Monday, May 06, 2013

Strange history of former teacher Eric Toth when on the lam; can you do good after a terrible crime? A real paradox


The story of former (Beauvoir school) teacher Eric Toth, who lived on the lam for five years under different identities, pretending to be a tech writer and speaker and even drug counselor, after fleeing Washington DC in 2008 when a report  surfaced of his filming child pornography, does present a certain odd paradox.
     
Justin Jouvenal ran a detailed account (:The Alias Artist") about his life on the run int eh Washington Post today, link here.   What seems so odd is that, for a time, he (alias David Bussone) had agreed to live in poverty in Phoenix in a homeless shelter, and actually was an effective volunteer working with the “downtrodden”. 
  
Willingness to do so often lives at the heart of religious (especially Roman Catholic) teaching (look at the values of the new Pope Francis).  However, there seems to be an odd psychological twist.  Toth seemed to eschew intimate relationships with other young adults (male or female) who could take care of themselves,  could perform productively in society on their own, and who could accept or reject him as another “equal” adult.
   
I’ve written about “upward affiliation” and “radical hospitality” on other blogs, with a certain degree of self-criticism.  Focusing on relationships with adults who can actually judge and criticize you sounds like a healthy thing, important for psychological growth as one moves into adulthood.  It’s gotten seen to be selfish, self-contained, and too unable to sustain other people in a way that keeps a free culture going. 

It seems as though Toth wanted relations with people over whom he could wield power in one direction.  It’s hard to believe he could have, under this masquerade, actually helped people – yet apparently he did for a while.  That would be relevant eventually in his sentencing and rehabilitation.   My experience has been that people who can’t talk back and make their own decisions in life, once they’re adults, never can go anywhere and be effectively helped.  I know this statement sounds smug, but that’s what I’ve experienced. 

Toth eventually wound up on the FBI’s “most wanted” (replacing Osama bin Laden) and was arrested in Nicaragua when recognized.  

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