'I Am Adam Lanza's Mother' Blogger Accused of Exploitation in Backlash Over Viral Piece

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Adam Lanza's MotherWhen 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



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Reali... RealityCheckNow

These mothers are damned if they do, damned if they don't.  After EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE TRAGEDIES, we say, "How can it not be that the mothers didn't know what their sons are capable of?"  So now we have a mother who says, my son could be one of them but there aren't any resources out there to help me and she gets slammed.  Remember this, Sasha, the next time this happens and you wonder why? how?  Remember how you slam a woman for knowing that she lives in fear of what her son is capable of and wants help but can't get it because if she admits it, she gets slammed back into the closet.  I read her story and there wasn't a political agenda.  It was a reality check. She knows nothing is going to happen about guns.  Outlaw them all tomorrow and there are still millions of guns out there already.  But mental health, that we can do something about.  Getting it out in the open is something we can do something about.  I applaud this mother for knowing her kid and wanting to do something to protect the rest of us rather than just sticking her head in the sand.

bills... billsfan1104

Agrees with Reality ten times over. You said it so eloquently

PonyC... PonyChaser

Yes. Reality IS right. We have spent the last 20 or more years trying to "normalize" mental illness. "They're not sick, they're just different. Put them in regular school, treat them exactly as you'd treat 'normal' children. They just need a little extra attention."

I'm sorry, but that's Political Correctness speaking, not reality. The reality of the situation is, sometimes those kids are NOT "normal". Sometimes they NEED a lot more attention and intervention than a personal assistant in an otherwise mainstream classroom. Some of them might even need to be living outside their own home, and in a group home where there is professional supervision 24/7. Sometimes it IS more compassionate, and the better course, to institutionalize. And I don't mean in a place like the historic Bedlam Hospital in England, where the "crazy people" were chained to the walls and given gruel. I mean an actual medically-supervised situation where the patients receive care and supervision.

PonyC... PonyChaser



But the minute anyone says anything like that, they are smacked down as being "hateful" or wanting to "hide 'those people' away" because they're different. No, sometimes, we want "those people" to get the help that they need by professionals who CAN help them. And they want their families to get the relief that they so richly deserve.

This is a massive, serious problem in this country, and the current "just take the guns away" isn't going to solve a damn thing. McVeigh killed hundreds of people and didn't fire a single shot.

MamaH... MamaHasWings

Bravo Reality, I agree fully! I thought Liza Long's piece was well-written and thought-provoking. She wasn't throwing her son under a bus by writing it - she was putting a face, and a name, to a very real issue that effects many parents around the world. Not all children are little bubbly rays of sunshine! Many of them are quite the contrary... and some even more so. There are many flaws in the mental health system, ESPECIALLY for children. I was a "disturbed" child who needed help and was failed many times over... but thankfully I was strong enough to overcome my issues on my own. So many others are not able to do that and resort to alcohol, drugs, sex and violence because they do not see any other way to cope. I have not read anything in the news thus far that says that Adam Lanza had received treatment for mental illness as a child, teenager or adult. Even if he had not, the fact still stands that any one - whether it's a child, teenager or adult - that needs mental health care should not be denied it or given sub-standard care due to insurance issues or poorly trained staff. Every case should be taken seriously as mental illness is a SERIOUS disease. Do not let the lives of the children of Columbine and Sandy Hook be taken in vain - let these tragedies inspire CHANGE.

Angela May Sexton

I commend Long for putting it straight forward, everyone should follow her lead and honesty. I'm fully behind her statement

kelti... kelticmom

Totally agree with everyone above. This poor mom is not "exploiting" her child. She knows what he is capable of, she wants to bring awareness to the fact that parents with these kinds of kids have no resources. I have a coworker who is raising her 19 year old mentally unstable granddaughter. The girl gets so out of control, she has beat her grandmother up. She sleeps with her door locked and has hidden all the knives and has the gun safe in her room. She has been told that unless the girl gets charges brought against her, there is nothing she can do bc being of legal age, she can't be forced into a facility. In the ER, unless the doctor feels the patient is an immediate danger to themselves or others, we can't put them on a hold or do anything. I've seen loved one's at their wits end bc they don't know what to do. Mentally ill people are not like drug addicts who can decide to get help, bc they don't realize most of the time that there is anything wrong, they feel that their loved ones are "out to get them". Something HAS to be done in this country about mental health.

SKDMo... SKDMom1020

Reality-you took the words right out of my mouth. People are crying out at that we should be preventing these things by recognizing the signs BEFORE they happen. Now when someone tries to warn people they are slammed. And what does this have to do with Obama? Oh, that's right, the mom is not a supporter of his.

Hocke... HockeyMomNJ

I agree with all the comments here. My only other thing, is maybe it would have been a little better for her son if she hadn't used their real names. She makes a very valid point which I agree with. But I cannot imagine it can help that boy when his mother just told the whole free world that he's dangerous, ill, etc.

Reali... RealityCheckNow

But that is the point, HockeyMomNJ.  You can't have a conversation with an anonymous person.  She had to use her real name and her son's.  First of all, how many of us are even going to remember his name. I don't remember it and I just read the story yesterday.  All I remember is the anguish of a mother's pain.  Secondly, if you did remember and you came in contact with her son, would you feel more prepared to deal with him?  My answer would be yes.  If he is carrying a backpack that seemed unusually shaped or loaded or if he seemed nervous (or a place where he doesn't seem to belong i.e. a 20 yr old with no siblings in an elementary school), my heckles would be raised and looking for ways to protect myself.  And as for exploitation....no one accuse Ryan White's parents of exploitation when they went public with AIDS in the 80's and he was a kid.  The stigma of mental illness is similar to the stigma Ryan confronted in the 80's.  This is exactly what Ms. Long was doing.  Confronting the stigma.  You can't do that anonymously. 

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