When Liza Long's brutal and honest piece titled "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother" hit the Internet, it was at the perfect time. A nation was in grief over the horrific Sandy Hook massacre allegedly perpetrated by Adam Lanza and we were all searching for answers. Long's essay, detailing life with her difficult, violent, mentally ill 13-year-old, struck a nerve. It went incredibly viral and seemed to be everywhere.
Now, of course, comes the inevitable backlash. And this is just as brutal. Blogger Sarah Kendzior says Long's blog actually never claimed the boy had mental illness before. In fact, Long had previously focused on his love of President Barack Obama and criticized her son for that. As Kendzior says: "Children deserve privacy, especially troubled children." Long's media tour promoting her poor son "Michael" as a potential future mass murderer is the height of poor taste.
Kendzior -- and the many other critics -- have a point.
Personally, my biggest issue with the piece was the line about gun control: "It's easy to talk about guns," she said. Well, no. Actually. It isn't. At all.
If it were, after all, wouldn't something have been done by now? In that one line, I read a political agenda and the fact that her son was once criticized (by her) for supporting Obama kind of confirms that. But that's not such a big deal. In fact, the biggest deal was the exploitation. By titling her piece "I Am Adam Lanza's Mom," she knew it would go far. She used a national tragedy to get her voice heard. But even worse? She used her son. This is where the criticism is the harshest, in fact.
Disability activist Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg was horrified (and rightly so) that a mother would compare her beautiful child to several mass murderers, using her own name and letting it go viral. See below:
... His feelings matter. His feelings matter quite a lot. Because he is a child who needs help, and for that help to matter, he has to feel safe, and he has to feel respected, and he has to feel that his private life has boundaries around it.
She makes a compelling point. There is something that feels just gratuitous and self-serving about it. What first hits hard and powerful feels cruel and off the mark a few minutes later.
It was a questionable decision to write the piece, no doubt. Her political agenda is also clear. But, let's assume she is really wanting to start a conversation about mental illness in this country, it does beg the question: why can't we talk about two things at once? The answer: we can.
Long is right that mental illness needs to be addressed. If her agenda was only to get that done and to use Lanza's name to get there, is that really so wrong?
It's hard to say. What is clear is that the piece is controversial and is stirring a lot of emotions.
Long and Kendzior released a joint statement below:
We would like to release a public statement on the need for a respectful national conversation on mental health. Whatever our prior disagreements, we both believe that the stigma attached to mental illness needs to end. We need to provide affordable, quality mental health care for families. We need to provide support for families who have a relative who is struggling.
Do you think the piece was wrong for Long to write?
Image via dannysoar's photostream/Flickr