"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Absentee Fathers and the Newtown School Shooting

Adam Lanza was not normal. He suffered from morbid shyness and an inability to connect with his student peers and anyone else—a cold, withdrawn, hollow shell of a person to his classmates, an Asperger's patient to professional psychologists. Even under the best of circumstances—with a loving, caring, two-parent family consisting of a husband and wife who complemented each other’s strengths and worked together as a team—raising someone like Adam Lanza would be a real challenge.

One can't say how he might have turned out under different circumstances, but statistics show that having divorced parents, as Lanza did, plus a father who moves out of the household, remarries, and has little contact with his son for long stretches of time, is not the ideal formula for successful childrearing. Yet what sociologists call “family structure issues” were rarely discussed in the media, not even on conservative talk radio where one might have expected them to have a preeminent place. Most Americans, it seems, have so many divorced or single-parent neighbors, friends, and relatives (if they are not themselves divorced or living as single parents) that discussing family structure is simply too painful and too sensitive to be taken up in any honest or candid manner.

I'll go a little further.   People talk about how women "can't have it all" -- a job, motherhood, personal fulfillment, etc.   But men can't have it all either, not if they want to be real fathers.   And that's not just paying the bills.   It's not just showing up to the occasional soccer game or graduation ceremony.   It's being there every day for long stretches of time.   It's having long conversations.   It's about sharing interests.   It's about a lot of yelling and a lot of hugs over a long, steady period of time.  

The evidence suggests that Adam Lanza's father was neglectful of his son.   We lawyers have a term for that:  negligence.    His negligence was causal, perhaps not the largest cause, but still enough to earn him a line on the verdict form.  

The same, of course, is also true about all the absentee fathers in our inner cities whose children, young, neglected men and boys, commit murders in the ongoing insanity of our drug and gang wars.

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