Monday, June 13, 2016

Your Orlando, My Orlando

There was a halcyon time, last week in fact, when I thought my role as a parent was perhaps not ending but certainly shrinking. Then yesterday a 29-year-old, still a boy from my perspective, killed fifty people in Orlando for no accountable reason. Well, he had his reasons, incomprehensible as they may be to me.

And I started thinking about all these men - boys - in their twenties who start out disaffected and then, with a timely injection of hate from some powerful and nefarious source, be it ISIS or another organization, their alienation turns bitter and hard and finally morphs into something unrecognizable, something evil.

Did the Orlando shooter's mother recognize her son in the year leading up to yesterday?

I shouldn't have to tell you that I am not Adam Lanza's mother. But was Adam Lanza at the time of Sandy Hook recognizably Adam Lanza? When his mother closed her eyes at night, was it her boy at six, ten, or sixteen years old she imagined?


No, I will be checking in frequently with my boys when they are twenty-somethings. Orlando has me feeling as if I ought to toss out my fear of being a helicopter parent and err if anything on the overbearing side. I want to know whether my sons have friends, whether they go out at night, whether they are busy and happy in their work, whether they have girlfriends (or boyfriends!), and if so whether they treat their partners with respect and love.

I want to know that they do not stare with vacant eyes, that they do not develop a fascination with and inclination to buy weapons, that they do not start to insult minorities of any stripe.

But in this I will need help from all of you: in today's world, in this crazy country where assault weapons are as easy to come by as candy, you too will need to watch over my children and let someone, anyone, know if there is something wrong. Until and unless legislators come to their senses, it will take all of us to ensure that we do not allow another at-risk young man to duck out of our circle. It will take that village politicians love to bring up in order to score points. But once there were such villages. They are not theoretical; at least they do not have to be so.

I still believe in the notion of a village. I saw a village yesterday when I watched images on the television of seemingly half of the city of Orlando lined up on sidewalks to donate blood to critically ill survivors of the shooting. I saw a village in the tears spilling down Lin-Manuel Miranda's face as he cried, "Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love... cannot be killed or swept aside."

Of course fight first for gun control. Yet as you do that remember to embrace the most vulnerable among us - boys in their twenties, whom the older folks among us know to be not-men, not quite - with the love Miranda reminded us to revere.

Because no, I am not Adam Lanza's mother. I do not want to be her. God help me if I become her. God help us all.


Nicole Boyhouse said...

Perfectly said.

Kate said...

I'm the mother of a nihilistic, disaffected young man of 23 who says he'd as soon be dead as alive, that life sucks, that he hates people. It's hard to take, especially because I know that he is a deeply sensitive, caring and gentle person and I cannot understand what has happened and why he is squelching that part of himself. I also cannot force him to see a counsellor or a doctor, or to befriend people, or anything else. All I can do is love him, spend time with him, talk with him, acknowledge him, try to have fun with him, and hope for the best. I know that sometimes that isn't even enough, but I sure as hell hope that in this case, it will be.

Could anyone have made a difference in the behaviour of this young murderer in Orlando, or in the behaviour of the many other mass killers of the innocent, or of the young people who believe that murder and war are a solution to anything? I really don't know, but I have to believe that here and now, I can. If not, it won't be for lack of trying.

Sarah said...

Kate: Sending you all the strength and love I have got.