Sociologist on difficulties ahead for parents of killers

Sociologist Katherine Newman has studied mass shootings and has these thoughts about how the parents of the perpetrators can live the rest of their lives:

How then do parents contend with their own grief, the loss of their son, while coming to terms with who he really was and what he did to the innocent? The answer is that they never do. They are not allowed to by a public that looks for someone to blame. They are expected to express contrition, to open their most private experience to scrutiny and they do so willingly in the hope that this will somehow make amends for what they didn’t prevent from happening.

These questions are searing enough for the parents of high school shooters. They are undoubtedly worse for the Rodger family, for questions will be raised about why they didn’t keep a tighter leash on a young man with such a long history of emotional problems and psychiatric treatment. But it is precisely his age that made such surveillance problematic. No doubt they were trying to let their 22-year-old learn how to function in adult society, and that requires some degree of autonomy. The same was true for the Virginia Tech shooter…

The circle of people who come in for scrutiny and deserve sympathy widens at first but then contracts over time, and no small amount of friction emerges in the wake of such a devastating loss.

Richard Martinez, the father of Christopher who died in the Isla Vista attack, is to be applauded for reaching out to Rodger’s father. “He lost his son. I lost my son – we have that in common,” he said.

Given the importance placed on parenting in American society, particularly among the concerted cultivation crowd, the social sins of children can live on for a long time.

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