Not only has the death of a University of Maine alumnus over the weekend greatly affected the UMaine community, but the nature of the death has left a haze of miserable confusion in its wake. Famed linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs Jovan Belcher, a since-graduated UMaine football star, unexpectedly and inexplicably fatally shot his girlfriend and himself in a bizarre murder-suicide on Saturday. While we may never truly know what prompted his actions, they have stirred up an unusual dilemma.
Of course Jovan is mourned by those who survive him; the Black Bears, the Chiefs, the athletic families of which he had been a member and those who were affiliated with him personally are all grieving, wishing for solace for those affected by this tragedy.
He was reportedly kind and friendly, was a member of Male Athletes Against Violence and of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and was overall generous with his time and energy during his years at UMaine. People are mourning the loss of the man they knew who sported such exceptional qualities and talents.
Unfortunately there is a cloud of mystery and ambiguity surrounding what drove him to commit the appalling crime that he did. Perhaps it is because we don’t understand. Perhaps it is because he was someone who had such a positive impact on the UMaine community during his time here, that the news of this incident has been met with more sympathy and bemusement than anger and blame.
However, it is important to keep in mind, for the sake of generating a just and fair public response to this painful situation, what exactly the actions were that he chose to take, as well as their consequences: He fatally shot his girlfriend, following an argument they had, in their home in front of his mother. He killed himself in front of his coaching staff at Arrowhead Stadium after he encountered them in the parking lot, causing a subsequent total lockdown of the facility. He left his 3-month-old daughter an orphan. He acted selfishly and without regard for the physical or emotional trauma those acts would inevitably cause. To minimize this is a disservice to those directly and indirectly affected by his apparently uncharacteristic behavior.
In the Sunday game following the troubling events of the preceding day, the Chiefs held a moment of silence before a game in which Belcher would likely have played. That silence was dedicated not to Belcher, for whom they were undoubtedly grieving, but for victims of domestic violence at large. This display of sincere appreciation for the issues at hand that surround Belcher’s death could generate a more grounded reaction to the situation than the one those too blinded by their grief could be responsible for. Their example is not only sensitive to the facts but inspires those of us who need some perspective on the true victims of this devastating incident.
What will come out of this horrific situation is hopefully a shining light on domestic violence. There are a number of organizations working on stifling domestic violence events, such as Spruce Run, an abuse support organization, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.