In a scene eerily similar to those ugly Black Friday shopping stampedes, dozens of Floridians, including a wheelchair bound woman, made a mad dash to get tickets to the Casey Anthony murder trial. Clearly, these kooky trial watchers are not alone in their fascination. Every major network is devoting coveted time slots, and in some cases entire shows, to the play by play of the Caylee Anthony murder trial and the ensuing family drama.
Which begs the question, why are we so fascinated by this story? I think the short answer is that we all suspect that little two year-old Caylee was killed by her mom, Casey, who prosecutors say wanted to party with her new boyfriend without all the hassles of motherhood. The public, of course, wants to know what kind of monster could do this to her child?
The irony is that Casey Anthony is merely an exaggeration, admittedly a deadly one, of a cultural dysfunction being played out across this country. Perhaps what’s really behind this national obsession is that Caylee is the stand-in child for every other child-victim of negligence and adult selfishness. The breakdown of the American family has been going on for decades and in a society as rife with divorce, baby daddies and single moms as ours, it’s really no surprise that we also have an equally thriving culture of adults who are more absorbed with their social and romantic lives than the physical, emotional or spiritual wellbeing of their children.
As a DA, my husband often witnessed mothers who chose boyfriends over their children’s best interest or even safety, including a mom who still visited her child’s molester while he was in jail. I personally know a young man who was forced to leave his mother’s home to live with relatives because his mother’s boyfriend didn’t want him around. Equally heart-wrenching are the number of immature and self-absorbed absent dads, content with letting mom and Uncle Sam pick up the tab while teachers and coaches try to pick up the pieces of the lives of millions of fatherless kids, all because “dad” is too busy trying to “find himself.”
And then there’s the more sophisticated among us who seek out therapists, self-help books, and talk show hosts to dull our personal and national guilt. With trendy theories of self-fulfillment and the so-called “resilience” of children, grown-ups are free to make a mess of their kids’ lives through their infidelities, mid-life crises, and the life-long wounds of divorce.
At its core, Casey Anthony is the story of a selfish and immature parent who cared more about herself than her child who needed her. One doesn’t have to kill their offspring to be guilty of the same parental shortcomings.