11 July 2011

On Casey, Jaycee and Idenitity

I find it interesting that the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial came down at around the same time that Jaycee Dugard told her story to Diane Sawyer.  Although Casey's and Jaycee's stories are about as different as those of any two young women can be, they are, in a strange way, two sides of a coin.  It currency is identity. 

According to stories that have circulated in the media, Casey Anthony might move somewhere, assume a new name and possibly change her appearance.  Given that she cannot go back to her family--or, apparently anywhere in or near her home state of Florida--those stories make some sense.  Her acquittal on murder charges angered many people, some of whom have talked--out loud or sotto voce--of meting out their own "justice" to her.  I don't see how she can live anywhere in the United States, under her current identity, without risking her life.  

My question is this:  How willing and able is she to, essentially, end her life as she's known it and live the life of another person whom she doesn't yet know? She would probably have to take on the identity of someone who is, at least on the surface, very different from herself.  How long can she go on living that way?  Will she ever blow her cover, or will someone ever blow it for her?

I think that if someone else doesn't kill her, she may end up killing herself from the stress of having to live as someone else, without any of the people or things she's ever known.  Plus, I don't imagine that she has very many marketable or other survival skills, or that she--at least as she is now--is willing (and, possibly, able) to develop them.

So, as Casey Anthony has to leave herself (at least as the person she has been) behind, Jaycee Dugard has to, for the first time, live her life as her self. I don't doubt that she can do that, although it will be a very long process.  What she has going for her is that surviving nearly two decades of captivity--which included, among other things, sexual assaults and giving birth to the children of her captor--has probably taught her more about herself than most people ever truly know about themselves.  Very few people, I believe, can make a more honest assessment of their own needs and strengths than she can make of hers.  I can't think of a much more valuable inner resource than that. 

In a sense, I can identify with both of them, although I can draw far more inspiration from Jaycee than from Casey.  After all, when any of us transitions, we are, if you will, moving toward, and with, our selves after being in a sort of captivity ("the closet," or whatever you want to call it).  And, yes, we do have to leave an old identity behind.  But we can--or, at least I've found that I can--use a lot of lessons that we learn from our former lives as our former selves.  And while we are, in a sense, structuring new identities through our names, appearances and other aspects of who we are, what we are really doing is constructing or reconstructing our true selves from the strands and fragments of it we carried in our earlier lives.  

Although Casey doesn't seem like a terribly likable or admirable person, I wish her well or, at least, I don't wish her harm.  On the other hand, it's difficult not to feel good for Jaycee in every victory, however small, she experiences.  Really, who couldn't use her as a role model in at least some area of his or her life?

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