David Frum has published an extraordinary essay by an anonymous East Coast person who writes, “I Was Adam Lanza.” Excerpts:
Like the author of that piece, Liza Long, my mother had no idea what to do about my sudden transformation (in my case, around 16) into a borderline homicidal maniac. Like her son, I used knives to try and make my threats of violence seem more real. Like her son, I would leap out of our car in the middle of the road just to get away from my mother, over the most trivial of offenses. Like her son, I screamed obscenities at my mother shortly after moments of relative peace. And worse than this poor woman’s son, whose mindset toward his peers we can only guess, I will admit that I fantasized multiple times about taking ordnance to my classmates.
By the logic which leads Liza Long to say, “I am Adam Lanza’s mother,” I have to say: “I was Adam Lanza.”
I don’t say this to get attention. It’s in the past, and I honestly would prefer to pretend those years of my life never happened. I’ve struggled hard for psychological healing, and I sincerely believe I’ve made progress.
However, given recent events, I have a warning to offer – and an obligation to offer it.
If you throw your child away like a broken toy, or treat them like someone else’s problem, they will be lost altogether. Your child may be too far gone for you to fix alone, but that doesn’t mean you can do nothing. My mother did almost everything, and if you ask her now, she’ll admit she was deadly worried about me ending up on the news – as worried about me as Liza Long is about her son.
She was right to be, because at one time in my life, I was Adam Lanza. I was Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. I was Seung-hui Cho. I was James Holmes. I was Michael. But my mother held fast. She is the main reason why, unlike theirs, my experience can be described in the past tense.
This guy says he was not mentally ill, or suffering from a developmental disorder. But he was socially isolated:
Isolation alone does not make someone a mass murderer, but it certainly can amplify already existing afflictions. Why do you think so many people go utterly insane in solitary confinement? Being isolated by your peers doesn’t rise nearly to that level of strain on your sanity, but the same principle is at work.
So what causes someone to be isolated and/or persecuted? This is where being smart comes in. As anyone who’s encountered a really smart person could tell you, eccentricity and intelligence are frequently close cousins. This is why you’ll hear that so many troubled kids, prior to their mass murdering careers, wereengineering buffs, or entered college two years early, or could talk intelligentlyabout subjects as diverse as Greek mythology and Einsteinian Physics at the age of 13.
I don’t say this to brag, but just to illustrate the problem: I was the sort of kid who figured out geometric laws that aren’t usually taught until high school while idly thinking about multiplication at the age of 7, and was doing basic algebra at 8. I’m not so smart that I will create the next Google. But I was just smart enough to have no hope of finding friends at your standard American junior high school.
He goes on to say some interesting things about the connection between genius and madness, and the role one’s intelligence plays in undermining oneself. I was not like this guy as a teenager, but even though he’s on the far side of my experience in ninth and tenth grade, it’s close enough for me to recognize him.
The anonymous author says that you don’t have to be clinically insane to choose mass murder as a way to end your torment. You just have to be angry enough and isolated enough — and live, as we do, in a media culture that sensationalizes mass killing:
I’m not taking a stand for or against gun control. People like the boy I was are outliers, and by definition, society doesn’t write its rules on the basis of the needs of outliers. All I’m saying is – whatever your views on guns – try for a moment to imagine yourself an angry, mentally unstable child. You feel you have a choice caught between lacking a meaningful human connection forever – or else dying in a fearsome blaze of glory.
Please go to the beginning of the three-part essay and read the whole thing.
[H/T: Peter H.]