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Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Other Elephant in the Room

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, I had posted an article on "Ignoring the Elephant on the Room," which was concerned about the disproportionate murder rates among minorities--particularly, blacks. At the end of my post, I posed the following questions:
Why the disparity? I would suggest that much of it is the result of liberal policies that have caused the breakdown of the American family, and the exclusion of boys and men from society.
Obviously, the Connecticut shooter was a young white male. However, are
[we] seeing the same trends? That is the question asked in this post from Legal Insurrection--is the war against men a cause of mass shootings?
In the same vein, Russell Nieli at the Public Discourse makes the following observations:
Though both sides in this dispute [over causes and remedies to school shootings] have something sensible to say, they’ve missed an elephant in the room either because of willful blindness to anything politically incorrect or because of a lack of real-world experience. I speak of the problems associated with divorce, family breakup, father absence, and the enormous burdens placed on a single mom who must rear a troubled male child alone.

Adam Lanza was not normal. He suffered from morbid shyness and an inability to connect with his student peers and anyone else—a cold, withdrawn, hollow shell of a person to his classmates, an Asperger's patient to professional psychologists. Even under the best of circumstances—with a loving, caring, two-parent family consisting of a husband and wife who complemented each other’s strengths and worked together as a team—raising someone like Adam Lanza would be a real challenge.

One can't say how he might have turned out under different circumstances, but statistics show that having divorced parents, as Lanza did, plus a father who moves out of the household, remarries, and has little contact with his son for long stretches of time, is not the ideal formula for successful childrearing. Yet what sociologists call “family structure issues” were rarely discussed in the media, not even on conservative talk radio where one might have expected them to have a preeminent place. Most Americans, it seems, have so many divorced or single-parent neighbors, friends, and relatives (if they are not themselves divorced or living as single parents) that discussing family structure is simply too painful and too sensitive to be taken up in any honest or candid manner.

While we may never be able to explain fully what caused Lanza's murderous rampage, the best speculation to date involves, besides mental health problems and gun availability, the challenges faced by a single mom trying to raise a deeply troubled youth. A Fox News reporter gathered from the Lanzas’ neighbors and others who knew the family situation that Lanza likely killed his mother because he thought that she loved the students and teachers of Sandy Hook School more than she loved him. Lanza knew that his mother planned to have him committed to conservatorship, and perceived her court petition as an effort to send him away. This enraged him to the extent that he killed first-graders who may have worked with his mother in the past year, and the school’s principal and psychologist, who were his mother’s good friends.

It's hard to read such an account without feeling great sadness for someone like Nancy Lanza—a single mother with a deeply disturbed male adolescent on her hands and no man in the house to turn to for help or advice. Those who knew her said that she was at her wit’s end and thought she could no longer care for her son by herself. In a saner age, when people understood the palpable harms of “broken homes” and “fatherless boys” (the terms themselves have become quaint if not archaic), the “family structure issue” would have guided reflection on the Lanza killings. But now, since any such discussion of divorce’s harms, especially the harm of not having a father present in the home, would step on too many toes, we focus instead on the safer territory of gun control and our mental health system.
 Read the whole thing.

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