this young woman of attention-seeking, I can only imagine how vigilantly members of the press are pursuing anyone who might know the shooter — after all, his girlfriend of six years ago can hardly have been anyone's first choice of scoop. And this is a strange kind of attention to seek.
But then, it's also true that certain people seem drawn to tragedy, somehow, eager to be a part of horrifying narratives. Whenever there is a tragedy, there are people lined up to talk, undaunted by the darkness of the subject or the fact of the lives lost. Of course, in its most extreme forms this is an actual disorder — "Attention-Seeking Disorder," (or, clinically, Histrionic Disorder) which affects women disproportionately. People will sometimes align themselves with a tragedy in order to be rescuers or increase their own sense of importance. And when the tragedy is national or global, the sense of being part of a larger narrative can be heady. But everyday we see this behavior — I speak not of the extreme clinical diagnosis, but merely the desire to be that guy on local news who was somehow, however tangentially, connected with tragedy. I once knew a woman who read obituaries in the paper and then attended funerals and viewings in order to meet and comfort the families. "I miss the drama of the sadness when I don't do it, and I felt like I was helping," she later admitted. Hers was an extreme case, but perhaps just an exaggeration of a natural human feeling.
This type of person is not necessarily Hawkes herself; we can't know about her state of mind any more than we can know whether Loughner was incited by inflammatory rhetoric or if, as the Post so delicately puts it, "Gal put Loughner on path to madness." We're served up a cast of witnesses and analysts. We talk about what could have been done, what might be done in the future. And we're left as mystified, as confused and saddened as ever. If aligning or involving oneself with the events offers some small degree of solace to just one person, we can't find fault with it.
Jared Loughner's Ex-Girlfriend Kelsey Hawkes Speaks Out [Huffington Post]
Gal Put Loughner On Path To Madness [NY Post]
Our High School Love Split Tipped Gun Killer Over Edge': Childhood Sweetheart Of Jared Loughner Speaks Of His Descent Into Madness [Daily Mail]