First off: see this case about a 12 year old trying to kill his family – http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42083051/ns/us_news/
I think cases of this kind unfortunately kick up far too much dust around too many issues for the core of the situation to be clear. There will be the usual cliché ‘nature vs nurture’ arguments, and the gun control lobby will be out in full force. The gun-lovers will bray that ‘people kill people’. Every tuppenny shrink with an opinion will arise to blame something. The details in this case are scant enough to ensure everyone has a full run of opinionated fun times. I count myself amongst them. The parents will be blamed. The guns will be called into question. (But as Dylan Moran says, ‘guns have limited household applications’). The homeschooling will be pointed at. Colorado will somehow also be to blame, the education system, the tap water, the siblings, anything besides pointing at the fact that sometimes, people are born psychotic. Shows like Dexter and books like the Hannibal Lector series have engendered the idea that people can be psychotic and useful, but anyone with common sense still wouldn’t leave their children with these people. I enjoy these shows myself, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because it makes psychotics redeemable? That no one is ever really, truly evil? I don’t really feel like going on a fact-finding mission of all the shitty things people have done to each other for evidence of why the above is so very wrong. For now, I reference Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen, Sudan, Rwanda, Abu Ghraib, and The Lucifer Effect by Phillip Zimbardo.
Maybe the hardest reality is that sometimes, kids are evil and fucked up. I may have to revise this when there are more facts on the case, but for a 12 year old to stab and shoot parents and siblings does not point to any normalancy. Some people will say “oh but the circumstances!” and these are often also the same people that think House is a moving and profound series. I thought it was cool when I was depressed and I felt no one understood my tormented genius pain. Now I realise that it actually is a terribly repetitive show that relies on someone fucked-up for entertainment value and cheap thrills. People do not do drugs because they are so incredibly cool and sexy: they do drugs because they do not have the backbone to deal with reality. But, then again, we do live in a society that avidly follows the rise and fall of druggies, so perhaps I should go back to the mothership and communicate with my leaders.
In any case, if a 12 year old has the capacity to source and repeatedly use a gun, he also has the capacity to not use it. Freudians will say “oh, but his ID this and Ego that” but, really, how many twelve year olds actually get hold of guns and live out their temper tantrums on that kind of level? Twelve year olds can earn money through chores and are capable of saving and spending it (and understand economics, on a minor level), they are having sex, some of them are drinking, some of them work as child soldiers. That they are capable of these things (with or without coercion) means that they can be held responsible for what they do. The twelve year olds I have met show insight that I do not expect of their age, and only because they’re a few months short of being teenagers. The mistake here is that we assume children are stupid. They are not even remotely so, and there is a recordof children committing acts of violence. (The link is only handy for case studies, but I wouldn’t really take advice from it on how/why child murderers arise.) I remember reading several cases last year of children raping and kidnapping, even ganging up to kill smaller children, both in South Africa and around the world. There was the parricide case in Durban 2009 in Pinetown that is ongoing, for example.
I don’t want to believe all children are fucked up and evil: that’s not my point. My point is that we make the mistake of assuming all children are innocent, and then are surprised when there are Columbine shootings and abductions and parricide. What people may pass off as cutesy temper tantrums might actually warn of impending disaster. Perhaps if kids were paid more attention, maybe they wouldn’t get to this point. I don’t know how we should all be raising kids. All I can offer is that we are always, always aware that their capacity for good can be matched by evil. And even I hate using the word ‘evil’ because Hitler is evil, Pol Pot is evil, and to use it in the context of children seems so wrong. But as the movie Magnolia noted, it is only fools that mistake all children for angels.
I expect I’ll get hate mail for this post. But I will not apologise for being honest. Kids can be amazing, and a lot of them do a great deal more their communities and friends than many adults. They are the chance every generation gets to do something right, the templates for change and growth. Because of this, they need to be respected as human beings, and not treated like accessories or burdens. Respecting them will hopefully cut out, to some extent, this kind of fucked-up behaviour, and perhaps that’s something worth mentioning and striving for.