First of all, I would like to thank Annarosemeeds for the inspiration her post “Thanks, But If You Really Knew Me” on her blog “Rose With Thorns” for the inspiration behind what I am writing about today. If you haven’t read it already, then you should because she really hits the nail on the head as far as I’m concerned. No matter who we are, how famous we’ve become or what we’ve done, everybody craves a good word or positive affirmation. The same can be said for people who have Asperger’s Syndrome. They too want that positive nod or compliment and be accepted, some to the point where it becomes an obsession. For many, a small compliment can raise their spirits sky high, unfortunately, the opposite can have devastating effects as well.
I, like many people with Asperger’s, (although I have never been formally diagnosed) have a great tendency to take what is said to heart because we tend to wear our hearts on our sleeve most of the time. The positive or negative comment has a major swing factor on our self esteem. However, the negative seems to be longer lasting. Speaking from my experience, if I get a compliment that soars my self esteem, a negative one will immediately crash it. On the other hand, if I that self esteem is in the toilet thanks to some negative comment, one or even several positive ones won’t elevate it to a dizzy height. In fact, it’s a major achievement just to get it back to ground level. Therefore, too many insults or negative comments will have the Asperger’s sufferer thinking that they are totally worthless and the consequences from those feelings can be fatal.
Throughout much of my life, my self esteem always stood more on the negative side of the line. A conspiracy of bullying children, patronising adults, bad teachers and mis- intentioned relatives all played their part in these feelings. I could have had all A’s and B’s but one D on my report card, my mother would focus on the D, even if that D was in a minor subject like Art. My inconsistent sports play had the same effect. Playing baseball one day, I had a hit in all five times at the bat; but peers would rather tell me that I sucked because I made an error in the field. The same would be true in many circles of my life and so by the time I reached adolescence, I began to believe that I wasn’t good at anything. I hated myself through most of my teen years and even cursed God for creating me that way. I thought I found my salvation when I was 18 because I thought joining the marines was going to solve all my problems by stripping me down and building up into something better. When it, didn’t I cursed myself for believing the bullshit and wasting four years of my life. When I got out, the problem hit me in a different way. I wanted to put the military behind and the best way I could do that was to be as unmilitary as possible. I grew my hair long and wore Native American moccasin boots and got my ear pierced. Unfortunately, they were all the wrong things to do in intolerant 80s Regan America and I suffered persecution; as a result and my self esteem plummeted on account of that intolerance. I only found salvation when I came to live in the UK and even then, there have been lots of struggles with self esteem.
Since then, my self esteem has been on a roller coaster. It still rises at the positive and sinks at the negative and though it’s a struggle, I accept what is said without taking it to heart. Much of this I owe to my counsellor from 2003-05 who made me see things in an alternative light. However, the Asperger’s will never go away and it is often a battle to keep my self esteem from sinking as it is for many who have it.
Before I go, I must link what is written to “He Was Weird” because after all, the main objective of Peaceful Rampage is to sell the book. I just hope the words contained in this and all posts will influence you to buy it. You see, Mark’s self esteem is shattered within a week of moving to Ramsgate and it only gets to a satisfactory level for one week during the second summer. Even then, it is demolished almost immediately. But the story can be used as a warning to someone whose self esteem is driven so low that they feel that there is no point in living and the only way to raise it again is to self terminate after taking as many of those responsible with them.
Nest post: Low Self Esteem As A Bullying Tool
Of the mothers I have visited in these recent posts, Donna Leversee is the one whose virtually unknown. This is mainly due to the fact that the book she appears in, “He Was Weird,” written by me, has only been out for a couple of months. However, she has been my motivation behind theses series of posts. It came about when someone who read the story fed back to me that in their opinion, the mother was also responsible for her son’s shooting spree at his school. So, like the previous mothers, let us look at whether or not she should be held responsible.
The first thing we learn about Donna as the story opens is that she has just split up with her husband on account of his drinking leading to financial mismanagement and takes her three children to live with her parents. When my proof reader read the first chapter, that reader sensed a great sadness with the mother. It is easy to play the single mother card here especially as the story progresses and we learn that her bullied eldest son has Asperger’s Syndrome. But I don’t think she would have done that herself.
It is the way that she handles her son’s bullying that some may blame her for the outcome. Another reader even stated while the mother wasn’t to blame, she didn’t help either. Throughout the story, she tells Mark to fight back, one of her favourite lines seem to be, “I would have gone up to the kid and socked him.” This is even the case when he is faced with insurmountable odds, she expected him to take on several people himself. On the other hand, there are times when she goes charging in to right the wrongs done to her son. We see this in both instances when bullies destroy Mark’s bike; one time threatening to call the police and actually calling them the next time. Maybe it’s this that sends mixed messages to Mark and causes his mind to overload. Still, is she to blame?
We do read that she does try hard for her son. In spite of school opposition, she has him diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and DAMP and gets him the support he requires. But she also uses it as a stick to beat Mark when his grades don’t improve. Like everyone in the town, she fails to link the bullying he is suffering to the academic failures.
Most would probably agree with the premise that Donna Leversee is trying to do her best for her son although some of the methods may not be the best considering his problems. One suggestion has been that there is little evidence in the story that she doesn’t get the support she requires from her parents. That is something that definitely could be debated, the idea that she had to stand on her on two feet so her children should have to as well.
A further twist in the tail occurs after her son commits the atrocity. Her grief is plane to see but after the family moves out of the town, she reverts back to her maiden name and has her two other children do the same. We also discover that she tells a potential boyfriend that her son was killed by a drunk driver and she isn’t impressed when her daughter says she is going to attend the ten year anniversary service. So what impression do you get of Donna Leversee? Is she a villain or a victim? Or just another parent trying to do her best for her children in an unsympathetic world?
The best way to decide for yourself is to read He Was Weird.
One thing I failed to mention in my post about the role of Samantha Wilton or her husband Harry when I covered her in my last post was the relationship with Gray’s older brother Pete. One of Gray’s problems was the fact that his parents were always comparing him to Perfect Pete. Peter was perfect in Harry’s eyes as he did well in school and played sports, which gave dad his evidence when he told Gray that bullies wouldn’t pick on him if he went out for a team.
This was one very important aspect for me to leave out and I feel foolish for doing so in the last post. If there is a contributor other than bullying that will lead a kid to shoot up his school it’s being made to feel inadequate by always being compared to more successful siblings. The further the reader progresses into the story in Endgame, the more they see this becoming apparent. We can also revisit her inability to stand up to her husband when he went over the top with Gray. It would have been an opportunity for her to point out that Gray wasn’t like Peter and that should be taken into consideration.
Another point about Peter comes to light here. I grew up in a neighbourhood that if a kid got beat in a fight, he would automatically go and get his bigger brother, (if he had one) and get revenge on his victor. Even if the vanquished child had been the one to start the fight. The entire family had suspicion that Gray was getting bullied in school, even if he wouldn’t confess to it. There is no evidence in the story of the parents saying anything to Peter to look after his brother. I know this is something many mothers would have said to their eldest so in that respect, Samantha, as well as Harry, failed Gray.
I just felt I had to say this part as it is an important aspect behind the character of Gray in “Endgame.”
Next post will be definitely Donna Leversee from my own book “He Was Weird.”
Of all the mothers of school shooters in books I have covered thus far, the least known is the mother from “Endgame” by Nancy Garden. This is probably because we don’t really get to know her from the story. What we do find out about her is that her name is Samantha Wilton, although I didn’t learn her first name until at least 50 pages into the story. She is married and has two teenage sons named Peter and Grayson (Gray for short). Gray turns out to be the school shooter. We also know that like Lacy Houghton, she works as a nurse. The most important thing we know is that she never stands up to her husband.
One prime example of this is when the father announces that he’s taking the boys hunting and Gray states that he has plans with his friend. The father forcefully suggests that Gray invite his friend to come along to which he protests. When Samantha tries to intervene on her son’s behalf, the father tells her to keep quiet because they’re talking about man’s stuff and she obeys. My mind is already guessing what thoughts are going through the minds of females who are reading this. And I think I can guess fairly accurately too because my wife and my ex wife would have told me on no uncertain terms what I could do with man’s stuff. I suppose many would have done the same and agree that Mr Wilton is himself a bully.
What I ask myself here is “Did Samantha’s inability to stand up to her husband have anything to do with Gray shooting up his school?” It sounds far fetched but it is something that must be looked at. In the beginning of the story, when Gray is telling himself that things are going to be different at his new school, he also hopes that this is the year that his mother is finally going to stand up to his father. As the story goes on, we soon find out that neither of those things happen and that could possibly have had a knock on effect on Gray.
Another issue which makes Samantha Wilton come across as a failure is that she seems to do little or nothing about the bullying her younger son is suffering. She doesn’t appear to offer him any advice nor does she counter the father’s ludicrous suggestion that if Gray went out for a team in school, then he wouldn’t be bullied so much. It could be argued that had she not been so non existent in the story, maybe the outcome would have been different and her son not carried out the tragedy.
So, can we blame Samantha Wilton for her son going into his school one day and shooting and killing four people? Does the fact that she has such a low profile in the story have any effect on the outcome? Some could say Gray seeing his father bullying his mother had an effect on him and that somehow him shooting his bullies was a way of getting at his bullying father. I don’t agree with this because Gray’s bullies were real and if anything, his father’s non action other than saying go out for a team had more of an effect at the end. We can’t blame Samantha for that.
Next post: Part IV, Donna Leversee
Unfortunately, they haven’t made a film for the book “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult, so I’m afraid I can’t include a picture of Lacy Houghton today. With the possible exception of the mother from my own novel, “He Was Weird,” Lacy Houghton is probably the easiest mother of all four literary school shooters to criticize. True, in “Nineteen Minutes,” she doesn’t suffer the abuse Eva Katchadourian had thrown at her in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” she doesn’t escape criticism. The first instance we see is when while working as a midwife, a patient refuses to let Lacy be her midwife on account of the actions of her “horrible” son Peter. Fair play to Lacy, she acts very professionally about it. The second instance is more explosive. While testifying on her son’s behalf at his trial, the father of one of the victims gets up and shouts at her for not doing her job as a parent, which caused the death of his child.
Can we at all blame Lacy Houghton for her son’s shooting spree at his local high school? Let’s look more at the story starting from the first instance of bullying against Peter when he was five. The Kindergarten teacher informs Lacy that Peter is the victim of bullying on the playground and although the school is taking the matter seriously, (so she says), they’re also teaching Peter to stand up for himself. Lacy feels she needs to reinforce that with her son and that is the first time that the reader discovers that she knows that Peter is getting his lunchbox thrown out of the window on the school bus. Her idea is to tell Peter that if he doesn’t stand up for himself, he won’t have a play date with his only friend. This doesn’t work.
I have heard many parents reactions to the scenario of the lunchbox being thrown out the bus window and Lacy would be criticized for not doing enough for her son. Many a parent has said that they would be down at that school demanding heads on platters, even threatening to sue. I agree that the school was definitely negligent in their duty of care towards Peter and they should have done more to prevent the lunchbox episodes. Of course my own wife would have dragged the parents in and threatened them with violence if they didn’t stop their kids. I see where she’s coming from here although many parents would be content with having the children involved banned from riding the bus and threaten the parents with police action if their kids took reprisals. As for the counter argument of the kids denying it was them, there would be too many witnesses, including Peter’s friend Josie to legitimise that. With all that said, how much do we blame Lacy for this?
At the same time, others have mentioned the older brother who was on the bus at the time. Many parents would have chastised him for not looking after his younger brother. It can only be second guessed as to why Joey didn’t intervene on his brother’s behalf, maybe the kids doing it were older but we simply don’t know.
Throughout the story we know that Peter Houghton’s life is total hell but we aren’t sure how much Lacy knows. When he is in junior high school, we have instances of a mother trying to do right for her son but the result ends up in embarrassment for him. The Superman book cover is one and the other is her speaking to the coach about Peter’s lack of playing time when he was on the soccer team. Having played sports back then, I’ve seen many a parent give a coach a right roasting over their child not playing. I have to sympathise with Lacy on this one. If I went to my son’s game and they were winning 24-2 and he still wasn’t given playing time, I would be onto the coach as to why my son wasn’t allowed to go in. And I definitely would not have bought the team consistency crap the coach at Peter’s school tried to give. However, as with Peter, often times the child involved ends up being criticized or teased because of mommy or daddy speaking to the coach. Usually this is done by those who get lots of playing time and I deduce it is because they are now fearing losing that time to a less able player.
Finally, we have high school and this is when Peter finally goes on the rampage and shoots twenty-eight people killing ten. By this time, Peter is in the form of typical teenager who speaks to his parents mono-syllabically. The bullying for him has become unbearable but we don’t know how much she knows about it, if any at all. This is why after the shooting Lacy begins to question herself as a parent. She thinks maybe she should have asked more questions or gone into his room more to discover clues. Some will argue that the fact that Peter’s father kept guns was a damning indictment of any parent because they gave their child access to the weapons of destruction. Again, this is all speculation but plenty of meat for a lively debate.
I know it’s fiction but would anyone blame Lacy Houghton for her son’s school shooting? Unlike many school shooters, yes Peter had guns in the house but he wasn’t raised on them. His father hunted but he doesn’t come across as some kind of gun nut in the story. Furthermore, we don’t really know Lacy’s stance on guns. Also, none of the other common criteria is there like being raised with intolerance or forcing religion down their child’s throat. The only thing we can possibly point the finger at Lacy for is not doing enough to stem the bullying her son was suffering. The rest has nothing to do with her parenting and if she were a real life person, I would sympathise with the hell she would have to go through for the rest of her life.
Next post: Mrs Wilton