Monday, November 17, 2008

Quamar and A Killer Boy

by Pat Brown

I just came back from an evening at an Indian film festival where I saw an amazing documentary about a little girl named Quamar who lives in Hyderabad. Just ten-years-old, Quamar spends her day making bangles, affixing little hot stones onto the jewelry in intricate designs. She has calloused thumbs, burns on her legs, and the most delightful smile in the world. She cleans the house, cooks the food, and earns a pittance of money for her family with the bangle work; she gets beatings from her father and mother if she slacks off. Quamar wishes she could go to school but accepts that she cannot. In spite of all her difficulties, she is cheerful and loving. I would adopt this child in a heartbeat if she were an orphan.

Compare this girl with the eight-year-old boy in Arizona who confessed to methodically and coldbloodedly killing his father and a roomer with a rifle.

The boy attended school, enjoyed sports, went hunting with his dad, and played video games incessantly. No doubt he had lots of free time, games, toys, and food and little responsibility to handle. So why does an impoverished, deprived, and overworked little girl become a kind and loving human being while a boy with relative comfort turns into a vicious killer? What is it that makes this boy and the twenty-one other American children between five eight years who committed homicides (from 1994-2004) different from Quamar?

Some experts believe that children kill because of physical or sexual abuse. I can buy that possibility but then why is Quamar still a lovely child? She admits to being abused, both physically and emotionally. But I am pretty sure she is not going to get up tomorrow morning and hack her parents to death.

Four variables come to mind when I am searching for differences in these two children: disaffection, narcissism, responsibility, and violent inputs. The first three can be narrowed down to one: caring about others. Many parents allow children to become very selfish and self-centered, letting them think about no one but themselves. They are catered to and are not given any true responsibility for others; they aren't expected to care for younger brothers and sisters, help their parents with household tasks or earning a money, and they aren't asked to do anything for grandparents or neighbors either. They grow up narcissistic, and, oddly, alone.

It is true that many child killers come from broken homes and dysfunctional families, but I believe the disaffection comes not so much from parental discord or the child's separation from either father or mother, but from the poor parenting that causes the child to disconnect emotionally from everyone else. He ends up living in a secluded world where others really do not matter. "Others" become tools (for what the child wants) or burdens (when they prevent a child from getting what he wants).

Quamar clearly does not view her family as either tools or burdens. She feels she is part of the family and they are part of her. Everyone is in the struggle together, even if some suffer more than others. Quamar knows she is needed and she worries about her parents and her siblings. She works to make sure they eat.

The Arizona boy, on the other hand, probably couldn't care less about anyone else. Perhaps his dad was general okay and useful, but the day that the boy shot him (and the boarder), dad must have gotten in his way - perhaps refusing to let him trick-or-treat (as some have suggested was the motive for the shooting) - and that was unacceptable to the son. Maybe if the boy hadn't played so many violent video games and been taught to shoot prairie dogs for fun, the idea of gunning down irritating adults might not have crossed his mind; but, unfortunately, the child did have the concept of killing implanted in his head and he acted out this violent ideation.

So my advice to parents is this: Don't give your kids weapons and unlimited violent video time if you haven't worked hard to make your child one who feels responsible for the health and welfare of others. Otherwise, they just might put their gun skills to good use . . . on you.


Anonymous said...

The boy supposedly confessed -- but did he really do it? Children are susceptible to persuasion. Unless you know something I don't, I'm withholding judgment on this kid until:
a. we find out if his confession was proper
b. we find out if he was or was not abused in some way

Pat Brown said...

I think it is more a net rumor going around that maybe the police jumped to conclusions or intimidated him. Most likely, it is because it is so hard to believe an eight-year-old would do such a thing.

Secondly, the abuse issue is more a case of what else comes along with it. Children who are abused don't necessarily become coldblooded killers. There has to be a psychopathy that has developed along with the abuse. Likewise, women who are physically abused and girls who are sexually abused rarely take the law into their own hands and commit homicide (even though it is understandable and many time we think it is justifiable). In spite of all the horror of abuse, most people still believe that the only time it is permissible to take a life is in self-defense and when there is absolutely no other option (and this usually means immediate danger, not danger when the other person wakes up). Because it is so rare that a person kills when they are not immediately threatened, this usually means there is a something else going on besides the abuse. And, many times, children who kill simply do so because they didn't get their way (like the girls who get their boyfriends to off their parents). I am betting this boy will end up in this category.

Anonymous said...

I'm not thinking so much that the police "persuaded" a confession as I am that maybe another adult did the deed and the child is taking the blame.

Or maybe we just have to hope it is something other than an eight-year-old murdering two people in cold blood.

anonymous too

Pat Brown said...

As far as I can see, the only person who could have shot both of the men down other than the little boy is the boy's stepmother and, from what I have read, he doesn't like her enough to protect her.

Diane Fanning said...

I have a hard time believing that an 8-year-old child can really comprehend the difference between blowing away someone in a video game and shooting someone standing in front of him.
Adolescents have a difficult time understanding consequences but this 8-year-old is young enough, I would think, to have a hard time separating fantasy and reality.

Pat Brown said...


I disagree entirely. This boy had more education in death by gun than most kids. He saw how when you pull the trigger, the lively little prairie dog suddenly flips over and then lies still, in a pool of blood. He knew dang well that if he pulled the trigger with his father in his crosshair, his father would end up unmoving and dead on the floor.

Even I knew as an eight-year-old that physical force against another human being would cause pain and injury. I remember clearly thinking what would happen if I suddenly grabbed my father's hair while he was driving (from the back seat where I always got stuck in the middle) and pulled his head back. I knew it would cause him to lose control of the car and we could all die. The reason I was thinking about this was I was ruminating on the why, although I COULD, I wouldn't. It was fascinating to me to realize how much power I had and, I would think, "I could just do it NOW!" and, of course, I never would actually do it, but I just remember being amazed at how possible it was. I was eight, sheltered from violence and raised in a two family, fairly wealthy family. But, still how violence led to bad consequences.

The boy knew his father and the roomer would die. He wanted them too. The question is what made him so psychoapathic by the age of eight (and I believe that psychopaths are pretty much a done deal by then).

Diane Fanning said...

You could very well be right, Pat. I just have a difficult time conceiving of an 8-year-old with a mind for murder.
My grandson is that age and the thought of him thinking about doing something like that seems highly unlikely--understanding it even more improbable and he is a very bright kid.
Actually carrying it through? Before this crime in Arizona, I would have said totally impossible.

Pat Brown said...

The difference is, thank God, is that your grandson is probably an emotionally healthy kid who hasn't been exposed to the concept of killing people who get in the way or killing people for fun. He also probably has a healthy enough environment. I find it interesting that certain things I hear of kids or teens saying or doing today are definitely concepts that never entered my mind when I was a kid. Although I had my little power philopsophy exploration in the car, I don't remember ever considering swearing at my parents, or hitting them, and, killng them would never have crossed my thoughts in a million years. I never thought of suicide either even when I was bummed. I didn't consider kinky sex because I was still working on the concept of kissing when I was a teen. So, what goes into the heads of young children and teens these days is frightening and when we couple this with poor parenting and being handed tools of destruction, look out!

A Voice of Sanity said...

He is hardly alone. Apart from the children who shoot up their own school mates there are others who somehow think they have a right to attack or kill the homeless, gays, immigrants, persons of color or some other group. Who taught them these values? Why didn't religion 'take'?

Anonymous said...

If the confession is secure and IF there is no abuse at play here, then we have an 8-year old child who obviously is emotionally and/or mentally impaired in some way. Yes I know there are monsters out there -- but 8-year olds do not just wake up one day and decide to kill Daddy.

Something is very, very wrong with this boy and I don't see that charging him as an adult is helpful.

Anonymous said...

If you read the news today, he didnt confess. He said he came home and found them dead.

If there is a confession its because they continued to question an EIGHT year old without counsel or a parent there.

Pat Brown said...

What was released was only a portion of part of the interview with the boy, the part where the police still thought he was a victim or a witness...they didn't think he was involved and were trying to gently interview to get info about the killer or killers.

It wasn't until later the police suspected the boy was lying, that the story wasn't holding water, and then determined the boy to be the actual killer.

Diane Fanning said...

Even if this little guy is an unredeemable psychopath with an evil rating as high that tops Dr. Stone's chart, he still is only 8 years old. I think it is wrong that any child that age can be questioned without a parent or legal guardian--even if court appointed--there with him.

Of Diamonds said...

It did show in the video that there was no attorney or guardian ad litum present for the child, nor was his birth mother present during the interrogation by the police. I, being the mother of an 8 y/o myself, find it almost inconceivable that this child premeditated these murders. What 8 year old can plan past what they are going to wear to school tomorrow, let alone premeditate the murder of two grown men? Maybe this boy did this out of just plain old being mad and having no idea of how to let loose his anger, having learned from video games and his own father that guns are toys, basically. He didn't seem too upset by his actions in the video snippet, but then again, he's only 8, and I know of plenty adults who don't have mastery of their own emotions. There's really no use in trying to speculate as to what his motive was, only he knows. Maybe his father and the roomie abused him on a daily basis, maybe they didn't. Maybe he was so desensitized by the violence in the games that he thought it wasn't real. After all, you can always just reset a game, right? A do-over? Only you can't reset a life once you've taken it. Either way, whatever his explanation or motive is, there's no going back for this child. He's crossed a threshold into a place most people wouldn't dare to peek, let alone plunge head-long through. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds.

Of Diamonds said...

When he finally does get an attorney appointed to him, it would be in his best interest for said attorney to have the video supressed. The way it was released violated Federal Law, I believe, and shouldn't have been released in the first place. That would make the whole video inadmissable in court. Anything he said wouldn't even be seen by a jury of his peers. Oh wait. What peers? Are they planing on having a jury of 8 year olds? How can adults serve as a jury of his peers when they are adults? How confusing this is going to get.

Anonymous said...

His father DID force him to hunt, that much has been established. I have an 7 year old and he would be VERY upset about killing an animal. I disagree about the videos and always will, you have been proven wrong on this point and it is in fact your opinion, not fact. But REAL guns, in a kids hand with their dad forcing them to kill animals?

There is also the fact that 2 men living together is just plain weird, especially when one of them are married. I too am holding off on thinking he did it unless it was self defense, even if the self defense was he didnt want to kill any more animals and they were egging him on.

And I am totally not buying the pre-meditated crap.

Anonymous said...

He wasnt charged as an adult (thank GOD) - He will not have a jury trial.