Can We Discuss Divorce’s Contribution to School Shootings?

Can We Discuss Divorce’s Contribution to School Shootings?

If the California shooter’s rants can prompt eunuch activism via Twitter, can we also discuss what he said about family failure?

Scoring political points off tragedies has become a veritable blood sport in today’s United States. Perhaps an aversion to doing so makes the right look slightly off-kilter upon events such as last weekend’s shooting near the University of California-Santa Barbara. Leftists charge off into demands that “somebody do something,” which typically results in a series of staged PR events mimicking President Obama’s “crisis manual.”

Step one: Express shock and outrage. Step two: Blame something conservative. Step three: Call for bigger government.

As someone who has experienced family tragedy, I have little sympathy with people who seize intimate moments to titillate their emotions or advance agendas. However, maintaining a respectable silence leaves barbarians to rampage about the field, which neither respects the dead nor contributes to future peace. So if the California shooter’s pre-spree, mentally challenged rants can prompt eunuch activism via Twitter, can we also discuss what he said about his family failure?

The shooter (who here shall remain nameless to deprive him of notoriety) comes from a broken home (his parents were divorced). As Brad Wilcox pointed out after the last media frenzy over a school shooting, most school shooters do. Now, the knee-jerk response to noting that is to blame mental illness, rather than family breakdown, since most school shooters also have a well-documented history of mental instability, depression, and aggression. But there’s actually a link, because family breakdown also causes mental instability, depression, anti-social behavior, and violent aggression, among other problems, particularly in young men.

As Wilcox observes, “From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year [2013] in Wikipedia’s ‘list of U.S. school attacks’ involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.”

The California shooter gives a sobering account of his parents’ divorce and its effects on him in his 141-page manifesto. It explains the genesis of his misogyny and rage.

Very shortly after my seventh birthday, the news came. I believe it was my mother who told me that she and my father were getting a divorce; my mother, who only a few months before told me that such a thing will never happen. I was absolutely shocked, outraged, and above all, overwhelmed.”

…After only a couple of months since my seventh birthday, a new and very important person would come into my life. After father picked us up from school one day and took us to his house, I saw a woman with dark hair and fair skin standing in the kitchen, and she introduced herself as Soumaya. She would become my stepmother…My father having a girlfriend so shortly after divorcing my mother didn’t even occur to me. I couldn’t understand it….Before that, I always thought a man and a woman had to be married before living together in such a manner, and that it would take a long time for such a union to happen. Father finding a new girlfriend in such a short amount of time baffled me. I was completely taken aback.

Because of my father’s acquisition of a new girlfriend, my little mind got the impression that my father was a man that women found attractive, as he was able to find a new girlfriend in such a short period of time from divorcing my mother. I subconsciously held him in higher regard because of this. It is very interesting how this phenomenon works… that males who can easily find female mates garner more respect from their fellow men, even children. How ironic is it that my father, one of those men who could easily find a girlfriend, has a son who would struggle all his life to find a girlfriend.

… For the initial period of her being a new member of the family, we got along well, and she was quite fun. But soon she would start to discipline me in a harsh way that I wasn’t used to. I felt that because she wasn’t my real parent, she had no right to discipline me in such a way, and so I rebelled. That’s where the first conflicts arose. There would be many more to come in later years.

These are completely normal and understandable reactions by a small child to his parents’ separation. Of course, not all children whose parents divorce will become homicidal maniacs. But how many other young men out there feel like this? Will our society continue to stand idly about Twittering while we negligently multiply the number of angry, confused children?

Joy Pullmann is managing editor of The Federalist and author of "The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids," out from Encounter Books this spring. Get it on Amazon.
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