Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Naming the Unnamable

The massacre in CT, Westboro Baptist Church's plan to picket children's funerals, disparate reactions to children's deaths near and far-- this giant snowball of pain and sickness leads me to name what is really difficult for me to name. 

On Friday, after half-listening to the stories, seeing flashes of headline, but not really wanting to hear, I grabbed from my bookshelf, People of the Lie, by M. Scott Peck. This book, published in the 1980s, describes through anecdote a religious and psychological understanding of the lives of those suffering with malignant narcissism. The half-heard stories of Adam Lanza using his mother's guns to kill her and the children and adults at the school, reminded me of a stark story from the book. 

As a therapist, Peck saw a boy who had stolen a car and run it off the road. He was mandated by the courts to have a psychological evaluation. Peck met with the boy, and came to understand that his brother had recently killed himself with a shotgun. It was after the New Year, and as Peck tried to connect with the boy, he asked about any Christmas presents he had received. What he discovers is that the boy's parents had given him the same gun his brother had used to kill himself as a Christmas gift. 

This information immediately spurred in Peck the plan to get the son away from the parents. Peck had the chance to ask the parents about the choice of gift, and the parents deny completely any wrongdoing, any message of sadism or encouragement to death. They say that a gun is a good gift, and they didn't have enough money to get a new one for their son. They say that that they don't see anything wrong with giving a perfectly good gun to their son. They are blind to their own destructiveness. They are. Evil. 

So I've written it. Evil. As a religious and spiritual feminist liberationist, I have resisted an understanding of evil that rests in the individual. I see structural evil, I see how it can act out in the lives of individuals, but I have for many years avoided looking to individuals as being evil. 

We are truly all standing in a stream of social location, cultural tide, worlds of meaning working through us in our lives. So many of the posts analyzing mental illness around the massacre (I am Adam Lanza's mother), as well as the racism inherent in the description of Lanza as mentally ill (were he brown, he would more likely be called a terrorist), speak to this deep tide of our connectedness. And all of these pieces are true, to some degree. 

What is real to me, as I mix all this soup together, is that there is something evil here. It's not just sickness, it's not just structural evil of racism and alienation of the mentally ill. It's something about the proliferation of guns, the sharing of guns across the generations, the use of the mother's guns by the son, that echoes for me the deep evil of generational malignant and sadistic narcissism. 

He killed himself, Lanza did, after taking so many with him. Was he thinking of his mother as he took the guns they had shared in target practice together, months before? Was he thinking of the message of these shared guns? What sickness in him is an expression of the message of the gun-- the death dealing machine that came from his mother's proverbial milk? What is the consequence of drinking this poison?  

I don't have answers to any of these questions. What I am left with, as I chew and chew, is that I am sickened by these stories, these true stories. I have the strength now to say what these acts and individuals are enacting, and it's evil. 

My questions are to those who are standing at the entryway to the next generation-- we parents. How long can the child resist incitation to violence? How long until we end this lineage of death?  How will we set our children free from this heritage of impunity and destruction, and the lessons of worthlessness that our violence and narcissism teaches our children? I know I will resist this destruction with all of my will and love. Let us resist this evil of seeing our children as less than ourselves, and honor the life that is seeking expression in them. 


  1. Dear Victoria, Thank you for this additional way of looking at the shootings and the clarity with which you name it as evil. Today I heard of a parent who sent their 11 year old son to school with a gun. That just strikes me as abusive, but a kind of pervasive abuse that has been culturally sanctioned. Yes, let us honor the children. (And I hope you'll read the post I put up today that has resonance with this one. Thank you! - Lucy

  2. I couldn't agree more, Victoria. There is evil all about us, coming into our homes via television. The media is completely politically controlled by those elected into office.

    I was never a hippie before, but now I so wish I could drop out of our 'civilized' society and return to primitive Christianity living in community, no matter how small. We need to uplift one another and spiritually feed our children or the next generation will fail to recognize the evil they encounter...truly terrifying.