Susan Klebold, mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine Shooters, has released an essay that is now widely publicized. It was originally published in O Magazine. In her article, Susan says, “For the rest of my life, I will be haunted by the horror and anguish Dylan caused. I cannot look at a child in a grocery store or on the street without thinking about how my son’s schoolmates spent the last moments of their lives. Dylan changed everything I believed about myself, about God, about family and about love.”
Blogs that responded to the essay contain some interesting comments. Many bloggers blame poor parenting for the shootings. Many others describe a deep sense of compassion for Susan and show a greater level of understanding of the human condition.
Life can be complicated. Dave Pelzer is author of A Child Called It. He has never demonstrated any anti-social behavior. It appears that as a child, he was the victim of extreme abuse.
On the other hand, it appears that Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, had a normal, loving childhood. His brother, David, is a highly respected member of the community. They grew up in the same home. The causes of criminal/ anti-social behavior are complex and not completely understood.
There can be no greater pain than the death of a child, except maybe having a son who kills others and then himself. Susan Klebold is now a member of a very exclusive club of parents and other family members who have suffered that extreme horror. The family of the Virginia Tech Shooter, the mother and brother of the Unabomber, and many others have a loved one who has murdered. They are too often held responsible for the crimes of their loved ones. How much responsibility do these family members have for the actions of the offender? None – they are not to blame. They, too, are innocent victims. Often they had no way of predicting the criminal act. Sometimes, even if the family had recognized warning signs, they still could not have prevented the horrific act. HIPA and other limits in our health care system act as roadblocks to mental health care. The Virginia Tech shooter had a history of counseling for mental health problems. Parents often are not given access to the student’s academic records, let alone health records.
We have morphed into a culture of blame-the-other-guy. I didn’t mean to do it. It was a mistake. The dog ate my homework. My wife doesn’t understand me. My husband doesn’t pay enough attention to me. Buyer beware. My mother didn’t love me enough. My father didn’t talk to me enough. It was just a campaign promise. The media lied to me. Everybody else is doing it. The bad economy made me enlist. I was just following orders.
Wall Street Bankers hoard a large portion of the national wealth and blame it on their compensation boards. Congress has written the legislation that allows such greed. The members of Congress blame the lobbyists. The lobbyists say they are just doing their job. The voters say that they have been misled by the media. The media says that they have to put ratings first. We are witnessing the death of personal responsibility.
Capitalism is a big contributor to the problem; but, voters do not have to vote for capitalists. On my ballot there were eight candidates for president, plus a write-in option. Voting has consequences. Uninformed voting has disastrous consequences. Voters say blame someone else. They say that they do not have time to research the issues. An uninformed voter is dangerous and should stay home on election day. It is better to not vote at all, than to cast an uninformed ballot and cancel the vote of someone who has studied the issues.
The lack of personal responsibility and compassion are blocking real health care reform. We need Reform School for the compassionless. The every-man-for-himself culture was especially evident during the health care town meetings. It was common to hear comments such as, “I am insured – the hell with everybody else”. Raise-the-drawbridge syndrome — I am safe and you don’t count.
A pervasive lack of personal responsibility exists in local and national governments – also as a business model in the corporate world. Decisions are often made by committee in order to distance one from any singular responsibility. Temporary Experts are often hired for the sole purpose of relieving others from the consequences of a decision. Passing the buck has become a national pastime. It’s enough to make one wish for the end of the government system as we know it — to be replaced by a Benevolent Monarchy. No more hiding behind Experts and committee group decisions.
The culture of the Internet is not helping. Bloggers usually prefer anonymity when dropping comments. Why the failure to accept responsibility for the comment left on the blog? The civility of the blogosphere would be greatly improved if everyone gave an honest identification.
The brain is an organ – in some ways like a pancreas or a liver. It is affected by genetics, age, drugs, the environment, electrical currents, illness, and an unknown number of other influences. Where should the line between evil and madness be drawn? And who should make that determination?
Psychiatrists will continue to debate the ability of a patient to make ethical judgments. Philosophers will continue to debate Free Will versus Determinism. Lawyers will continue to argue for the guilt or innocence of the accused; but, the simple fact is that a society which is organized on any principle that does not include personal responsibility will not work.
The bottom line is that everyone must be held responsible for their own actions, and no one should ever be held responsible for the acts of another. What a revolutionary concept.
News reports are filled with senseless acts of violence. Today’s report is about a group of teens who set a 15 year old boy on fire and then laughed as they watched him burn. We must do better. We must find a way to develop empathy and compassion. The teens who set the fire must be held accountable for their act. You and I, as members of society, must be held responsible for the culture of violence that disables the youthful conscience.
Susan Klebold should be held responsible, and maybe praised, for her parenting. She should never be held responsible for the acts of Dylan.