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Corriere della Sera, Italy

The Enigma of Nancy Lanza:
Victim or Executioner?


By Maria Laura Rodotà

Translated By Linda Merlo

21 December 2012

Edited by Lau­ren Gerken


Italy - Corriere della Sera - Original Article (Italian)

The Mother of the Killer and Her Weapons Mania

It's not Adam Lanza we should be afraid of, rather the Adam Lanza's mother in us all. To read the news sites, comments, insights, reflections and most popular delusions in the United States, sometimes that's how it seems. Nancy Lanza, the first person to be killed in Newtown, with one of her many weapons, by her son, perhaps while she was sleeping, is the subject of official erasure from our memory. The city of Newtown does not count her among the victims, President Barack Obama hasn't mentioned her; only a few members of her “bar family” at My Place in Newtown admit to journalists that they were friends with her (but only after a few drinks, it seems).

Much-read online magazines like Slate and The Atlantic have a lot to say: They talk about Nancy Lanza, née Champion, a loving mother, out of her mind, trying to distract herself from the care of her complicated younger child, or about how this extreme case shows how the American passion for weapons can cloud one's judgment. They make terrible comparisons; it’s inevitable that we condemn her even though we can easily identify with her. They're saying a bit of everything, it seems.

Why? The wretch had an arsenal in her house and taught her children, even her complicated younger child, to shoot. She was basically a character out of a TV show (Cougar Town, or others). She was a typical American woman, and — also thanks to television shows — a universal character: a 50-something, divorced mother in the suburbs – blonde, slim, fond of “craft beers, jazz and landscaping.” Straight out of a marriage announcement or a social network profile, wrote the New York Times. But the woman legally kept five weapons in her house, including a semiautomatic Bushmaster .223, “a formidable killing machine... similar to weapons used by our soldiers in Afghanistan.” All in a town that seems to be the tragic twin of the fictitious Stars Hollow from “Gilmore Girls,” a series about a single mother in Connecticut — only she's unarmed.

But they're not dissimilar. Nancy Lanza is an extreme case: 43 percent of Americans (more than ever) have a weapon. In 10 years the number of women at shooting ranges has doubled. Among them there are many mothers and some writers. Like Porochista Khakpour, who, in Slate, renounced her passion for weapons — which made her feel “badass,” tough and bad, like a Lara Croft who was unaware that she wasn't in a video game. She said, “When I read that Nancy Lanza, killed by her son via her own gun, would boast to men at bars about her gun collection, I understood. This woman, divorced, alone, in a house of men, in a world of men, somehow felt empowered by this thing. It probably made her feel protected, invincible even, big and strong. Like a man.” Rhetoric on the right to bear arms did the rest.

And the rest is tragedy. Nancy Lanza's hobby and the lack of restrictions “may have given her disturbed son an opportunity to use an arsenal of weaponry to slaughter a classroom of first-graders. But we all have enabled that love of firearms, have nurtured and protected it, at a terrible cost,” writes Andrew Cohen in The Atlantic, adding that, perhaps this time, the gun lobby will have to deal with the “the political power of the 'parent lobby' in this country [America].” However, for the moment, they have to deal with the pain, the aggression and the desperate and inappropriate expressions of opinion. Blogger Liza Long, the mother of one of the murder-suicides at Columbine [sic – she's not one of those mothers, she said she was metaphorically, just like she says she's Adam Lanza's mother], wrote in Oprah Winfrey's magazine, “I Am Adam Lanza's Mother,” a post in which she recounts her life with a disturbed child, her anti-child impulses and the resulting arguments. When you think about it, signs of collective discomfort are as terrifying as an attachment to firearms.



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