I feel like there is a black cloud hanging over my head and I know I'm not alone. I haven't felt like this since Sept. 11, 2001. That feeling of needing to turn back time and change something. That feeling of being compelled to watch the news 24/7 as if that's the only thing I can do to get my fair share of the pain.
This feeling has been with me since last Friday as the news about the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. started coming in, news that became progressively worse until finally the final death toll was set. While it's always terrible when anyone is murdered, the very idea that 20 innocent children were taken was news too difficult to bear, but bear it we must.
As soon as the butcher's bill was tallied, the facts surrounding the killings began to emerge. The investigation revealed that the shooter, whose name I won't use because he deserves to be eliminated from the pages of history, had killed his mother before traveling to the school. One little boy interviewed outside the school said his teacher had locked the door and turned out the lights to "keep the wild animal out." Evidently he didn't think a person could do something like that, only a wild animal could. On second thought he hit the nail on the head.
The shooter's mother was portrayed as his first victim, but was she a victim?
The press reported that the shooter had a history of mental illness - an anti-social loner who never fit in anywhere who had to be removed from the public schools and home schooled. A child so messed up his mother warned a babysitter to never turn his back on him. That fits the pattern of these people who decide to end their own pain and feel compelled to take others with them.
What proved to be the most shocking to me was when the media reported that his mother was a "prepper" who was preparing for the end of civilization by stockpiling food, water and weapons - including at least six guns two of which were assault weapons. Preparing for the end in her fabulous New England Colonial home, no less.
But what truly mystified me was that this woman knew her son was unstable but took him to gun ranges so he could perfect his shooting skills and then, in a move that defies description, left those weapons where her spawn evidently could get his hands on them with little difficulty. Was this woman insane?
When you have a child the buck stops with you. When that child becomes a teenager you have a duty to the child and to society to be on top of them. It's a dangerous age when any kid can go off the rails, that's why parents have to watch them like a hawk. Of course there are some terrific teens out there who are a credit to their parents and are destined to be great adults. But some teenagers are riddled with hormonal angst and when that is combined with mental illness, the last thing they need is access to firearms. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out and while many parents are a bit myopic about their kids that does not excuse being completely blind.
In the postmortem after the Columbine killings, the parents of those killers claimed they had no clue. No clue they were making pipe bombs in the basement, no clue they were shooting targets in the woods, no clue they were leaving written and video diaries outlining their plan. No clue? It's a parent's job to have a clue.
A parent has a right, no an obligation, to read emails, search rooms, and generally act like a warden. Children have no rights beyond love, food, shelter, clothing and an education. They have no right to privacy. A parent is supposed to train their children to become responsible adults. A parent can't just throw up their hands and hope for the best. People say that anyone who wants a gun should have a waiting period and undergo psychical evaluation. I'm beginning to think anyone who wants to have a child should do the same.
When you are a vigilant parent, your child will say that they hate you of course, but if a teenager doesn't hate you at some point you're probably not doing your job. They will thank you for it someday and when they become parents they will know how to go on. It's not so much just about your child, but about all your generations moving into the future. I remember telling my very strict mother that I would never be like her, but when I had kids it was like I was channeling her.
But recriminations serve no one and time only flows one way. All we can do is try to learn from the past and be as vigilant as we can. We can also pray for those parents in Connecticut and hope that, while they will never be the same, they might find some peace.