I just watched We Need to Talk About Kevin, a movie based on the award-winning book of the same title.  The film is told from the point of view of a serial killer’s mother.  It jumps back and forth in time, tracing her son’s troubled childhood, through his commission of a high school massacre, but mainly focuses on the fallout from his horrific actions – specifically, the price his mother pays.  Ostracized, cruelly targeted by the other community members who hold her responsible for what her son did, she meekly accepts the abuse, presumably accepting some share of the responsibility for the tragedy.  Her house and car are splattered with red paint, she is slapped, sworn at, coolly ignored and, at one point in the movie, has her purchase of a dozen supermarket eggs demolished by a grieving mother.  The ensuing scene which finds her eating dinner at home, alone, lining up the eggshell fragments she fishes them out of her omelet is sad, unintentionally comical, and, in my opinion, improbable.  Partly because I couldn’t imagine someone, anyone, passively subjecting themselves to such sustained mistreatment, but mainly because I couldn’t imagine a parent facing such an enormous communal backlash for the actions perpetrated by her son.  Especially given the fact that, we later learn, her husband and young daughter were his first victims. It just struck me as an extreme and wrong response.

I mentioned this to my friend, Bill, who happened to have read the book, and his response was a definite: “Oh, that totally happens.  Are you kidding?”  Really?  An entire community holding a parent responsible for her son’s actions?  Despite Bill’s insistence, I didn’t buy it.  Until I asked Akemi who responded with equal vehemence. Apparently, in Japan, parents are most certainly held accountable for their children’s social transgressions.

I don’t know.  In some cases, I can certainly see a parent having to shoulder some of the blame, but I have a hard time faulting them for raising a psychopath, especially given the fact that I’m halfway through Jon Ronson’s brilliant The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry which makes a pretty good argument for the physiological and untreatable nature of sociopathy.  According to the book, roughly 1% of the general population are sociopaths, cold, calculated individuals incapable of empathy.  Apparently, in addition to excelling at murder, they also make wonderfully successful CEO’s.  The rate of recidivism among psychopaths is an astonishing 80%.  In other words, 80% of psychopaths purportedly “cured” of their condition will re-offend!  Why?  Because theirs is not a behavioral condition.  They are born that way, the result dysfunctional amygdala, a part of the brain that plays an important role in emotional learning and autonomic responses associated with fear.  Now I’m not presuming the average person would be aware of this, but I still find it far-fetched that most individuals would target a parent in this sort of situation.  Maybe if their kid stole a car or bullied someone, but mass murder?

What do you think?  Should a parent be held accountable for their child’s actions?  And what offense-dependent allowances would you make?

On an unrelated topic, this morning, Akemi’s English class was presented with that hoariest of time-travel scenarios: If you could go back in history, who would you want to spend time with?  Invariably, whenever this question gets asked, you’ll hear the usual responses: Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Jesus.  Akemi’s response, which I found altogether endearing: her grandfather who passed away when she was very young.

So, do tell.  If you could go back in history, who would you want to spend time with?

55 thoughts on “November 29, 2012: Soliciting your opinions on parental responsibility and time travel opportunities!

  1. My mom. But then, I’m stuff with the dilemma faced in Window of Opportunity: Could I lose her again? Would it really be enough to spend just a small amount of time with her? These existential questions aside, I stand by my answer. My mom.

  2. Oh, and on the parental blame topic: I have an autistic kid; you’d be surprised how many times I’m blamed for not only her having autism, but the behavioral issues that are inherent with autism. No matter how much we like to think otherwise, people still rush to judge and take secret delight in others’ hardships.

  3. I’d like to go back in time and have a few words with the person that was ultimately in charge of cancelling the Stargate franchise from television & dvd production ..not that it would make a difference or change a single thing, but it would just plain feel good to do

  4. Having raised 3 daughters, I am quite aware of the twists and turns that their minds take as far as doing something that “seemed like a good idea” at the time. There comes a time when you have to cut the apron strings, so to speak and let them do their thing with their friends. There were times that they gave us a few more grey hairs, nothing drastic, though. I did keep warning them that if they got into trouble, there was a limit as to how much we as parents could do for them, and there might be a time that the best we could do is to visit them in jail… if they made the wrong choices. We crossed our fingers and things turned out not too badly for them. But I could see that there could have been times when the wrong decision on their part could have been disasterous. Growing up, I remember a couple of occasions when the “voice in my head” practically screamed at me, I gave in and listened to it.

    That said, in these times of privacy enforcement, including the high school years or when your child turns 15 or 16…. just try to find out from teachers what is going on with your children. I could see parents doing the best that they can, but if something is going on and your children have to visit a counsellor for any reason, the parents might be the last people to find out what is going on with their kids. There is also a heavy curtain of secrecy amongst the rest of the students/friends. Really, unless the kids have had a rough childhood due to a bad home life, I have total empathy and compassion for the parents. Something I discovered was that even if the “child” has mental problems and parents try to correct the situation, they find out that the child has “rights” and nothing can be done without the child’s consent after a certain age even though they could be obviously mentally unbalanced. It’s painfullly complicated, frustrating and heartbreaking to see that privacy laws, which were meant to help people, are hurting the very people that need help. Very sad.

  5. Lewis
    I’d like to go back in time and have a few words with the person that was ultimately in charge of cancelling the Stargate franchise from television & dvd production ..not that it would make a difference or change a single thing, but it would just plain feel good to do


    Lewis, I’d be right there with you…. still royally p!&&!d off.

  6. To be honest I’m not really sure, it’d be easy to name some historical figures and say these people I would love to spend a day speaking too and knowing just what’s on their mind, but what about the effect it would have on history? If the question came out, how do you know of me, and you were honest and it changed the course of that persons life? I couldn’t do that, I respect the timeline stuff.

    It’d be easier to say I would go back and warn people of impending wars(World War 2 for example), but if that didn’t happen, how would that effect present day life as we know it?

    Everything seems to have an effect on history in one way or the other, I’m pretty happy with my life, I wouldn’t want to change anything major.

    It’d be tempting to also say what about family? That stuff is better left in the past, the only answer I would possibly give is if someone important to me died and I never had a chance to say goodbye, I wouldn’t go back to before they died like days, no, I’ld just be there along with everyone else and say bye. It’d be a heartbreaking thing to do, but it’d put my mind at ease anyhow.


    Haha. It’d be easier just to go back in time to when the show was still in its planning stages with a copy of known complaints about the show/ratings, and pretty much warn against going down certain paths, if you did that Stargate Universe would still be on the air I’ld imagine.

    I’ld be all for changing history if we could keep Stargate and Stargate Universe 🙂

  7. I really enjoyed The Psychopath Test.

    I can see being held responsible for my son’s actions *now* (he’s five) because I have some measure of control, but when he’s 17, 18, 19 or older? I’ve met some wonderful parents who end up with wayward kids. Sure, that usually constitutes rebellion in some form, not turning into a murderer, but as tempting as it is to dissect their parenting habits, I often find that many did the best they could. I *do* think a community would turn on the parents because we have a tendency to think that if you can just parent perfectly maybe your kid will be perfect too. We forget that messy human variable :-/

    I’d be more apt to blame the parents if it came out that they were abusive and cruel, or otherwise harmful to the child. However, there’s still only so far you can go with that. Eventually, the child has to take ownership of their choices. Of course, a psychopath won’t, but then, what’s the best way to parent that? Damage control? Not all psychopaths go on to be murderers, they just end up as a**holes from what I understand.

    Back in time though… I have no idea. I think I’d rather go to the future. Or, as Lewis suggested, figure out who I have to chat with to stop Stargate from having been canceled 🙂 That would be worthwhile to me LOL. Or like Akemi, I’d like to go into my own family’s past. I have a picture of my great-great grandmother on a camel in Egypt… her life seemed full of hardship and my great-grandmother was not overly sympathetic to her. She was a hard woman, but I’d like to know about her. She’s on the edge of the bubble about to disappear from history. Those that remember her are all very nearly dead and it feels like something is about to be lost. 🙁

  8. A lady that lives about 4 doors down on my street, lost her son. He was put to death by the Texas judicial system for capital murder. The infamous Death Row execution had just taken place when I learned she was his mother. My first reaction was sadness for her as her son had just died. Nothing but sympathy for her and her loss. Her 20 year old son had let his spoiled, unhappy young girlfriend, who had very rich parents, talk him (and another boy) into breaking into her parents mansion one night, killing her mother and injuring her father. Even though he had died for a horrible crime he committed, I never gave any blame to her.

    If I could go back in time…wow…so many people, so many places. How to pick just one? I guess I too would go back to when my grandparents were still alive and living in their big old two story haunted house. So many good memories there. Are you trying to make me cry? Thanks alot…

  9. I’d go back in time and tell the person at SyFy channel they are nuts for canceling StarGate Universe. Well, I did tell them that by email, but I’d still like to tell them again… and again… and again…. 🙂

  10. Sociopaths and Time Travelers? Hmmm, it might be fun to conflate the two, but for the sake of conversation, I’ll try to keep them separate. 😉

    On the sociopath: I can’t speak for the mob, but I think most towns in the west that I’ve been in would not blame the mother, but through awkwardness would probably ostracise her anyway.

    As for whether the mother should be held accountable or not, I haven’t read the book, so I can’t say more about the situation there, but I do think there is accountability while the child is a minor and if there was evidence of anti-social behavior that was left untreated by the parents. I have seen parents that are unwilling to address their children’s behavioral issues (either innate or learned) usually because of embarrassment, denial, or a mistaken belief that they are somehow supporting their child by denying the seriousness of the behavior (my oldest daughter has a masters in psychology and she has a passion for criminal behavioral sciences, so this is a conversation I’ve had before.)

    On whether a town would abuse or treat the mother this way; the yes/no response may be cultural. I remember having a conversation with some Taiwanese associates about the first round-the-world balloon attempt by Steve Fossett where he had to be rescued in the Coral Sea.

    Their opinion of Fossett was very negative, saying mostly that he brought dishonor on himself and other Americans for having to be rescued and that he should not have attempted a trip with such a narrow margin for success. After much discussion, the main complaint seemed to be that the loss of resources (for the rescue) and the loss of prestige (for having to be rescued), cost the community at large (i.e. Americans), and as such he deserved derision, not sympathy or encouragement to try again. With a similar mindset, I could easily see such a community blaming the mother, and (if they thought her inaction had harmed the community) then offer derision and abuse.

    So in short, you Bill and Akemi are all correct! 😀

    On time travel, I’d probably like to go a little further back, like the dawn of human history maybe…but it would be a tough choice to make. Can I have a couple of choices, or better yet, a top-ten?

    I do think that parents have a responsibility to keep their time machines away from their sociopathic kids. 😉

  11. It’s late, and the brain just isn’t working, so not sure how good my answers will be…perhaps I’ll be more with it in the morn.

    Anyway, who would I like to spend time with? Hmmmm…I might have to sleep on this one. Lots of people, I suppose. Too many if I went the Biblical route (Noah, Joshua, Daniel, Jesus, Peter…too hard to choose). If I went the historical route again there are just so many it makes it hard to decide, though Teddy Roosevelt would probably top the list (though he sort of counts as family, too).

    However, I agree with Akemi. My maternal grandpa – Pop – died when I was just four, and the memories I have of him are fond ones. From the tales mom has told he was a real character, too. I really wish I had a chance to get to know him better. I actually remember quite a bit about him, but that may be because my young memories were reinforced by watching home movies from youth on up.

    There is a favorite story mom likes to relate about Pop and me. Pop was bald (this is important), and had emphysema with a terrible cough. Despite this, I used to curl up on the sofa with him and take a nap whenever we visited. Mom just couldn’t understand why I – such a young child – was so drawn to him because most kids would have been disturbed by the constant coughing. So she asked me what I liked so much about her dad, and I replied, “I love that Pop because him face goes all the way to the back of him head.”

    Yup, I sure did love my ol’ Pop. 🙂


  12. Parental accountability- if the parents bought the weapons, absolutely. If the parents suspected and didn’t seek help, depends on what they knew. If the kid just snapped, the parents deserve help.
    Historical figure- Pappy Boyington, USMC or Katherine Hepburn
    Pappy Boyington to enjoy a beer with and hear about his tales of the South Pacific and Katherine Hepburn because I have a feeling she could be just as full of ‘salty’ tales.

  13. Let me just give some advise to parents of 2 year olds…if your 2 year old is consistantly acting like a brat and throwing screaming fits, shorten your visit. Please. If you don’t, I’m going to blame you parents big time! Come back at a later age.

  14. When I was young, a drunk driver was responsible for the deaths of 22 people from our sister church, only two of them adults. I saw an incredible and instantaneous and lasting amount of forgiveness poured out to the drunk driver himself. I don’t recall anyone mentioning his mother, but I’m sure there was plenty of grace for her, too. These people were not fully enlightened in the grace-filled implications of Christianity, but they pulled it together in this situation.

    I think communities pull together and can be at their best in situations like this. But some communities can be under unhealthy influences and individuals do become the outlet onto which to project the darker feelings. There would be a source of the need to project those dark feelings, usually a sociopath. People being affected by the presence of a cult in the town would have their PTSD from the event complicated by the PTSD of the other abuses that become rampant in these towns. If the movie acknowledged a cultish influence within the town, the abuse is a little more plausible.

    I think a parent is responsible for their own actions. Getting help for a kid who is showing signs of needing it. Guiding their children to the best of their ability. Not letting children’s brains get damaged by stress hormones if they can help it (many are unaware of the importance, though). It may include not letting a time bomb walk around unsupervised or even un-restrainable. And it may even include attempting to get the child institutionalized if the parent is physically unable to keep the child from harming people. And after all that and even without all that, the child is responsible for his own actions.

    And parents ARE held responsible for their actions. I very well could be charged with child neglect if a professional disagrees with me about what psychiatric issues my kid needs to be screened for and I choose not to pursue it, depending on how badly the flags freaked people out. That’s before anything bad happens. If those psychiatric issues included worry he might harm other people and then he did and I’d known he needed help and didn’t get it, I’d think there would be charges to apply to me ranging from child neglect to manslaughter. If I did pursue whatever help I could reasonably be aware he needed and he harmed people anyway, then, no, there would be no charges that would apply to me.

    I do intend to get my hands on psychopath book. It’s a fascinating topic. I’ve looked into sociopaths more so I don’t fully understand the distinction yet. Fiction gets sociopaths wrong, including them for comeuppance or for them to commit a redemptive act in the end. Neither is how things turn out in real life. They leave a trail of damage in their wake and they’d more likely make sure the comeuppance landed on someone else and that everyone thought that someone else deserved it.

  15. Blame and time travel….ok.
    Blame…Shannon and others have said – when the child is young, perhaps some level of fault or blame can be applied because of the young age and there is a level of control that should be exercised by the parent.

    As the individual ages and supposedly becomes responsible for his/her actions…then, the blame rests with the person committing the act(s). Cannot be blaming “mommy” because of stupidness to rob a bank or hurt others.

    At any age, there is NO way to hold a parent to blame for autism, ADHD, Downs, and other related or similar. I understand the mother’s age can contribute to some issues, but to dominantly rule no pregnancies after “pick an age,” is unreasonable. For other areas, we cannot legislate or enforce morality.
    Gotta climb off my soapbox on this one.

    Time travel. I like the idea of meeting select family and others, but I would want to be anonymous. The way SG-Universe dealt with some of the switches. Or, the way Doctor Who can visit any time and place and observe.

    I think I would be hesitant to be revealed because we have no idea what hurts or wounds would surface…again. Our memory today…may not have all the “bits bytes and nibbles” of what realllly occurred.

  16. Ugh, forgot the parental responsibility thing.

    Honestly, it all depends. If a kid is out of control BECAUSE of poor parenting, then yes – I think a parent should be held responsible. Just because someone is a parent it doesn’t automatically make them a responsible, mature, or even a good person. Lots of drug addicts and alcoholics are parents. Lots of kids live in abusive homes. Lots of kids (if not most these days) are not taught basic manners, or how to respect the life and property of others.

    Back when I was about 10 or 11, I caved to peer pressure and vandalized a farmer’s crop. Mom found out, made me clean out my piggybank, and marched me right down to the farmer to hand over all the money I had. I NEVER forgot that, and I have never (purposely) harmed another person’s property, or committed theft. Heck, if I accidentally walk out of the bank with their pen and make it all the way home before I realize it, I will drive the two miles back to the bank to return it.

    But too many kids these days don’t get those types of lessons. Instead parents reinforce bad behavior by defending their kids, or by engaging in the same bad behavior themselves. In cases like this then I do hold the parents responsible when their kids end up being the terrors of the neighborhood.

    Of course, there are some kids who are bad despite good parenting. Usually, however, it’s fairly easy to tell the diff between the good parent and the bad one. The good parent doesn’t defend their child’s bad behavior, but instead tries to find ways to correct it. I remember a case in the Philly area about 20 years ago – two boys from a good home fell in with a skinhead group and became very violent. According to reports, their parents tried everything to help them, including professional counselling. In the end, the boys murdered their parents. I don’t hold their folks responsible for this, I hold the boys and the people who influenced them responsible.

    There are other situations where I don’t hold the parent responsible. Mental illness, for instance, is often out of everyone’s control, including the person who suffers from it. Also, certain drugs to help children with emotional issues can actually cause them to become violent, and there are other situations along these lines where it isn’t reasonable to hold a parent responsible.

    Bottom line? If the child’s problem stems directly from bad parenting, then yes – the parents are to blame and should be held accountable. However, there are many other situations that are beyond the parents’ control, and those must be judged on a case-to-case basis since you really can’t apply a single response that covers them all.

    I would like to add that I don’t see harrassment or bullying as a way to hold a parent responsible. In some cases legal action could be taken (esp. if the kid is underage). But more than likely society would just mentally hold them accountable and their reputation would be ruined in the court of public opinion. It makes no sense, however, for good people to ‘return evil for evil’ – that just makes them no better than the bad parents.


  17. I’m with Akemi. I can’t bring myself to visit my home township because I can’t bear to be there without my parents (deceased 1998 and 2006). There are so many questions I still want to ask them, so much family history I missed by being the youngest.

  18. I think people assuage their fears that something could happen in their family by convincing themselves they have the power not to let it happen and believing we let it happen flows from that.

    @LJ – I’ve had my fingers in my ears over whether people blame me for my son’s Asperger’s, which I’m not sure how that differs from autism at his age. It seems like people are less judgmental when the behavior looks atypical enough that the disorder becomes visible, but when I’m trying to keep him calm to keep things from getting to that point, it looks like coddling.

  19. @ Tam, Sparrow, Joe, et al. – Yesterday it was suggested that I will keep Joey humble. Well, I have my own head-deflator, right in my house. You see, hubby and I were talking, and he suddenly stopped and looked at me with a silly smirk and declared, “You look just like Thulsa Doom!”

    I just gave him this look in return:




  20. On the issue of parental responsibility, I think it would depend on what the child did, as well as what the parent did in raising the child. Did the parent try to guide the child and take an interest in what the child was doing? Conversely, was the child simply allowed to do whatever with no guidance? Somewhere in between? Did the child, as in your example, commit mass murder, or steal a car and go joyriding? Both are crimes, but are extremely far apart in severity.

    As for the whole community blaming the parent for a child’s actions in committing mass murder, I can’t really see it. Those directly affected quite probably would blame the parent, seeing the situation as: It was your child. He lived in your home. How could you not see that something was wrong? However, I think the people in the larger community would be able to look at the matter from a more neutral perspective as opposed to the impassioned one of a parent who lost a child as a result of the actions of someone else’s child.

    But, then again, there’s the “mob mentality” to consider. While it would be unlikely to come into play to any great extent in a large metropolitan area, a small community could be devastated by the losses and look for someone to blame, and the parent(s) of the perpetrator would be the obvious target.

    As for who to visit, Akemi definitely has it right. I’d like to meet my maternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather, since I never had an opportunity to know them, both having died before I was born. Although more time with the two that I did know would be nice also, since I never saw them much as they both lived several Provinces away.

  21. I read “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and found it so disturbing, I didn’t even try to watch the movie. I don’t recall the mom being so mistreated in the book, but it probably was in there. I was too appalled by Kevin’s behavior to remember.

    My theory is that people need someone to blame when a massacre happens — someone besides the crazy perpetrator. They need to believe it could’ve been avoided if only someone hadn’t missed something, e.g. the U of Colorado not doing more to stop the Denver shooter. This way they tell themselves it will never happen to them, because they’d never be so negligent or clueless. It’s a defense mechanism. My 2-cent analysis anyway.

    I know a family coming to grips with their teenage son being a psychopath. Well it’s clear to everyone else he is, even if they still apply less severe labels. They are good parents giving everything they have to get him as much treatment as possible before he turns 18. I won’t be surprised to see him to end up in prison. It’s very sad. That book sounds great as far as the physiological explanations. How about a cure, is anything on the horizon?

    I’d only go back in time if I could change the future, ha.

  22. myself. I’d smack some sense into myself an then give some very good suggestions on which companies to invest in and when…and to try to find a mccain supporter to bet against in the 08 election

  23. I’d go back in time to visit my Uncle Bill who was killed aged 20 in WW2, when my Mum, his sister, was only 10. Anyone who I could know who would have known him is now dead. We’ve got the photo album my grandmother made, “the book of Bill”, his letters home and diary and his personal effects that the airforce sent to my Grandad. We’ve even heard his voice, on a record he sent home to his parents from New York. My siblings and I have all visited his grave in Belgium.

    I’d like to tell him, in those terrifying moments when he knew he was surely going to die, that we would remember him and that short as it was, his life would not be forgotten. I think we owe him that.

  24. Joe, you find it hard to understand because you’re an intelligent, reasonable person. The problem is, the world is full of jerks. Like those above, I can understand if the child is five, but not an adult child. I think that if the parents were terrible that the adult child’s behaviour may be understandable, but I still feel the child is responsible.

    For time travel, like JeffW I would like to go WAAAY back, just to see what things were really like 1000’s of years ago. I was thinking of saying to go back to see my Mom, but then I would face the old conundrum of whether I should warn her about the cancer or not. Would saving her completely change my life as it had since played out for the better? The worse? What a choice.

  25. Hmmm … this question hits close to home, as we have a sociopath in the family who did significant prison time for her crime. Yes, the persecution does happen, but mainly from complete strangers. People who know you and what you’ve already been through with the person are a great comfort. On the other hand, and this was something we did not expect, the police were … and I’m struggling for the right words here … pains in the patootie. They went out of their way to embarrass and humiliate the sociopath’s parents, and it was so completely wrong and hurtful.

  26. Do two wrongs make a right? We are not responsible for our children when they become adults. There have been many situations where there is a good home and a bad child but also a bad home with a good child. How horrible for people to treat any person in a destructive way. Those people who abused this poor woman (I know it’s a book) are wrong!! She has enough to live with. Also, where is the forgiveness and grace?

    Going back in time, I’d have to agree with Simon. I’d go back to just before high school and give myself some advice.

  27. Parental responsibility ends at the determination of mental illness, given that the parent(s) seek and access professional help for the child. However, if they do nothing, then they are wholly responsible.

    I agree with you, that the community at large will not hold the parents responsible as you described in the movie. In fact, Dylan Klebold’s parents still live in the same house as they did at the time of the shooting. http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/columbine-shooter-dylan-klebold-8217-parents-speak-191300537.html The point being, that if they were held responsible by the community, they would have moved.

    I wouldn’t want to spend time with any particular person throughout history. I’m afraid I’d be disappointed once I met them. I would rather experience historical events first hand: The first stages of human evolution, the building of the Great Pyramid, the height of Rome, the battle of Stirling Bridge, the signing of the Declaration of Independence…on and on.

    I’m a history geek, (a small part of the reason I loved everything Stargate) and that would be a dream come true for me.

  28. Blaming the parents is always a convenient cop out, but the fact is unless it’s the parents who started the cycle of abuse, they can’t be blamed for the actions of their offspring. We are born individuals with free thought, and all the parent can do is guide as best they can while the child is young enough to influence. After that, well look at Ted Bundy. There was nothing in his past that warranted the killing spree he went on. The scary fact is that sociopaths are born every day to ordinary couples. Some will live out their lives without wrecking devastation, whereas others will be devious SOBs like TB who was smart, devious and used charm to ensnare his victims.

    Okay, as to who I would have loved to meet. Einstein – not just for his smarts, but with the sayings he came out with, I think he had to have been a bit of a joker. And… Gene Rodenberry. I would have loved to had an insight into the mind of the man who created Star Trek!

  29. I once worked with a man who was definitely a sociopath. Charming, personable and smart. Very smart. Pure evil on two legs, although not psychotic massacre evil. Delighted in causing havoc and emotional pain through manipulation and sabotage. My shipmates and I spent one drunken evening theorizing about his demise and how no one would find his body in one of the pillars of the parking structure which was slated to be filled with concrete the next Monday, and how if he were found, it would seem to be an accident as he wandered around the base drunk often enough it would be no surprise that he fell in the construction zone.

    Evil begets evil. Just knowing him spawned horrendous thoughts in otherwise good, honest people. Good, honest drunk people, granted.

    People suck.

  30. Time travel? I’d not choose anyone I knew in life. Maybe one of my Mormon handcart ancestors; I’d like to ask Emma Clifford how she felt about losing her husband on the trail, then being told to marry as a third wife to a complete stranger by Brigham Young when she arrived in Salt Lake City. Was she ever happy?

    If not that, then I’d like to party with Ben Franklin or maybe Edgar Allen Poe. Eddie and I share a birthday, so at least we could break the ice.

  31. As far as conflating the two issues goes, the word sociopath gets flinged around in The Time Traveler’s Wife. The word psychopath gets flinged around in Doctor Who. The real psychopaths there certainly make a mess of the universe with the help of time travel.

    @Michelle – yes, I’ve seen parents dealing with knowing at even a young age their kid is headed to jail unless the kid gets really good at hiding what they do.

    In one case, the relationship with the kid is nurtured by assigning him as much good intent as possible so that he goes to his mother for advice and strategies to make amends and expose fewer people to his dark side, like threatening to kill them.

    In the other case, the parents intensively use punishment and reward. From his external actions, he does less “bad” and more “good” than most kids. He is obsessed with control and the amount of effort he puts into finding loopholes to his parents’ regimen is staggering, far beyond just getting caught up in what was modeled to him.

    Both kids are still going to jail.

    The thing about labels is it’s best to pick the most useful ones, not always the most apt ones, if you have to pick. All of us parent at our worst when we’re parenting from a place of fear and if the only hope is false hope that can be part of doing as much as they can do.

  32. Cher Joe,
    nous sommes les parents de 5 enfants, tous rendus à l’âge adulte. Votre question est intéressante mais, comme dans le film, elle est mal posée.

    Ce n’est pas de savoir si les autres peuvent condamner une mère à ce point. C’est plutôt de savoir pourquoi personne ne se regarde soi-même avant d’accuser l’autre. Si le voisinage condamne la mère d’un psychopathe c’est parce que les gens pensent que, dans les mêmes circonstances, ils auraient fait mieux.

    Or, comme parents, nous portons tous et toujours une part de responsabilité dans ce que sont devenus nos enfants. Une part, je dis. MAIS personne, pas même les parents eux-mêmes, ne peut ni n’a le droit d’évaluer le degré, le niveau de cette part.

    La raison en est que tout homme a sa propre liberté. Or il est impossible de juger du degré de liberté dont chaque homme dispose dans sa vie. Donc, on ne peut pas juger des parents sur le degré de leur responsabilité à l’égard de leurs enfants parce qu’on ignore la part de liberté qui revient aux enfants dans leurs gestes.Cette retenue est d’autant plus nécessaire lorsque, comme dans le film, on est en présence de personnes victimes de maladie mentale.

    Dès que nous commençons à regarder nos torts dans l’éducation de nos enfants, très vite on en arrive à la conclusion qu’on peut difficilement condamer les parents d’enfants qui ont mal tournés. La tentation est toujours là de dire qu’on aurait fait mieux, mais je crois que c’est un piège.
    Désolé si mon courriel est trop long.
    Bonne journée.

  33. There were a lot of good answers to your parent question. Two of my brothers starting getting into legal trouble when I was around 15. I know my parents lost some friends but they kept all of their core ones. My brothers didn’t kill anything but their future, so I suspect the severity of the crimes would impact the social punishment to the family. I would think it’s unlikely the woman would suffer to that extreme, since she was a victim of her son’s crimes too. However, there are assholes out there. One example: http://thestir.cafemom.com/big_kid/144508/caught_on_camera_disabled_girl

    I’ve often wondered what happened to the families of the two boys responsible for the Jonesboro, Arkansas school shootings in 1998. There was NO justice in that case. Arkansas laws at that time, wouldn’t allow children to be tried as adults. They shot 15 children/adults and five died. Those boys are out of jail now. Their criminal record for the murders has been expunged! I imagine the lack of punishment for this crime would infuriate even the most level headed person. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westside_Middle_School_massacre If anyone could answer your question, the families of these boys could. Jonesboro is a small town. Most people in that city either knew or was related to one of the victims. I haven’t heard the family give any recent interviews. So I don’t know if they moved from the area or not.

    On who I would like to meet in the past? Someone asked me that question years ago and my first response was “Jesus”. I found his sermons fascinating. He was a man would get to the kernel of the truth with very few words.

  34. Joe,
    In regard to the parental responsibility issue, I do think the parents hold some responsibility in their child’s actions. I graduated from Columbine High School in 1986, still live in the Denver area, and I was a student of Mr. Dave Sanders, the teacher who was killed in the attack. Those two punks, Harris and Klebold had seen some trouble, but were also engaged in activities such as making those cricket bombs in Harris’ house, buying weapons, and even having to the point that a gun shop called and left a message on Harris’ answering machine stating that his ‘clips are in’. His father admited that he heard the message and passed it on to his son. Total parent failure for not following up on that.

    Love the time travel idea, and I would go back and have a chat with myself as a junior high school kid and aim myself in the right direction on a couple of topics.

  35. In regards to the Psycopath Parenting, I would hold the parent accountable if the child’s mental illness/psycopathy was blatantly in their face like problems at school for excessive violence (and usually there is that) over and over for years and years; that’s a pretty big banner sized red flag to ignore or “not know about” considering that the school always informs about those things. But if the child didn’t necessarily get in trouble but was a loner, then I wouldn’t hold it against the parent because it’s unusual for a child to be a loner at school and not be a loner at home as well.

    In regards to the Time-travelling meetings, I would go back in time to meet my Great Grandmother who raised my mom and passed away when I was only a couple of weeks old. I’ve heard such wonderful things about her from my mom and the rest of the family, I can’t help but want to meet her.

  36. @Tam Dixon
    Re: menacing a disabled girl. yep, there are people who menace for no good reason and ride out our derision, those people would certainly latch onto anything that would seem to give them cause.

    Re: small towns, Nowadays bad behavior builds momentum and gets more normalized behind the anonymity of topix.net. In a large city, many people don’t even know what topix.net is, but the small town people can’t help but at least hear about it.

  37. I agree with you Joe, or at least with what I infer are your feelings on the matter.

    I would be willing to bet that the people who blame the parents for their child’s actions would be horrified if the parent always kept the child restrained emotionally, never allowing them to do anything without approval. In fact, most people would consider that behavior monstrous. Our culture is one where parents are supposed to inculcate good values over time, and then gradually let loose the reins and allow the children to ‘grow up’ and make their own decisions. Granted, parents are responsible for how quickly they allow this freedom, and they presumedly wait until their child is ready, but they still let go at /some/ point.

    A deadbeat parent that never tried to teach right/wrong? Responsible.
    A parent who lets go too quickly and lets her son get involved with the wrong crowd? Responsible.

    Essentially, I’m saying a parent does bear some of the burden if they were negligent, just as a person can be guilty of manslaughter because of negligence in keeping their building maintained.

    That said, in almost every other case, the parent has loosened their grip on their child’s life, the same as every other parent throughout history. A mom is no more responsible for her son’s actions at 16 years old than she is when he is 30. In both cases, he is exercising his free will and not consulting her… it’s out of her hands.

    People who would be so selfish and insensitive so as to mistreat her would be much worse on the scale of wrongdoers, in my humble opinion.

  38. While I refuse to believe that people are “just born that way” when it comes to certain “imbalances” and that they just can’t be helped, I also firmly believe that parents have WAY more influence on a child’s future well-being while the children are under the age of about 10 than scientists will ever realize. I’m sorry, kids are not just a “pop ’em out and let them go because they’re already programmed as to who they’re going to be and how they’re going to act in society”. That is the essence of the “born that way” ideal. They’re not Goa’uld, they’re not born with genetic knowledge and memories!

    A child must be brought up and trained to know right and wrong. Compassion and love. Honesty and truth. In a world of greys, they need to be taught the black and whites. It can’t be a “well, what’s right for you is different than what’s right for me” when it comes to what’s good and true. Morality seems to be a lost art nowadays. It’s a tough job, no doubt! But it can be done, it just takes the dedication that’s required of it. Sadly, that level of dedication is not what some parents feel is what they want to do. Through neglect, improper anger spouts, and general exasperation, their kid begins to form those “faulty connections” in their brain with bad choices and bad responses to the situation they’re in. And why not? There’s nobody there to correct them and show them the proper way to react. So, those synapses go on firing in the wrong way and those patterns get formed over time to where they just get worse and worse to where poorer and poorer choices are made and can result in some seriously deviant behavior.

    That’s why the parents of killers get blamed and effectively shunned, in this country and abroad. The parents who HAVE the proper dedication and made the commitment to the full-time job of parenting are usually the ones coming down on those “failed” parents(as they see them), too. And rightfully so. They put in the time and effort, why couldn’t the parent(s) of the killer?

    All that to say this: If the kid is over 18 or has moved out of the house, I do feel a bit of that blame is lifted from the parent(s). But not by much. A lot can be said for the company a kid keeps outside the home and it’s influence on their life. But even then, if a parent is too blind to see their kid start making bad choices while being older AND still living at home, even the simple life mistakes, and not correcting them or at least warning them, they should shoulder some of the blame as well.

    As for the time travel thing, outside of the obligatory answers, I too would have to say my grandfather(on my dad’s side). He came to this country to escape the Armenian Genocide and of the stories I heard about his life before starting a family, they were amazing. The journey he went through to get here and start a farm and a family is awesome and just doesn’t happen like that anymore these days. Plus, he and I shared the same sense of humor. Literally. There were things he would say that only he and I got and we would be the only ones laughing at times. He passed in 2002 and I still miss him.

    And for the self serving answer, I’d go back to the 50’s and live through that time until about ’73 and just buy a string of cars every year, putting them all in sealed storage with next to no mileage on them and open them up today to enjoy them and sell a few for the money, but keep the majority of the rest.

    -Mike A.

  39. Interesting thought …what about law-abiding good-hearted people that are the siblings of a psychopath? Those siblings were raised by the same parents in a home with the same values/morals/affection ..if it’s purely the parents’ fault then by the same accord all of the kids in the family should have turned out the same way. I have a friend who is a Christian singer, his sister is also a Christian singer, but their brother is in prison because of the life he chose to lead. All 3 raised by the same parents with the same values. There’s good & there’s evil and it comes down to which one we want to be, not because we are standing under the umbrella of someone else.

    Sure our past may define us, but it is what we choose to do with our own lives that makes us the person that we become and will ultimately be remembered as …God gives us a gift, it’s called life and what we choose to do with our life is our choice ..hence, self-fulfilling responsibility.

  40. I’d go back in time to talk with the earliest people I could or way forward. I probably couldn’t go back to before the Tower of Babel because figuring out how to communicate with non-English speakers would be complicated by them not knowing what a different language is at all.

  41. @Mike A.

    Personally I think in some cases, Society lets itself down, there are some cases where killers, or people equally imbalanced have been let down by the system, and haven’t received the help they needed to essentially prevent them from harming another person in time.

    You only have to see cases where crazy gun toting maniacs kill people because of a certain condition they may be suffering from, and in some cases the state/school etc are aware of this persons problems, but absolutely nothing is done, for one reason or another.

    If people get the help they need, even if it means locking them away before they can commit any crimes on mental health grounds or whatever, society woukd be a better place.

  42. From “Blazing Saddles”-bad guy recruitment scene…”What are your crimes?”/”Arson, rape, murder, and rape”/”You said rape twice”/”I like rape.” Key takeaway-some people are just plain bad and best avoided and not dwelt upon.

    Time travel personage? learn the real story of JFK from Lee then submit the most sought after spec script in “The History of the World” !!!

    @Joe, ever write a spec script?

  43. Your question concerning whether a parent should beheld accountable for the crimes committed by a child is thought provoking, but after my brain recovered fromchasing itself round & round trying to answer your question, and I drank a large coffee, I can answer thus:- No! parents cannot be held accountable for crimes committed by their children. As soon as children become aware of their surroundings & community we teach them what is right and what is wrong (or what is acceptable behaviour and what is not acceptable behaviour!)

    As for time travel and visiting someone? I too would love to visit with a beloved Grandfather.

  44. While my children were young….I very much believed it my responsibility to instill in them the ability to Choose The Right. We all make choices and some children are not taught that a consequence is attached to an action.

    I have five daughters and one son…they have all made it through their teen years successfully. Love is the biggest part. I have felt sorrow for mothers that must suffer from their children’s actions. I have extended family that suffer greatly because of choices their children make.

    I have been very blessed. My ten grandchildren are on the path to great lives. It is choice…but Joe…even you know in dogs who are loved and those that are not…turn out very different. There are children that never were raised in a loving environment.

    Yes…I believe children are born that way…but some are raised that way. There are both. What makes them different…I don’t know…but I believe love conquers a lot with children.

    If I could go back in time to be with someone…it would be my father. He was a gentle soul who helped everyone around him. I felt loved because of him. This world doesn’t feel the same to me without him here.

    I apologize if I have been too personal in this posting. Those that know me…have probably come to expect it.

  45. Wow. That is a complicated answer actually. I think it is a case-by-case basis as far as how much responsibility the parents’ bear and what the situation is.

    As far as time travel, outside of actually speaking to Jesus, there really isn’t anybody I’d like to speak to. If I could go to the past and do something to change certain things about my current life–so my child who died would live and Patrick would not have autism–I would…in a hearbeat. I’d actually like to take a glimpse into our future 1000 years from now and see what we look like (what we’ve evolved into–will we look like something future Crichton from Farscape or more like the people on the animated film Wall-E? Would we be here at all? Would the earth still exist and what would it look like? I’d be far more interested in that.

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