Note: Cross-posted on my newspaper blog at The Marshall Independent.
There is much talk on the Internet after Liza Long, an English teacher in a small college in Boise, Idaho, and mother of four, wrote a blog post that went viral.
Her post was originally titled “Thinking the Unthinkable.” Huffington Post and Gawker, changed the headline to “I am Adam Lanza’s mother.”
Long has a 13-year-old son, who from her description of his behavior, appears to be a psychopath. She wrote about her heart-rending decision to have him committed to a mental institution after he attacked her, and threatened to kill her and/or himself, more than once.
She’s been vilified by some, but there’ve also been a lot of people writing “That’s my brother!” or “That’s my son too!”
Me? I think she did the right thing. Actually I think she did the only thing. She’s a woman with three other children. She’s still able to physically restrain her 13-year-old, at the cost of some bruising, but probably won’t be able to in about another year.
Commitment of course, only delays the problem. Some people appear to be born… wrong somehow. Long’s son is of the highly intelligent kind, capable of being very charming when not enraged. When he’s older he may have learned to control himself to the point he can charm his way out of the institution and then we’ll have another predator unleashed on society – a very smart one.
I’m sorry if that sounds uncharitable, but you see I’ve known such. The brother of an old girlfriend was one. The wife of a cousin was another.
And by the way, I have a close male relative with Asberger’s Syndrome, the condition Adam Lanza has been identified as having, and he has never hurt anyone. His life has been made pretty miserable by his social awkwardness, and he’s pretty much unemployable because people are uncomfortable around him, but he is NOT a murderous psychopath!
Why are some, thankfully few, born that way? There are arguments over which psychiatric term is appropriate, but the English legal system used to use the term “morally insane,” which still seems a pretty good one to me.
Short answer, nobody knows.
Can they be cured?
Even shorter answer, no.
A cop who’d attended FBI courses on this type of personality said there is some indication they tend to grow a conscience around middle age. Unfortunately by that time they’re often doing hard time in prison. Which begs the question of whether they have actually developed a conscience – or they’ve learned how to fool the shrink.
This is the nightmare possibly worse than the families of the victims of Sandy Hook are experiencing now, and for the rest of their lives.
I remember years ago watching a documentary on serial killers, in the course of which they interviewed the mother of one of Ted Bundy’s victims.
I’ll always remember what she said when they asked her what she thought his parents might be going through.
“I’d rather have my daughter than their son,” she said.
P.S. I’ve written previously on over-diagnoses of “mental illness” here. Note also the cri de coeur from one reader.
I’m also going to go out on a limb and recommend a book I haven’t read yet. (I have seen an interview with the author.)
“Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend” by Barbara Oakley.