Violence: A Call to Action


We are confounded, once again.

Suppositions, stereotypes, generalizations, abstractions: these collide as we await the facts.

Apprehending  facts,  understanding shuns us.

We discern no single truth will ever revive the moment  that broke our world.

Narratives – colored by dogma; reenactments – suffused with pain; chronicles –  cold with science; reports – protective of particular interests; all emerge, and, in profusion, crowd the event itself.  Uncertainty and  shared vulnerability; guilt and shame; sorrow and loss; power and powerlessness; these are now the stuff of advancing legend and turgid conflict.

If it is a young white man with a gun, the surge to blame the bullies; invective on the doctors and the teachers who let that man-child walk unmedicated on the street.  Condemn the mothers, and the videos, and Hollywood. And, of course, the gun laws, our cowboy culture caused the crime.

If we face a  military mass murderer, our cries become less certain.  Again, the doctors, and the gun laws are to blame.  But we, also, shoulder shame:  we mistreat our “heroes.”  Those we trained to kill  for country, asserting a  just cause, conceiving war will leave no trace on the young psyche; the fragile soul  sent forth in isolation, sometimes desolation, and discarded on his return.

And if police personnel kill, our  bonds may fracture: this collusion that we all risk as much each day.  More splintered if the kill happens to be racial:  that this is not happenstance is suddenly exposed.

Certainly, not because white cops seek to kill black children.  And,  not because those of color commit more crime. But because how we deploy our civilian control resources puts those with less more at risk than those with enough.

But,  in the frenzy and the fury that follows the murder, in the necessary quest to grasp the moment, restore order, and prevent another kill, the seeds of fundamental change are never sown.

Nor is the ground prepared.

Individual justice may not  be possible.

And  the roar which follows, creates a tunnel of distortion.

Calls for basic education are silenced by talk of higher taxes. Pleas for jobs with living wages are termed disloyal and greedy. Proposals for representation of all races in government and industry  are discarded as “racist.”

We have entered a passage where shrilled voices  dissipate without communication.

Ours is a pornographic relationship with the gun.  The constitution did not guarantee private home military arsenals.  But in the days of 3D printers, the gun control lobby  cannot continue to fight the battle it did in 1985.

Violence occurs by gun. By knife, machete, fist and bean bag bullet. Drug overdoses and untreated viruses in poor communities deliver violent death.  Violence is imposed  through hunger caused by poverty, by disease, by inadequate housing.  Income inequality is violent.

Around the country, the brave are speaking loudly; some so clearly the great vacuüm of purpose may be filled.

Again, there are vigils which  mythologize the vibrant humanity of the dead.

Still, more are dying, more are killing, old refrains are repeated,  too few are listening.

If any one of us  succeeds in exiting the tunnel, perhaps change could be instigated.  Not through some major media event or  by savvy use of the internet, crowd-funding or any other modern, inspired, tactic.  Perhaps, the time has come for wholly “retro,”  and in that sense, “conservative” action:  perhaps the time has come when the only voice clearly heard is our own: the change we seek must begin within ourselves ,and, once seeded there, in our sphere.

 “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Leo Tolstoy


The Mystery of “Crime Porn”


Getting through it, catholic school felt alternately like suffocating in quicksand, routing the lurking ambush of a terror squad , or  expanding with sudden joy as when a hurricane approaching is preceded by brief but glorious sunlight and tranquility.

Experiencing life, I often credited that education for the rewards gained from the love of literature  acquired despite the cautious offerings but likely because of the scholarly approach and the appreciation of excellence:  pleasure in the written word, even more in the spoken; solace in time of sorrow; refreshment in time of leisure.  Taking my children to the now almost quaint institution of a bookshop in their adolescence, I could command attention, almost impress, with my deep knowledge of literature and experience of the classics.  What had been forbidden during school days, Lawrence, Woolf, Joyce,  Lessing, later  transformed into the emotional and intellectual affluence and security of  a well-read life.

Alas, one with its quirky rules….

“If one starts something, one must certainly finish…”   And I struggled to finish every book I read until  past my mid-century mark!  Imagine discovering new freedom after 50!

“Read at least one ‘classic’ every summer……”  Feeling, forever young!

And “some books are less worthy than others!”  Yes, the shame of reading trash!  Whole genres…. Like the Mystery novel!

Until about five years ago, the mystery novel, like  its film, dramatic or television adaptation was, for me, a lesser thing, not even a guilty pleasure!    Dorothy Sayres?  Patricia Highsmith? Serious fiction?  Surely, not.

Ill informed, cheap pretension! –  my view that the mystery novel, or film, play or drama, is a lesser art.  Hawthorne, Green, Poe, Sayers, Tey, DuMaurier, Eco, Black. Surely, these are great writers, indeed.  Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Morse, Maigret, Montalbano, Comissario Brunetti, Wallander, Miss Marple, Miss Fischer:  investigators who delight,indeed.  Alfred Hitchcock, David Finchner, Carrol Reed, Francis Ford Coppolla, mystery genre directors who perfected an art form.

The good mystery engages the intellect in a complex puzzle, commanding attention to the most subtle detail.  Through this conceit, the skilled author lays bare and probes layers of the culture and society surrounding the characters: the physical landscapes, the interiors of the homes, offices and public spaces, the art, music, poetry of the day or of the past which supports the characters; the landscapes of the mind.  The mystery exposes the organization of the society, how it adheres, where it fragments, what it values and what, or whom, it discards.  Through the portrayal of crime, and the consequences of crime, concepts of justice are examined; issues of class, race, religion and gender  probed.  We  observe  equality and inequality, generosity and self-interest.  The mystery scrutinizes human motivation, often exposing the role of history in contemporary identity: the effects of emotional loss and the loss of power; the consequences of addiction, greed and mental illness.  The mystery can introduce the foreign and make it ordinary, whether it be the distant place or the idiosyncratic hobby or passion, such as collecting a rare bird or a stamp with a particular ink.  The mystery feeds the human hunger for an understandable world – where  chaos is tamed, action and consequences are predictable, if  only we go back and see the clues.  The mystery genre answers the quest for restored order, the search for social justice, a belief in connection and control.

Alas, in television, in particular, the mystery has been mutilated.    As one idea  so well presented in Gina Gionfriddo’s play Raptrue, Blister, Burn, television and film mysteries are toxic with sexplotation plots which are, in essence, modern “crime porn” masticated for the masses.  Not just a murder, we confront a plot of serial killers sexually abusing young women or boys, formalistically, securing trophies, eating , burning or mutilating them, or engaging in  some other perversely imagined amalgamation of male-commanding, female-submissive  scenario of  violence, gore and ritual, all available in prime time and cable for download and on the internet, 24 hours a day.  Fine actors, like Kevin Bacon or Viola Davis pollute the images of FBI agents or Law  Professors, indeed of human beings,  as they become these new tv “crime porn” stars (The Following, How to Get Away With Murder)  in dramas which do much more than merely coarsen public discourse: they pollute the national psyche.

The flood of “crime porn” in our theaters and on our screens fulfills none of these basic needs and aims at none of these aspirations.  Nor is the issue whether or not there is evidence to suggest that the violent degradation of women and children and the occasional man on the screen increases real life violence.  For even if this is not true, it is clear that ours is a society that is far too violent, far too toxic, and, certainly,  far too intolerant.  I recall my incredulity upon learning  that the crowds had hungrily  gathered to watch beheadings during the French Revolution.  Could this be the  impulse  which stimulates the greedy  creation and consumption of “crime porn” today?

The devolution of  “crime porn” provides us with no surrounding layers of culture,  (art, literature, music, landscapes) to cushion or surround the crime, to give a meaning, a context for the violence or a significance for the act or the actor.  Typically, in crime porn plots, the darkness of deranged criminal is only slightly less dark than some corrosive thing in the life or past of the detectives; the question of how society coalesces, what it values, how it is generous, is not often asked, much less answered.  Were it to be, the answer  would be as dark and ugly as the depiction of the crime itself.  Crime porn does not make chaos understandable, the unthinkable comprehensible; it does not provide a sense of justice and restored order.  Rather, crime porn seems to reflect our own anxiety that our world is intolerably out of control, craven, degraded, senseless and adrift.

The riddle is that we call this entertainment.  The puzzle is, we permit new, more lavish, star-studded performances every year.  Nationwide, we decry the many dangers of the media – cyber bullying, cyber crime, government surveillance – all while this “entertainment” violence propagates unimpeded.  The perplexity is our passivity.

As at other times in my life, I am grateful for the solidity gained from my classic, if confining and imperfect, education.  A screen can be switched  from images to words or a book picked up, and these, detective fiction included, can still transport to reaches where humanity and justice are examined, explored, considered.

The mystery, it seems, is how our culture, as a whole, can be moved to some place safe from this pandemic of “crime porn”.

Never Never Never Call That Man a Peacemaker ….

Big Bad Wolves and outsized monsters stayed away from my childhood nightmares.  Instead, the gold streaked waters I played in by day transmuted into a murderous tidal wave and the ginger puppy from the house next store behaved as a sharp toothed executioner.  Still, a few deep breaths, re-orientation and peaceful slumber could be attained.

The fear and dread that lingered I encountered in the light of day.  Just briefly, the hateful screed of Ian Paisley accosted, until my parents, too late aware, ruffled, banished me to some safe spot. There the demon’s words, so sinister and malign, fertilized the seed of fear already in the Philadelphia air for those of color. Hate: dangerous new form of  speech, tactile, palpable in those times.   Mephistopheles had spoken.

To grow, to hope, to change. A narrative available to the most undeserving.

And so,  Paisley died a man saluted for a change of heart.  Cameras captured images: his hands outstretched and grasping the hands of those he had zealously christened “vermin”- their hands now  undistinguishable from his own.

So long as his was the titular “First” seat in government, above the “bloodthirsty monsters,” his colossal ego was soothed, his vanity sated. In the waning years of his turbulent public pursuits, he fashioned a more seemly costume.  Though who can judge his madness, his mission?”

The statesmen, and almost all men they are, call him Peacemaker,” Charismatic,” ” Shrewd,”Loved Elder Statesmana “Big Man with a Big Heart.”

And a big, venomous voice .  So many hearts long ago stopped beating in the conflagration of petrol bombs. More pump blood still through weary veins of bodies mutilated by the Troubles. And watch those impassive, static hearts maimed with the words bellowed long ago to a believing mind,  passed down to child, then to the grandchild, growing in the quartered streets still looking for the halcyon days long promised…

True, better that the thunder of his voice ceased its eternal shaming, vicious speech.  True, that voice  awakened the righteous that those  condemned   at dawn for faith or color or choice of loving partner could be freed from hate  and vitriol come sundown should  the zealots  by mere happenstance decree some new prey more worthy of pursuit. True, a hand stretched out in peace, however late, no longer fells or wounds those in its path.

But Never, Never, Never call that man a peacemaker. 05.41.142014-08-18 16.35.29


The disembodied voice proclaims the virtue of another star who discarded life like one more piece of outdated bling, not sparkling with sufficient dazzle when moonlight reached the designated spot at the appointed time in the summer sky.  

The car chugs through that part of town still smelling of the bacon fried on the greasy grill this morning, holding tight to the beer and vomit chucked upon the stairs last night or was it possibly the night before?

Its crowded corridors echo the voice of that man who professed cleansing light into these streets .

(did he promise? or did we  believe? did he assure?  or did we just imagine?)

From his unholy pulpit, without audacity, he blesses now –

not the life of the teen shot down by the law-man with a gun,

but the  suicide ringed with riches but living with despair.

And in these sweltering houses, in the thermal shops, on these misty corners, the grocer and the barman and the mother and the unemployed:

they all listen, and they are puzzled – as though he now speaks a foreign tongue.

The unarmed teen disobeyed police orders.  Ten bullets showered round him as he died on the street in mid america in light of day!

The suicide broke the same laws for which the grocer’s son and the barman’s brothers and many  husbands endured dark prisons and forfeited paths to riches the star has thrown away.

To live with darkness, to live with sorrow, to live with challenge.  Life exacts authenticity, endurance.

That we can embrace each light, remaining buoyant until each evening is mere fiction dressed up,  displayed  and peddled  as  precious precept: a dream, a mantra, a sharpster’s slogan until it collapses – sodden, sad, shaming, like the suicide or  broken promise of champions bygone.

Somewhere on a Mountaintop….

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASomewhere on a mountaintop …. dawning caresses awareness; the nearly flawless skin about her eyes lurches;   her silken limbs emerge – brocade and silks, so softly set aside.

On the terrace, the chill has not absconded.  She lifts her shawl, steps out to the abundant morning; beyond, sierra silhouetted against the breaking day, blue enveloping.

The breeze is piquant with juniper, pine ,musk, and sage, and the trace of dew lingering. Collecting into a cloud of steam, above the translucent coffee pot, morning air  steeps her soul with satisfaction, and with a twinge of sadness: her eye contains the image of migrant men in the open truck far down below on the rocky road ascending to a farm somewhere out of view.


Somewhere on a mountaintop….she accompanies her flock to accept the day as it arrives upon the chilled and rocky slope above her whitewashed cottage on the hillside so distant now and barely seen.

Stillness, then the silence snapped by the crack of  sheepdogs barking, the sharp calls echo through the hills, the herd replying. A melody of hooves and brays and barks and bleats and birds and morning.

She settles in a meadow for her meal, the thermos steaming. Her swollen hands,red and knobbed and rough, grasp the teacup clumsily, and are warmed.  Sunshine gathers strength as does the smile that lingers behind flagging eyes that surveil the rock and  field and sky and perceive majesty.


Somewhere on a mountaintop….  she  no longer knows if it is night or  it is day.


Cacophony. Dissonance. Tumult. Noise. Horror, Wails. Moans. Groans. Torment. And worst: Silence.

 Her eyes, unsighted  now, are parched; tears remain her burden. Fouled air. Ruthless heat. Implacable hunger. These cower in the face of fear. Pulverized sand and dirt cling to her skin, climb down her throat. Her thoughts emerge from blackness to watch again helplessly as he is stolen from her life ,his own extinguished. 

Words amass and seem to mean something about survival …

Women,Violence and Education:The Politics of Empathy


Only when lions have historians will Hunters cease to be heroes.    African Proverb



This Spring delivered worldwide tragedies,  collecting western press attention, sometimes obsession, often releasing waves of compassion and support into the international community.

A Malaysian plane disappearing.  A South Korean ferry filled with celebrating teens capsizing. Deadly mudslides and tornadoes in the United States.  Earthquake and fire in Chile.

These much documented events developed as Syria, Central Africa, the Mideast, South Asia, in fact the world, continued to roil in conflict.

US media zealously displayed the emergence of a “new cold war” between the United States and Russia, a monumental clash of personalities: Putin and Obama.

But world media largely ignored the capture of hundreds of young women and girls in Nigeria.  The international press  highlighted the horror almost immediately. Leading United States outlets such as the New York Times and NPR gave consumers brief  note of the tragedy.  But, the “missing schoolgirl crisis” did not become a media event until two weeks of “inadequate response ” by the Nigerian government.

Some suggest the grief-stricken cries of  the parents along with the empowering challenge of  the female education activist, Malala Yousafzai, engaged the Nigerian diaspora triggering world-wide political protests, online campaigns and a twitter hashtag program engaging celebrities such as Michelle Obama and Justin Timberlake.

Nicholas Kristof on Sunday called for United States intervention.  The United States Government, on the eve of a  Global Economic Conference scheduled in southern Nigeria, has agreed to offer support along with France and Britain.  Promises for assistance do not suggest immediate results will follow despite the well appreciated powers of the US anti terror machinery. Headlines across the press, television, radio and online media herald United States intervention.  Few understand initial efforts are limited to ten specialists.

One may be justifiably perplexed about how a world power which can locate a well protected target such as bin Laden can be limited in abilities to find young women in difficult terrain.

United States relations with Nigeria are not simple.

Black hats are easily placed on the criminals.  Boko Haram, generally translated as “forbid western education,”  as a  group initially represented protest against a class based society in which the wealthy alone were educated, generally in western capitals.  The educated returned as leaders who, to the founders of Boka Haram’s view,   impoverished and subjugated the population.  There is general agreement that this political mission has been abandoned for a criminal enterprise of murder, rape and greed.

The issue for the media and the US government has been whether or not the Nigerian establishment can justly wear a white hat and be “deserving” of US assistance.  Nigerian ties to “radical” muslim groups, its own repressive policies and history,  and the economic challenges in the country suggest strategic and opportunistic issues for the government.  The sincere may also raise human rights concern.

But the young women remain in danger.

The abductors and torturers of the women and girls are alleged to have connections with international organizations interested in imposing sharia law on populations. The Nigerian government is also alleged to have abused women and girls of the Boko Harman to punish its militants.

Raping, mutilating and enslaving women is a time-honored tradition of war across society. This is a fact which should not be lost as the world finally turns its attention to the plight of these young women.

Of course, education is vital to any society.  Like the water of the natural world, education serves as the basis for any and all development.  Without education of the population, a civilization cannot be sustained.

Fundamentally, however, the abduction and torture, the enslavement and sale of these  young women is not an issue of female education.  It is an issue of violence against women.

We need be watchful of campaigns such as “protect our girls” for the implicit paternalism which has historically generated cultures of violence. We need to  also speak loudly and unequivocally for peace, for a refusal to tolerate sexual or physical violence against women.

This terrible tragedy has caused pain and loss to parents, brothers, grandparents, friends, aunts, uncles, cousins.  We must be mindful of the personal nature of that pain which surely must be fraught with images of the horrible violence inflicted on the child.

Ironically, in the massively educated west, media and government manipulation of this tragedy seeks to suggest appropriate targets for empathy and political action.

The resulting campaign for educational access for women is certainly vital .

It is difficult to learn to read, however, at the point of a gun.

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They insist I think of War



cropped-hires_071112-n-9898l-030.jpgA PROSE POEM

They insist I think of war, and yet I always think of you, mother, though I recall not a single word we ever spoke of war, that flesh could tear and blood swamp the sand; that one is just, or not, to footslog into battle and shoot and kill and even die upon demand.

Red and white and blue and cotton candy, thirty-six inch flags festoon facades of brick box houses, dreariness costumed for the day with shiny celebration crowned at evening with sparklers and ice cream; thundering ashes herald colors briefly before the sullen, sulking fall to blackened sidewalks where the beer-stinking men in tobacco stained shirts you told me not to talk to slovenly slump aside the fire engines as the bloated, weary wives chase home children who have now forgotten celebration.  The crisp morning marchers and their rhythmic beat who with bugles and their drums paraded proudly are now as silent as the guns and soldiers no longer in procession, not seen again until the evening news shows body bags on beaches on some other day.

I know, now,  when you avowed the Easter Rising, it was not Christ, your Lord, of whom you spoke, but of men and women, young, proud, and some who were only hungry, gathering in the fields and in the mountains, marching, marching, marching blindly through the night and into day, through the mists and by the rivers, not to capture the flag of freedom but to become your Martyrs, while Others, wielding weapons,  butchers and the butchered,   survivors donning robes of Justice for the executions.

Grandfather from a crumpled photograph regards posterity, defies judgment of us all; no nation’s costume ever weighed his shoulders;  intelligence he gathered sheltered under rock while Black and Tan colors darkened your toddler world, careening you so high, the rifle first a truncheon then a jungle gym, fearsome,  until the chaos and the cruelty receded with the dawn; was it black and tan and red of blood that rankled dreams, a smite forever upon freedom’s call; igniting  bombs, no not mere Troubles, mother, fulsome battles of a war.

You agreed with him: you had not crossed an ocean, breathed a lifetime here upon a foreign shore to release both sons, or either, to a jungle death for some unknown rich man’s gain. He, more than you, esteemed Law and Order; natural law allowed that he abduct them to frozen reaches receiving the rebelling native-born.  A war not blessed by the Holy Father cannot be a War that calls HIS sons to die. He rejects a hand to walk together with the Peaceful; to private pain, a solitary solution is all.

The small screen flashes black and white impressions, leaders slain, cities burning, choppers feeding poison to the air; a child’s screams inside  fires, all are raging; blood-soaked men on stretchers without limbs.  Chants echo charging men in suits with children’s slaughter and youth in jeans with cowardice and fear. Communication crumbles into chaos, its reverberating silence strikes out with pain.

Unlike yours, my life collected pathways: railroad cars and ferries, jumbo jets and caravans, sleeping trains and rented automobiles careening through the darkness into splendor;cardboard camps transfigured into sparkling cities when cartographers and politicians proclaim a nation’s line is crossed.  Outside schools, inside churches, in the harbors where the veteran gunboats rest, on many cars and on more country houses, playgrounds, courts, malls, gas stations, airports, synagogues, temples, in the fields and the stadiums, at the theater and the mortuary as well, in town centers and on the outskirts the colors: the red, the  white, the  blue, and the stars all scream.

Halliburton, Kellogg Industries, income inequality, Boeing, Nestle, homelessness, United Tech, Northrup Grumman, PTSD,  BAE Systems, mass shooting,  Lockheed Martin, rape, General Dynamics, Dyn Corp and  Flourer, failing schools, Elite Foods.

  They insist I think of War…




He Lay Waste A Village. And His Mother Too.

Brookfield_Center_village_greenWhen the  bloodbath smothered my awareness as I worked at home on December 14, 2012, I felt the icy rain  and despairing grey skies freeze my heart. My own children were grown. What matter. Life still feels a dangerous mine-field when you love so much. In an incomprehensible fraction of an instant, the very essence of your life can be obliterated.

I joined a nation grieving, a world, in fact.  I grasped again my personal perplexity at gun ownership, shooting for sport.  I suppose I entered with the grieving searching for a reason in those early hours, before understanding that reason and madness can never co-exist.

Soon, I was also saddened, however, as the media, the official statements and ultimately the president made a body count: “twenty six victims. “Twenty children” and “six adults” shot dead in Newtown.

His mother was a victim. Surely.  He killed her.  (And he, too, must be counted somewhere?  A human life, he lived, he died. He died with great obscenity).

On March 17, 2014, Andrew Solomon published an article in The New  Yorker, The Reckoning. In this article, and in his discussions of it on other media, Solomon, partially based on his previous writings and interviews relating to the Columbine massacre and on his interviews and research into the Newtown shootings, paints a portrait of Adam and Nancy Lanza.  He also describes Peter Lanza from these sources, mediated by Mr. Lanza and his wife’s lengthy interviews with Solomon. What emerges is another portrait of an American horror which places at its center a mentally ill young man, infantalized in many ways, raised with  deficient, provocative mothering . Mr. Solomon has extended the narrative which has alternately blamed, then erased, Nancy Lanza.

It is probably true that had Ms.Lanza and I encountered each other on a PTA committee we would have struggled to  become friends.  The chronicle of her history is as a well-heeled girl from New Hampshire, popular and successful, from an established family. She married her high school sweetheart to become a  stock broker and then stay at home mom in a posh Manhattan suburb.  Suffice it to say, my history has few points of intersection.

She enjoyed guns.  I abhor them.  She enjoyed shooting for sport.  I cannot comprehend such a thing.  She met  friends at the local bar on occasion.  I do not.  She loved her children.  That is a passion we shared.

There is little else we know of Nancy Lanza.  Did she like to read?  Did she enjoy the opera?  Did she have hobbies other than guns: cooking, gardening, knitting, painting, hiking, running?  Was she religious?  Why did she not date?  Was she in therapy?  Did she confide in the sometimes mentioned “best friend?” Did she visit her other son, or he her? Did she like to shop?

I am relieved that there is much we do not know.  Researching for this post was repellant for the intimacies of a life on view. The State’s Attorney’s Investigation necessarily examined every inch of her home, her correspondence, her phone calls, her clothing, her possessions, her life.  The parts which link her to the horrors of the morning of her death have been memorialized in cyberspace.  This is who she is.  This is the sum of her remembered life.

That and her absence among the twenty-six stars on the Newtown firehouse.  The absence of a bell toll for her on the anniversary of the massacre. The failure of a mention by President Obama when he calls on the nation to remember the slain of that day.

If the mother of the slain child,  Ana , Nelba Marquez Green, has the generosity to call for empathy and counts Nancy Lanza as a Newtown victim, I suggest we all need to do so.

I suggest we need to do this because she was a victim of Domestic Violence. This time, and not for the first time, Domestic Violence shattered a community, a nation and reverberated throughout the world.

In the immediate aftermath of her death, when the wise began to question how our society copes with mental illness, a brave and insightful woman posted an article “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” to the relief of many frightened mothers (and fathers). The post is extraordinary especially since information  now available from the State’s Attorney’s Investigation Report was mere rumor and innuendo at that time.

Evidence suggests that Adam Lanza suffered from developmental delay mushrooming into neurological/behavioral/medical/psychological and or  psychiatric issues as he moved through adolescence and early adulthood.  Documents summarized in the State Attorney’s Report and the Solomon article conflate time.

It is difficult to distinguish which of Lanza’s faetures discovered in the middle school years were known to have spiraled out of control into his last years. Lanza’s middle school experiences appear relatively well documented by school and medical sources. Still, these records present contradictory pictures.  Some show a severely disordered  child while others indicate a quite polite one who was not even bullied at school.  In fact some of the school reports are so “normal” one wonders why there would be a reason to pull that child from school or seek professional help at all.  The child described, they note, for whatever reason, had “at least one friend.”

The apparently contemporaneous professional reports herald lurking danger. At this juncture, the question most respectfully arises, where is the village? Certainly this is not a victim blaming exercise.  It is a genuine inquiry: to what extent do we as a community have a duty of care to our members, our children, to offer support to those so obviously struggling?

People question, “How could she not see?” “Why did she not get help?”  People who have never met the family sit in judgement.  “Many  parents, perhaps most, have to find the balance between devotion and denial… Nancy Lanza failed.” states Ruth Marcus, of the Washington Post definitively. Many condemn the deceased woman for what she failed to see or do which can be pinpointed so precisely in hindsight. But, none of these people were present in Nancy Lanza’s life as she was coping with a disordered, adult son.

Nor does it seem there was a large support system for Ms. Lanza when Adam was still a minor.

I would hope that if I were home schooling my child because he experienced, as Solomon states, “sensory overload” and “panic attacks” at school, or if my child was enrolled in  “special classes”, there would be a teacher, social worker, child welfare worker overseeing my tutelage to ensure that I was providing the necessary services.  I would hope that homeschooling, an alternative for creative, enriched learning, is not also being used as on “out of sight, out of mind” method to unload the system of its responsibilities to children with special needs. Newtown tragically demonstrates how  special needs belong to the community not merely to the child.

I trust that if my neighbor’s child had an “episode” in school, the authorities would call paramedics as well as the parent.  I would hope that child would not disappear into the care of a single parent who could be bewildered and overwhelmed.

I expect schools would refer my grandchild to physical or occupational therapy if he exhibited coördination difficulties and extreme fine motor concerns to prevent a teenager from lacing  his shoes.

And I wonder if there is not a professional duty lying outside the family.

If  a child diagnosed with a disorder or condition which substantially impairs his ability to take part in life fails to receive recommend treatment, ought there not be follow-up to ensure the welfare of the child is protected?  Certainly, we can imagine a scenario where an impoverished parent refusing medical recommendations and failing to assist a child to socialize “normally” might risk the actual legal custody of the child. That child could be institutionalized.  Is it wealth which buys the privilege of privacy to leave a child inadequately treated?

A panel video discussion on “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother.  Sories from the Front Line” on The Huffington Post in 2012 considered this lack of “village cooperation.” The Lanzas shared with other families the problem of having a child difficult to pigeonhole into  “diagnoses” in a DSM label-driven mental health care system.

Many families struggle with children who  are described by their loved ones as  “brilliant, loving and amazing” and also “volatile, disruptive and explosive.”  It is not so rare that a parent comes to fear an explosive child, particular a child who grows larger or stronger than the parent. Compassionate people describe these children as “needing to develop past their behavior issues.”  Or, as one parent suggested, needing structure which would provide the “scaffolding the brain required to develop. ” Many times this special attention is gained in therapeutic school settings or day schools for special needs students.

The evidence does not suggest that the experts or school systems ever recommended such placement options for Adam Lanza. The Lanzas considered and rejected “private school” except for a brief time in which Adam attended Catholic School. Neither is there a suggestion that either Peter or Nancy Lanza considered a therapeutic home or a special school at critical stages in Adam’s youth.

It appears that Nancy Lanza was the “primary parent” for her sons as they grew.  Peter Lanza told Solomon that he considered that his relationship with his sons hardly changed after the separation from them in 2001 since he had always worked “ridiculously long hours.” Adam was 9 years old.  Apparently, Ryan and Adam lived with their mother. Peter Lanza lived a commutable distance in Stamford, keeping a cordial relationship with mother and visiting his sons on weekends.  He chose to remain involved in schooling and medical concerns.   The parents together participated in Adam’s development into a young man with a sense of humor, a fascination with World War II and a nascent wish to join the military.

The family engaged in gun activity.  Much has been reported about mother’s taking Adam to NRA shooting classes and to a shooting range.  Documents evidence that father took his son shooting as well.  An undated birthday card also evidences a promise from father to Adam to do the same when he next saw his son.  This was apparently after Adam had stopped visiting his father and suggested as an inducement to resume visits. Many are  incredulous that anyone voluntarily keep a gun and ammunition near a person as apparently disturbed as Adam Lanza.  In Solomon’s interview, Peter Lanza is critical of his deceased wife for several things, but  he absolves her for this, stating she would not have done so had she believed Adam to be violent.

According to Solomon, Peter Lanza is a man in need of precision about facts.  One might question why he did not quest for more precision as to the source of the clear suffering of one of his sons.  He is described as a “docile parent.”  Solomon portrays Peter Lanza as  an “affable,” successful, executive accountant not prone to examining emotions. This lack of understanding of or insight into the emotional world could have been something the man passed on to the boy.   Even as I write these phrases, bordering on, if not crossing, a line of psychologizing a person I have never met and never will meet, I cringe.  Yet such long distance analysis has been the posthumous fate of Nancy Lanza.

What emerges from Solomon’s article and the State’s Attorney’s Investigation Report is a portrait of a woman entrapped in a solitary and isolating relationship with her son.  No evidence exits to confirm that this relationship was physically abusive before December 14, 2012.

On that date, the domestic abuse which had controlled her life morphed into murder. Peter Lanza’s weekend contacts with Adam ceased after his son obtained a driver’s licence and a car in 2010.  Peter Lanza told Solomon that around that time Adam displayed no violent or aggressive tendencies in any way despite a “fascination with mass shootings and firearms.” Mr. Lanza had concluded after two years of not being in contact with Adam in any direct way that “It was crystal clear something was wrong” before the murders happened.  Still, on Adam’s last birthday, father did not force a visit to his adult son because, essentially, he knew it would involve a fight and he chose not to make a public scene. Without judging any of those facts, it is crystal clear that Nancy Lanza had no help caring for Adam’s escalating needs through immediate family.

Whether she had any help at all is not established. Solomon’s research and Peter Lanza’s report confirm the impression given by other documentary evidence that the older Adam grew, the less space Nancy Lanza experienced for her own life. According to these sources, as early as age 14, an obsessive adolescent was directing his compliant mother to join him in refraining from touching metal surfaces.  He issued other demands which were reportedly obeyed by his mother: he dictated what shoes she could where and how heavily she could tread; he considered it “inappropriate for her to “lean on” kitchen counters; he directed where she could walk in the kitchen and she agreed to get him computer parts so he could hide his cyber imprint.  Prescribed medication caused disabling side effects and was discontinued without substitution.   Adam’s other compulsions increasingly affected his mother’s life:  he was restrictive in what foods he would eat and how food could be arranged on a plate so that food items could not touch each other; his clothing needed washing several times a day, a demand with which she complied.  In addition, Adam was directing which rooms in the home sunlight could enter, who could ring the doorbell and  when and other factors which affected his sensory peculiarities.  Nancy could offend and enrage Adam or she or some other stimulus could send him into a catatonic depression or uncontrolled weeping  at the slightest misstep.  Eventually communication between them appears to have been limited to email, with Adam often unresponsive.  Nancy Lanza chose to live in such a fashion with her adult son.

Immediately before her death Ms. Lanza confided to someone that she expected to live with Adam for “a long time.”

In domestic violence, the abused often seeks the approval of the abuser.   The intimate nature of the relationship between the two magnifies the “power and control” features of the relationship.  The fact that the victim is the mother of an abusive son can mean her entire identity – am I an adequate mother, a worthy person – is compromised by the abuse.  Feelings of shame can prevent an abused family member from reaching out for help.  As can feelings of powerlessness.

Parricide (child murder of a parent) is not a widely studied form of domestic violence. Unfortunately, it happens. Research suggests that this form of domestic violence is associated with  a victim surrendering the role of an adult within the family.  As she does so, she experiences increasing feelings of isolation.  Because of the shame associated with this form of abuse, she may increase her own isolation.  Generally, there is  lack of information about lethal, non-lethal physical and/or emotional “child on parent” abuse (except perhaps in cases of the elderly which may have different dynamics).   This lack of information can explain the lack of community resources for the prevention and treatment for families with this type of dysfunction.

In the case of Newtown, it is also useful to examine our cultural experience of family violence.  Especially in recent years, the parentified child is a feature of television and movies but also common in the literature and other media of the times.  This social reinforcement of  weak parent models is harmful.  Certainly children are due respect and participation within families. However, current research suggests that confusion of family roles is unhealthy and a potential breeding ground for violence. In addition, the same media continues to exalt violence especially for and to males.  We raise our sons in a world filled with pressure for them to meet social expectations to be “tough.”  Studies reinforce instinct that this media messaging can contribute to  “accumulating aggression in male children.”

Peter Lanza told Solomon he was troubled Nancy Lanza “lied” to him that Adam was getting better. (A review of the States Attorneys Report does not necessarily support Mr. Lanza’s conclusion on this point.) He also suggested: “Nancy’s pride prevented her from asking for help.  She wanted everyone to think it was ok.”

True, pride is the opposite of shame.  A glass half full.  A glass half empty.

Shame is a major impediment to a victim’s seeking help.  Blame reinforces of shame.  A community must have available and known resources for a victim before she can seek relief. There is no evidence that Adam Lanza was violent towards his mother before December 14, 2012.  In fact, evidence fails to confirm that he was violent towards anyone. But the evidence does suggest that Nancy Lanza was, as one professional stated in Solomon’s article, increasingly “becoming a prisoner in her own home.”  She was engaged in a downward cycle of emotional abuse of the most dangerous kind for all concerned.

What puzzles me is the poignant fact that in the hours before her murder, Nancy Lanza gave herself a holiday at a mountain spa. She cooked meals her clearly food-disordered son likely did not eat.  He apparently functioned independently  while she was gone, although his destruction erupted upon her return.  She had purchased an RV and was making plans to move away, start a new life in a new state for her son at a new school. What gave her the strength for these changes?  How did she muster the courage to leave behind the person who apparently dominated her every waking moment?   How could she free herself from that control…and then return?  What gave her the strength, energy and hope to plan a fresh start?

Solomon suggests that this very step – affirmatively planning to move into a different future – may have been the seeds of her destruction. She could have angered Adam with her recognition that she would live with him “for a very long time”; Adam was a young man craving independence.  As the collected evidence shows, he was also utterly incapable of such independence. Peter Lanza states he was distanced by the” intensity” of the Nancy and Adam’s relationship, though there was nothing problematic in the “nature of ” the intensity itself.

Solomon suggests that unreferenced reports on matricide indicate  it is a crime committed by “overprotective  sons” who wish to “free themself from their dependence. ”  Matricide is employed in these overly dependent, conflict laden relationships.  The perpetrator ‘s mother tends to be smothering, the father, distant, passive.

The  literature I studied suggested that matricide, a subclass of parricide, is most often committed by males aged 12-25, less often committed with guns.  It is a crime of domestic violence, often correlated with schizophrenia, severe depression and suicide.  It is a lashing out of extreme rage, usually pre-planned, a concomitant with suicide. It is the “desperate act of severely ill and inadequately treated mentally ill” people. As I discussed, studies suggest that a  disintegrated family structure, unassertive parents and a  child experiencing  a lack of leadership are risk factors.    As with all violence, matricide is a crime of power and control.

Murder victims are not generally blamed for their own slaughter.  Certainly not when they are shot in the head four times in the early morning  in their bed in their own homes.

Nancy Lanza was blamed, belittled and forgotten.

It gets easier every day to turn away.  Our children spend more time “online.” We  can skype into town meetings or get the minutes online.  We don’t even have to go to town or the mall to shop anymore.  It will come to our door. But, the door closed on the house beside us can still shelter people in pain.  Hollywood may have us dreaming about perfect operating systems as mates, but the world is still filled with flesh and blood folks with gladsome and mournful hearts.  We can choose to divorce ourselves from the reality that our neighbor’s world affects our own.  But that will not alter circumstance.  Sooner or later we must accept that we live in a  village after all.