Thursday, 12 March 2009


My mind is full of the shootings in the German town of Winnenden yesterday. There is something so shocking, so horrible and so incompreshensible about a young man, barely more than a boy, violently taking so many lives, including his own. However, I cannot help but feel that there is something dangerous in the word 'incomprehensible', in repeating that there was no motive for this attack, that Tim Kretschmer was 'unremarkable' and 'normal'. Surely we cannot believe that such an act of hate and violence can spring up randomly in any human? I am not an expert on mental illness, perhaps it is possible to suddenly and inexplicitly become deranged, but I doubt that this is true. Gavin de Becker, in 'The Gift of Fear', an informative, well-written and engaging look at violence in the US, writes passionately about Pre-Incident Indicators and how often these are ignored, turned away from and then, when the predicatable violence occurs, those who should and could have known better express surprise and incomprehension, 'What could we have done?' they ask.
It is too hard to imagine the grief of those families who began their days as normal yesterday and had their lives blown apart. My thoughts also creep over towards the parents of this young man: the father who owned the guns, the mother who bore this little baby boy.
In both 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' and 'Nineteen Minutes' the role of the mother is examined in two very different high-school shootings: the psychopathic killer and the unheard victim of bullying, and both seem to me to show that along the path that these young men took, there were intersections, forks, points at which something could have been done.
If we believe it to be incomprehensible, then there is nothing that can be done. In labelling the perpetrator 'evil' and beyond imagination, we separate ourselves from the need to face responsibility. I think this is very different to blame. If we cannot understand why it happened, how can it be prevented? If we painfully examine what led to this act, we can learn and change, but in doing so, we have to accept that something could have been done differently.
As mother, I look at my own children and whisper the question, 'Is it possible here, in my home?' To accept the motiveless shooting is to accept that, like a bolt of lightning, this is something that could one day, without warning, destroy my family. To believe that something, many things, went wrong, even if done with hearts of love or paradigms of good discipline, is to desire and strive to find a way to protect and nurture my own children and my own community.

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