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Horrific Acts of Your Child

November 6, 2009

Yesterday evening as I was coming home, I caught the emerging news of the “horrific act,” and lethal rampage by an army psychiatrist at Fort Hood. This morning I listened to the news, read the news, and seemed unable to escape the talk of violence even in my local pastry shop, where I overheard the counter help chatting about, “And it was the girlfriend who killed the boyfriend.”  The words fell with free-association from one horror to the next.

We all want to know why.  Luby’s, Columbine, the D.C. sniper, Virginia Tech, Baghdad, Fort Hood. Maybe we’ll even get to find out, since the shooter survived. My first universally felt sympathies went to the families at Fort Hood: the dead, the wounded, and the survivors.  But next, surprising myself, I found myself thinking of the parents of Major Hasan.   Did the parents have an inkling? News reports say no. Should they have? Did army colleagues see signs? Some say yes.

No one raises a child to be a mass murderer. In my office this week, a thousand light years from lethal rampage, parents worried about the trajectory of their children. “I don’t want my child to be a spoiled brat.” “I don’t want to hit my child, but I get so frustrated when he doesn’t mind.” “I feel sick that my 28 year old hasn’t gotten a career choice down.”  “I don’t know how long I should support my child;” “He burned through his inheritance from his grandmother—do you think he’s on drugs?” “My child has an affliction—it’s Asperger’s, but not like in the movies. There’s no happy ending.”

So I felt for the parents of Major Hasan, who will now endure a lifetime of grief, probable recrimination, and self-blame on an order of magnitude unimaginable to most of us. And they will still, like most of us who both disappoint and are disappointed by our children, try to find a way to accept and love their child.

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