Charles Bishop

The Independent headline read: “Could an acne drug have driven this boy to fly a plane into a tower?”, underneath a picture of Charles Bishop, who had flown a plane into the Bank of America building in downtown Tampa a few days previously.

The article was thorough in its investigation of the drug Roaccutane, which is suspected of being responsible for a number of suicides and cases of depression. But, in this case, why choose such an unusual way to commit suicide, and why leave a note ‘expressing sympathy’ (we have heard no more than that) for Osama bin Laden?

In all the coverage of this case, which has been reanimated through the discovery of the possible drug connection, we hear next to nothing about the life history of the 15 year old. Family, friends and teachers saw no clue to his subsequent behaviour. Only on one newscast did I hear some possibly relevant information – thrown out as if of incidental significance. Charles Bishop had spent much of his unstable early life moving from one place to another with his mother; his absent father was of ‘Middle Eastern origin’.

Without going into the complexity of the ambivalent relationship betwen father and son, or between a son and his absent father, this fact highlights a fundamental tenet of Freud’s work. We all believe it to be true, yet it is so frequently forgotten: What happens to us in our lives – the ‘whole story of suffering’ as Freud once put it – helps determine who we are. In making a name for himself through this sad self destructive act, Charles Bishop has both expressed his anger to the father who let him down so badly, while being reconciled to the powerful infantile image of the father in whose arms he has now placed himself.

Schools question:
How might the act of flying an aeroplane into a building express ambivalence (love and hate; obediance and defiance) towards the father?

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