While George Huguely V, Robert Richardson III and T.J. Lane lived worlds apart – socially, economically and geographically – they shared one undeniable bond: all three
were the victims of broken homes. I imagine social workers are having a field day with the amount of historical data about these three families and the clear line leading the boys’ violent behavior back to the familial loss they had experienced.
In Huguely’s case, it appears loneliness, anger and rage were drowned out by generations of money and excess privilege. It was nearly impossible to read a story about this kid without hearing about his drunken binges – binges clearly not capable of drowning out the loss he had been feeling for years, beyond the reach of his estranged parents. That loss, anger, and behavior continued to be ignored as Huguely proudly walked the hallowed halls of the University of Virginia. Where were his teachers, counselors, friends and enemies while this troubled young man was out of control? Does the privilege extend to ignoring inappropriate and ultimately violent behavior until it becomes too late, and incarceration and looking back are the only options?
There are many more than two losses here, two families destroyed. While they say children expect to bury their parents, it is a parent’s worst nightmare to bury his/her child. As the father of six children myself, I cannot imagine the daily horror Sharon Love and her family must face. Lexie says the pain of knowing she will never see her sister’s face again causes her physical pain.
For the Huguelys, not only must they live with this reminder, but they must accept part of the blame. Yeardley’s family will never see her graduate college, they’ll never see her get married, they’ll never celebrate the birth of her children. Truth be told, many people are now second-guessing the Huguelys’ lack of intervention.
Clear across to the middle of the country – a place known for its solid Midwestern gentility, where many people still leave their doors unlocked at night, and where neighbors look out for neighbors – we have another senseless shooting at a high school. T.J. Lane was, by all accounts, a loner, haunted too by the demons of his youth, lacking the ability and resources to reach out for help, and finally getting the attention he sought in that high school cafeteria.
Because this tragedy is so new, new information is constantly unfolding. We do know Lane’s anger and lack of self-control have now resulted in a third loss of innocent life. Again, where were the adults, the teachers, counselors, neighbors, or church members? Do we live in a blind world, believing things like this only happen to other people? We should now realize it can and does happen, anywhere – we’ve just become immune to the reality. We live in “sound byte society,” one in which this tragedy will soon be replaced by another.
And finally, we heard about the tragedy of a young, reclusive high school boy in Maryland who killed his father after suffering abuse from his father for years. Going to school in dirty, tattered clothing that he slept in the night before; the loud screaming and violence neighbors heard coming from the motherless home – there appear to be many things at play here in the breakdown of the family.
A loss, compounded by the economy, and a lack of human value and identity. A father so full of anger that he repeatedly took it out, physically and emotionally, on his own flesh and blood. The irony is how the community has rallied around this young boy, the true victim in this senseless and preventable tragedy. One must ask, however, where was this community while this tragedy was playing out?
The truth is no one knows what goes on behind closed doors, and to some extent we are all living in our own personal hells; whether imposed by others or self-inflicted, we are too rightfully and justifiably caught up in our own worlds. When the preventable, needless losses all elude us, the reflection begins – at least until the next tragedy crosses the screen of our living room or family room television.
In my thoughts and words, these boys were victims of the breakdown of the family unit – an unwillingness or inability to rise above the crises of life, the pressure and complications of wanting it all or barely having enough to get by. At the end of the day, aren’t the tragedies all the same? You see, neither great wealth nor abject poverty, Huguelys, Richardsons and Lanes all accounted for, can erase this apparent reality of life. Sadly, we’re all the victims here, as it’s a testament to the American culture we have come too easily to accept.