National Anger at Casey Anthony

 Casey Anthony’s murder trial and the case surrounding that have garnered staggering media attention and inspired dramatic responses, most of all from other parents. This has occurred against a backdrop of the failing economy, environmental concerns, and a state of nationwide unrest, all things that are equally worrying.

 So what is it about this case that has engendered such as response? The simple answer I heard on the radio today was that we, as humans, and certainly we, as parents, are appalled by the very idea of a parent harming a child. This theory tracks with me even more in our current state because amidst chaos, the one thing we have always been conditioned to believe was that the bond between a mother and child is sacred and unshakeable, the one thing that could be relied upon when the rest of the world was going to hell. What do many of us do when everything falls apart? Call Mom. We’ve been conditioned by our religions, every single one that I can think of, including the religion of television in the sitcoms and dramas and commercials that bleed constantly from the satellite or cable. We’ve been conditioned by our own family and every culture I have encountered. ‘Mind your Mama!’ ‘Maaaaaaa! He pushed me and called me a dummy!’ ‘Call your mother! She’s worried about you!’ Or in the experience with my own Jewish culture, ‘Oh, don’t worry about me, I’m just your mother.’

 In every instance and at every turn, we are trained to think of mother as safety, as home, as the one bastion of calm where a crappy day at school can be soothed away with a kiss and a hug and a bowl of ice cream. Of course, the glaring instances in which this is not true, painfully visible in every social services agency, is pointedly ignored. Perhaps this dichotomy between what we wish and need, and what is real, is the very reason social services are so egregiously underfunded. Much like avoiding the eyes of all homeless people, we can’t deal with the possibility that things in regular people’s lives can go horribly wrong, and that if we look too closely, we might see ourselves in the person who’s fallen on calamity. Our ability to empathize dissolves in our fear. I know one thing I grasp at with damn near obsessiveness is this erroneous concept of ‘financial security’. I know it doesn’t exist. I don’t care, I still chase it with all the other workers every day.

 And it seems to me that the lower the morale and the worse the depression around us, the greater our ‘national insecurity’ (not referring to the state of terrorists or law enforcement), then the greater our need is to find unattainably-specific ‘perfection’ in family. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our most time-consuming debates have surrounded what marriage is, or at what point a collection of embryonic cells is considered a person with rights.

 I am filled with sadness when I look at a case in which an adorable little girl is killed, even more horrified at the idea that it could have been the mother, because that is always a possibility. I was not on the jury and I don’t and never will know Casey Anthony’s story. I will never know if she killed her child or not. What I do feel when I look at this case as a mother, is the compulsion to take a sidelong glance at my own daughter and to listen in the middle of the night to the dreadful whispers that say, ‘You yelled at her when you shouldn’t have. You were impatient with her today and made her cry. If she gets cancer, it’s going to be your fault. If she becomes schizophrenic, it’s because you hollered at her for leaving her toys all over the place. You’re a horrible mother. You have everything you need, but if you didn’t, how quickly would you become Casey Anthony?’ Assuming that is what happened. And I think we do assume, whatever evidence the prosecution does or doesn’t have, because in the wee hours of morning when we can’t sleep, and we’re worried about how the world is changing around us and we can’t control it for our kids, and our own mothers can’t solve our problems anymore, those of us who are parents are terrified that under the worst circumstances, it could be us.

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2 Responses to “National Anger at Casey Anthony”

  1. It could never be me; ever. I became a mother at 17. I was married and living far from home. I loved getting up with my baby in the middle of the night. I never got “stressed out” and if I did I would have taken the baby somewhere or to someone for help. There is no rational explanation to keep your daughters dissappearance a secret for 30 days. Unless of course you murdered her.

    • I understand why you would feel this way, but while working in epidemiology I have encountered a lot of folks who are ill-adjusted in various ways, and even normal folks who get overwhelmed and for whatever reason, don’t have the emotional toolkit to deal with anything. So I think you are lucky to be so well-adjusted and capable. Many folks aren’t, and I would say that given the economic stressors in addition, this proportion is growing. One of the things that the people I know in law enforcement say is that whenever the economy gets bad, crime goes up. Not just theft, but domestic violence, child abuse, and murder, and they start getting perpetrators that normally they wouldn’t expect to see.

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