The evil that found its way onto the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia is not an easy thing to explain. Fellow Southern California pastor, and blog writer, Karl Vaters rightly observed in his recent post, “No one wakes up one morning, in the middle of a fine, stable, happy life and decides, ‘I’m going ram my car through a crowd of people today.’ We get to places like that slowly. Piece by piece. Step by hateful step.”
At the same time, there’s this one piece of the story that’s haunting me. The mother of 20-year-old James Alex Fields made a few comments that do not sit well with me. When Associated Press journalists caught up to her, after her son had killed another human being, and told her what he was accused of doing, you can tell by the video that she struggles to make sense out of what she’s being told about her son’s actions. When asked if she knew anything about what he was up to, she responded by saying, “I just knew he was going to a rally. I try (awkward laugh) to stay out of his political views. . . We don’t get too involved . . . I’m watching his cat. I don’t really understand what the rally was about or anything.”
The more I run her words through my brain the more I think – Huh!? You don’t get too involved? My daughter just turned 20 years old, and we have talked quite a bit about the many polarizing political views out there in the world. I not only have a good idea of what she’s thinking and how she has arrived at her thoughts, but she also knows what I’m thinking and why. In addition, we’ve talked quite a bit about the tragedy of the extreme polarizing views and how we need to be people who seek to understand views that puzzle, and even scare, us. All Mrs. Fields could say was, “We don’t get too involved.” Huh? I wonder how many of the white extremist young men, like James Fields, fit a similar profile of physical and emotional abandonment from their parents as a part of their journey into the views they’ve embraced.
In fairness to Mrs. Fields, it sounds as if life in the Fields family has been quite rough including tragic death, loss, and financial struggle. These painful experiences can lead parents to check out from parenting their kids due to their own pain. As a parent of teenagers I don’t think it’s exaggerating too much to say that it ticks me off when I see the young friends of my own kids being largely abandoned (emotionally and/or physically) by their parents. I know that what I’m observing here is one piece of a whole picture that led to a tragedy on the streets of Charlottesville, but it’s a piece of the picture that I think we must take to heart.
Parents, stay engaged with your children all the way through adolescence and young adulthood, and when your kids bring home friends who have been abandoned by their parents in any way, make sure you share an extra portion of love and support with them.