Z e t e o
Reading, Looking, Listening, . . . Questioning

Empathy

Categories: Jennifer Dean, ZiR


WeNeedToTalkAboutKevin_poster

Today I read The New Yorker article where Peter Lanzing shares his story with journalist Andrew Solomon, The Reckoning. It reminded me of a similar piece I read years after the Columbine killings where one of the mothers of the perpetrators recounted her struggles – and I couldn’t help but think of the Lynne Ramsey movie We Need to Talk About Kevin. There is no question that the grief of the victims in mass killings is justified but the parents of those who committed the killings grieve as well and it is such an incredibly scary and complex set of emotions with which they must cope. At the end of The New Yorker article Solomon reveals that Peter told him,

[H]e wished Adam had never been born, that there could be no remembering who he was outside of who he became.

It is clear that Peter Lanza’s is constantly haunted by the memory of his son Adam and the consequences of Adam’s actions. In the fictional account of the film (based on the novel by Lionel Shriver) Lynne Ramsey paints a picture of a mother dealing with the aftermath of her son’s shooting up his high school and killing of her husband and daughter. I left the cinema terrified of the unpredictability of life and relationships and motherhood. I finished reading this article and could not imagine how Peter Lanza must feel, to wish that your son had never been born, to carry such guilt and regrets. Solomon writes:

Interview subjects usually  have a story they want to tell, but Peter Lanza came to these conversations as much to ask questions as to answer them. It’s strange to live in a state of sustained incomprehension about what has become the most important fact about you. “I want people to be afraid of the fact that this could happen to them,” he said. It took six months for a sense of reality to settle on Peter. “But it’s real,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be understood to be real.”

Through cinema some connection is made to the incomprehensible. Ramsey connects us to Kevin’s mother’s experience (Eva Khatchadourian played by Tilda Swinton) and I felt for a mother who could not connect or control the actions of her son. Much has been said about Nancy Lanza’s culpability in the Sandy Hook killings (she let her son have guns, she should have known something was wrong) – but Peter Lanza in this article dispels some of the simple accusations to paint a fuller picture – and as Elisabeth Donnolley in her blog post about the article (How Andrew Solomon’s Peter Lanza Piece Makes Us More Empathetic) points out Solomon promotes a greater sense of empathy for those who can not help but be alienated by the society for their association to the tragedies in question.

– Jennifer Dean

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