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from Derf
Friendship with a Fiend

Are there certain people, with certain horoscopes who are destined to do bad things? This is a question that often comes up when people talk about astrology. I’m of the school of astrologers that answers that question with an emphatic “No”. Our fate is our character and we build our character through our choices. The horoscope shows us the qualities and circumstance from which we have to choose, and sometimes it reveals a range of choices that is severely limited. But it is still up to us to make the best of it.

This is one reason why I was so happy to find Derf Backderf’s graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer. John “Derf” Backderf is an award winning cartoonist and illustrator. He also went to the same high school as Jeffrey Dahmer and, for a time, counted Dahmer among his circle of friends. His book is a compelling look back at those years. It is expertly paced, superbly illustrated (I’ve taken the liberty of using one panel to illustrate this article) and written with both compassion and a dose moral outrage. It also gives a unique view of the off-beat teenager who became Jeffrey Dahmer.

Dahmer is one of the most repugnant serial killers of all time. There are still people (such as my wife) who cringe at just the sound of his name. Derfback’s book makes no excuses for Jeffrey Dahmer, but it allows us to see this human being as what he was before he became a monster, as just another confused and lonely boy struggling to master the darker side of his nature.

I, like every other astrologer in the Western world, have examined Jeffry Dahmer’s horoscope, and I can say without reservation that it is a tough one. (Click here to link to Dahmer’s horoscope in Astrodatabank.)  I’m not going to go into a detailed analysis here, but I could easily write several thousand words on the difficult aspects in his chart. That doesn’t mean that Dahmer was destined to become a serial killer. What it means is that there were severe challenges that he had to face, or flee. Dahmer chose to flee, first into alcoholism and then into murder.

In his book, Derfback places a lot of the responsibility for what Jeffrey Dahmer became on the adults who were supposed to be looking out for him during his youth. Dahmer was a kid that no one seemed to see. His parent’s were involved in an acrimonious divorce and teachers and school officials apparently wrote him off as just another loser. No one was there to challenge Dahmer’s fascination with dead animals, his binge drinking or his cruel sexual fantasies.

I put more of the responsibility on Dahmer. In interviews given after his apprehension, Dahmer makes it clear that he was frightened by the things he was doing and thinking even during his teens. He could have sought help. He could have confessed his problems to some responsible adult. He could have made better choices. He didn’t. I’m not saying that doing these options would have been easy for him, but that’s what hard aspects are all about. They push us to do the difficult things.