MESQUITE, NEV – People in St. George may not think about Mesquite, Nev. very much, but CNN is giving our small neighbor attention.
“Deaths reveal a small town’s mean streak” is CNN’s headline about Mesquite, and the story centers on the town’s murder/suicide in January 2011. City councilwoman and mayoral candidate Donna Fairchild killed her sleeping husband, Bill, and then herself after being accused of filing a fraudulent $94 expense report with the city.
CNN reports that anonymous comments made about Donna Fairchild on the Internet may have pushed her over the edge. Friends of the Fairchilds and the entire population of Mesquite were shocked, and the sad event made CNN’s front page that day.
I moved from Southern California to Mesquite in 2007 and lived there until just before the murder/suicide, when I moved to St. George. But until April I spent time in Mesquite weekly, so I saw some of the fallout – and I saw the surprisingly intense political rhetoric that led up to the tragedy.
Even people in Mesquite who didn’t know the Fairchilds personally were affected by the murder/suicide. Mesquite’s mental health clinic called in grief counselors from Las Vegas to help grieving residents. Though daily business continued as usual, the entire town seemed to pause. The question on everyone’s minds was “How on Earth did this happen?”
We’ll never know why Donna Fairchild killed her husband and then herself – while she did leave a note and call 911, she didn’t talk about her reasons. CNN has explored several possible causes, including Mesquite’s economic stagnation and the small town’s shockingly malicious political atmosphere.
I’m not going to speculate about the cause of this tragedy – speculation won’t bring Donna or Bill Fairchild back. But there is something that I think residents of Mesquite, St. George, and elsewhere should stop and think about:
It’s so easy to get caught up in things that really aren’t important – a debate with a neighbor over parking space, arguing about the local “he said she said” gossip, pointing fingers in a small-town mayor race. We, as people, are capable of incredible cruelty to our peers. Often we don’t realize how much our words and opinions can hurt other people.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” the saying goes. That saying lies – words may be what killed Donna and Bill Fairchild.
So I invite you to take a moment and step back. See the big picture. If your neighbor parks in the spot you like, it’s not the end of the world. Figuring out what he said or she said won’t really affect anyone’s life much. And a small-town mayor race is never worth the cost of a human life.
Instead of pointing the finger, try practicing compassion for your neighbor, for your child’s schoolteacher, for the person who’s getting on your nerves today. There can never be too much compassion in this world.
Who knows – maybe a little bit of compassion would have saved Donna and Bill Fairchild’s lives, and saved the town of Mesquite a lot of pain and grief.
Copyright 2011 St. George News