A reader writes:
Have you heard about the 11 year-old Western Pennsylvania boy, Jordan Brown, who killed his father’s live-in fiancée, who was pregnant with their child, with a shotgun? He is now, at 12 years old, to be tried as an adult.
A horrific crime. And one should be glad that the death of the unborn child is part of the charges. However, this case raises questions for me. One of these is, where was this child’s mother? I have tried to find this out, and couldn’t. Second, one of the motives given for this crime is that the child was afraid of losing his father’s attention. So, even as I find this crime hideous and revolting, I am unable to keep from thinking the following thoughts:
1. The child has no mother.
2. The father moved this woman, with her two children “from a previous relationship”, into their home.
3. At no time, has it ever been suggested, as far as I have read, that the adults in this situation acted inappropriately. But perhaps if this had happened 60 years ago, the adults’ behavior would have been considered scandalous, and would have formed part of the defense arguments. Is there any chance of that happening today? I do not know.
4. Children in our society, on the one hand, are inculturated into believing that every waking moment of their lives is to be entertaining. Advertising and media shove all sorts of sex and violence at them.
5. Nevertheless, they are expected, at the age of 11, after they have been put in what might have been a highly traumatic situation, to exercise adult sense and judgment. And if they fail to do so, they can be executed or sent to prison for the rest of their lives.
I have a 12 year-old son. I know he is prone to fantasy and does not always have the best judgment. But his own personal problems have not been aggravated by the loss/absence of his mother, nor of his father moving the “fiancée” into the bedroom. I put the word “fiancée” in quotes because the way it is used today does not mean that the date of the wedding is set, nor that the commitment is especially firm.
Nowhere have I seen suggested that the child might have been truly traumatized by the situation. Because these situations are so common now, we just expect children to adjust.
Having had one (and now possibly two according to an expert friend) boys who are on the highly functional end of the autistic spectrum with sensory issues, I am constantly amazed at the emotional fragility of boys. Girls can be too (like that poor Irish child), but there are these emotional chasms on a boy’s pathway of life that we ignore or deny at our peril.
Writing or talking about this is probably a lose-lose situation. The right wing will think you’re soft on crime and the death of the unborn (which I’m definitely not); the left wing will excoriate you for bringing up the father’s arrangements with the fiancée.
But in the end, that whole family is lost.