Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Sandy Hook

The Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in December led to discussions, or heated arguments, about gun control, preceded a string of other public shootings, and even spawned conspiracy theories. The gun control debate has already been amply covered, the other shootings are happening so frequently that I can barely keep track, and this blog does an excellent job deconstructing the absurdities of the conspiracy theory (in a nutshell, the theory goes that the government faked the shooting as a pretext to take away Americans' guns). What I'm interested in, as can be predicted from previous posts, is Adam Lanza and what may have driven him over the edge.

We have little to go on regarding who Adam Lanza was or what may have motivated him, since he had few friends, he destroyed his computer's hard drive, and he started his rampage by murdering his mother, and ended it by shooting himself. But through accounts of acquaintances, we have learned a little. Lanza was described as an intelligent but socially awkward loner who preferred computers to interacting with peers (leading to speculation that he had Asperger's, a diagnosis that has not been proven). He lived with his divorced mother Nancy, who was an avid target shooter (Lanza stole her guns for the massacre), and desperately wanted her isolated son to "fit in." She had sole custody of Adam and his brother. One particularly interesting piece of information came from the Lanza family hair stylist. The employees recall that Nancy directed Adam's movements and answered questions for him, to the point where Adam wouldn't get out of the chair until his mother instructed him to move. Adam didn't speak the entire time, but looked at the tiles on the floor.

What follows is highly speculative. A complex relationship between Adam and Nancy Lanza emerges. Nancy, while fondly remembered by friends, was reluctant to talk about her troubled son, indicating a possibility that she was ashamed of him. While target shooting is a popular hobby, the sheer number of guns Nancy kept in her home was unusual, particularly with a son she knew was mentally unstable. Her tendency to speak for her son was either an acknowledgment that he was uncomfortable speaking himself, or indicated a controlling personality (the guns could have been another way for her to feel in control). Criminal history is fully of mentally unstable men with domineering mothers (Ed Gein, Edmund Kemper, Henry Lee Lucas).

Again, this is pure speculation, but here's what may have happened that day. Adam and Nancy got into a fight, which dredged up all the resentment he felt toward her controlling nature over the years, the pressure from her to "fit in." After a lifetime of real or perceived hardships, he decided to kill himself and his mother. To ensure he would truly disappear, he destroyed his computer where he kept the details of his life. Then he took his mother's guns, and, in a gesture of very personal rage, shot his mother four times in the face. Whether he planned from the beginning to continue the shooting at the elementary school or if it was a spur of the moment decision is unclear. But, as we all know, he got there, fully armed and ready to take out anyone he came across. Why he chose the school is also unclear. He had been a student there, and possibly still carried the scars of being an awkward kid ostracized by others. The school, like his home with his mother, carried bad memories, another symbol of the world that had wronged him.