Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

All kept in a lockbox in the dark shadows of our hearts.

We carry a sensitive cargo
Below the waterline --
Ticking like a time bomb
With a primitive design

--Neil Peart

I can't get it out of my head. His irrational rationale for brutally violent acts, the taking of two young lives, two lovely daughters.

"I was aware of what I was doing, and I could not stop myself. I was in a major rage and pissed off at my whole life and everyone who had hurt me and hurt the wrong people."

He's a deranged animal.

However, I've had these feelings. Raging against the world around me (in my head) because of imagined or real harm done to me by others.

Wait, don't judge. Many of us have had these feelings, although many of us don't want to admit it because it reveals potentially fatal flaws in our societal and moral navigation systems, the fact that we get angry and need to purge at any cost, regardless of attempted self-restraint or criminal laws.

But for me, the anger is always directed at the object considered to be the tipping point, the person responsible for hurting me, for making me so mad.

Not at random strangers. And never actually acting on the violent vengeful visions.

They are privately cathartic and necessary for sane functioning, for working through the painful angst. All kept in a lockbox in the dark shadows of our hearts.

But in the case of Gardner, the lockbox failed. And as a father of one daughter with one an the way, my vigilance is exponential.

John Albert Gardner III pleaded guilty April 16 to murdering 17-year-old Chelsea King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois in a deal with prosecutors that spared him the death penalty. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 14 to life in prison without parole.

"You think that I don't have guilt and I don't hate myself for what I did? I hate myself, I really do. There is no taking back what I did and if I could, yes, I would. Are you kidding me? But I was out of control. If I was able to stop myself in the middle of it, I would have, and I could not. I was out of control."

"It wasn't about their age with me. I actually didn't go out and look for them. I did not sit and wait for them. … Everything that I've done was horrible. What am I supposed to say? That I tried to prevent it? Yeah I did."

Gardner claims he went to a mental hospital to turn himself in, but they turned him away.

I don't know the context of why they turned him away, and if it's even true, but in a state (California) where health and human services have been slashed and burned for decades, while in their stead prison after prison has been built, I'm not so sure we're helping anyone help themselves anymore.

We're to keep them under lock and key, but by then it's too late; blue genes, broken dreams and the devastating memories of stepping in one self-made rusted bear trap after another drive the seething madness to lockbox breaking.

What's my point? Responsible parenting means paying particular attention to the way your children respond to stressful situations and get them help if need be. (And there can be no action in inaction if as parents we don't help ourselves when responding inappropriately to stressful situations.)

We are the leaders of self first, then our families.

I had a good friend in high school who used to inflict pain on himself and on his pets. Years later, after time in prison and severe drug and alcohol abuse, he was diagnosed bipolar. Thankfully he never hurt others including his children, but sadly he did end up taking his own life.

If there's a need for intervention, counseling, psychiatry, God, medication -- whatever -- then the first line of offense and defense is us, the parents.

We love our children, and want to protect them at any cost, but we must work to help them keep their lockboxes intact.

Because once opened, it's under another lock and key they're headed to, and we're no longer responsible.

But the greater society is.

Behind the finer feelings --
This civilized veneer --
The heart of a lonely hunter
Guards a dangerous frontier

The balance can sometimes fail --
Strong emotions can tip the scale --

Don't want to silence a desperate voice
For the sake of security
No one wants to make a terrible choice
On the price of being free

It's not a matter of mercy
It's not a matter of laws
Plenty of people will kill you for some fanatical cause

It's not a matter of conscience --
A search for probable cause
It's just a matter of instinct -- a matter of fatal flaws

No reward for resistance
No assistance -- no applause

I don't want to face the killer instinct -- face it in you or me
So we keep it under lock and key...

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