Father murders whole family. Mother murders children. Children murder parents. Brother murders brother. The stories aren't new. They go back to the beginning of mankind recording stories. The fact that they are not new makes them not one bit less horrifying when we open a paper to see they have happened again.
Every time I see another headline, I try to get my head around the act. How can one person decide to murder another? I have less trouble with stranger to stranger murder, horrifying though they also are to me. That's why I keep a loaded gun in my house and know right where it is. Yet, most murders are by someone we knew, someone we trusted, too often someone we loved.
This week when I saw the headlines, I knew the farm where the murders had taken place. It's not that far from where I live. I didn't know the couple who were murdered, but I knew their land, have passed their sign many times as I drove to a nearby town. It stood out because of what they called it-- Abundant Life Farm.
Although I never met these people, I had known the family who farmed that land before them. The murdered couple were like them and us, people who had forged for themselves a farming lifestyle. It was unto the land where they put their dreams, their hopes for their family.
Ranching and farming lifestyles involve family in a way that city lifestyles don't so much unless the family runs a business. Most families go off to work or school, and the various aspects of their lives are separated into boxes. They aren't forced to share so much. Working the land isn't like that. It's integral to your being. You don't arbitrarily choose seasons for things. Land and animals choose those dates if you want to make it work. Farm families live close to the rhythms of the seasons and to each other.
If you really cannot stand reading crime stories, you will want to skip the following link, but it explains more or less what happened, what they know about what happened, and I think the fact that the story went so rapidly beyond our local newspapers to a national source like the Daily Beast (the bodies were discovered August 31) is because we can all so relate to it and at the same time shake our head in horror. [Oregon Family Murder].
Murders in my part of the country are rare. I can only think of three incidents before this in the over 30 years we have lived here. Two of those three though were within families. The greatest risk to human beings of being murdered is by someone we either know or worse, someone near and dear, someone we should be able to trust, someone we might love the most who turns on us and we don't recognize the danger in time.
For me, this particular family's murder has been personal on several levels. One is the shock that murder ever happens. How does one person decide to take another person's life? That boggles my mind. In self-defense, in war, yes, I understand that, but not cold-blooded murder. I can't get my head around how it happens, how you would make such a horrendous, you cannot go back from it, choice.
Then there is another part, beyond knowing these people's land, relating personally to their lifestyle, there is wondering how it is possible that you can do it all right as best you know. You can try to do it with love and sometimes it's not enough to avoid the worst-- and to me, to have your child murder you would be the worst of the worse.
When we hear of things like this, and they are in newspapers, fiction and poetry, many are like me, wanting to understand the why even though understanding might not help. I guess we think if we understood it, we could prevent it. Maybe we could not.
The murdered couple were among those rare ones who stepped out on their dream. They took the risk to change their lives for a lifestyle they had dreamed about. From all the evidence, they worked hard, they had been loyal parents at least as far as others could know. They thought farm life would be good for the boys, that hard work would build stronger characters, that their boys would share their dream. Maybe they waited too long to make the change or didn't wait long enough until their boys were grown and they could live the life themselves... maybe nothing would have helped.
Before I read the articles about the murder, I knew these people had to be devout Christians by the signs on their farm. I didn't know, but was not surprised to learn, they had home schooled their sons. A lot of devout Christians make that choice. Although I understand why parents choose home schooling, know those who have, Farm Boss and I felt our children would do better, imperfect school system though we have, if our children were in public schools, that the socialization, which is without a doubt sometimes negative, was important for their growth as humans.
There is no way to say that home schooling was a factor in what happened. Even though the other family, in this area who were murdered by their sons, also home schooled, the boy near Eugene, who killed not only his parents but some in his high school, he had not been home schooled. He also though had parents that looked like they had done everything they could to help him grow up to be a responsible adult, not one who would murder when things didn't go his way.
It is possible that in the recent murder, the boy (he was 20 when he committed this heinous crime) might have benefited from being less sheltered in growing up. Maybe some emotional problems would have shown up and he could have gotten counseling although many fundamentalist homes, being distrustful of the secular world, would reject that as a solution anyway. I don't know that the parents had not tried to get him help for his seeming inability to find socially acceptable relationships (and the other kind are often regarded as socially unacceptable because of having seen the results). Maybe by the time they saw the problem, the die was cast.
What went wrong with him wasn't just the hard work of farming. It was also a sexual relationship that was so detrimental that any parent would be horrified at his choice and want him to end it. This happens sometimes as kids grow into adulthood. Society, even churches, can't give parents much help for it either. Most such children do not then decide to murder their parents over it nor does it automatically forge a desire to steal what the parents have.
Every time there are such killings, most of us ask the same question. Could it have been prevented? Were there clues? Is it possible to find potential murderers, especially when it's in your own family, before the worst happens? Did it start as children and was ignored? Can parents learn clues and proactively protect the family, or is there really no protection from a loved one who turns violent?
With this boy, it probably would have had to happen before he hooked up with a woman with even greater problems than he had. What need did she meet in his life that explains the power she wielded over him? Or did she just bring out something that was always there? I certainly don't have the answers. The tragedy here is not just what he did to his parents but what he did to himself.
In the newspaper articles, they mentioned a [YouTube of the philosophy by which this couple ran their farm]. If you watch it, you will see nice, conscientious people. I know people like them. In a lot of ways we are like them. We came to the farm with the same kind of dreams. We believed farm life would be good for our kids growing up. We were religious back then. These people were doing it all right probably as best they knew it. I feel such empathy for them over it, so sorrowful.
Some say everything happens for a reason. They say good can come from anything. That is a comforting way to live, to see positive meaning in every event good or bad, but it doesn't work for me. I can look at something logically and see things maybe that maybe... if... possibly... perhaps... could... might have changed a string of events, that we could learn from as a people. That's logically. Spiritually, I don't see one single good thing that could possibly come from something like this. I don't blame a god or credit one.
I hope though that there is something or someone on the other side for them, that their faith was justified in that religion of theirs. I know some who read here would tell me that there is and will be. I would like to believe that. I don't. I just plain feel sad and so sorry for them and wish there was some way we could stop such things from happening before they end like this. What a terrible waste.
Photo of the couple and their son on their farm from earlier, and then police mug shots of the same son with the woman who is charged with helping him plan the crime-- from Daily Beast.