Why we care about the Casey Anthony trial

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.



  • Brian S.

    We won’t admit that we don’t live in a family centric culture anymore and that has consequences, gruesome, unfortunate, tragic consequences.

    But I think there is more to the story here as well. What was Casey Anthony’s childhood like? We tend to think it is a cop out to blame the parents, and parents never bear sole or full responsibility, but parents are responsible for how their children turn out.

    At some point we departed from that relatively straight forward notion. That then left baby boomer parents free to orient and live their lives differently than their parents did. We are now seeing the consequences of that in a lot of different ways.

    Casey Anthony wasn’t born a monster. She had childhood that can’t have been without some kind of turbulence (whatever that may have been). From that, is it fair to think she may have extrapolated that being a parent was not fun, was not something to orientate your life around? Perhaps. From there things took a tragic and dark turn that may have ended the life of Caylee Anthony.

    But we need to look at the full picture and then the lessons become clear. Being a parent is NOT about just being a caretaker who treats kids like a plant (give them some food and water and they’ll grow up just fine on their own), there are consequences for the decisions we make as parents.

    Given that, we ought to put as much time and effort as possible into raising children who grow up to be productive members of society. The two go together, taking responsibility for how your children will turn out pushes you to orientate your life around raising them.

  • Graeme Zielinski

    A breakdown of the American family can be tied to the economic violence committed against it by corporations that ship jobs overseas. Church has spoken elegantly about the priority of workers over corporations and labor over capital. The Paul Ryan plan to end Medicare, to cut Medicaid, to privatize Social Security is part of the continued assault on the American family that you so decry. Budgets are moral documents, and this budget is plainly anti-life, plainly immoral, and politicians who support it must be replaced, and must consider forgoing the Sacrament.

  • Soliloquy

    Dad works, Mom also has a job …thus, the children left at home, lack of supervising, love, care and education … The self sufficient children will behave under their animal instinct … And what would you expect from uncivilized human being like these will do? But sadly these kind of matter will be inherited through generations….

  • ND Envirochick

    If Caylee were a 39-week old fetus and her mother made the decision to “party with her boyfriend without all the hassles of motherhood,” not only would there be no outrage or media frenzy, many would be championing her “right to choose.” Cultural dysfunction, indeed.


    Dear Rachael~ As big as a problem as self absorbed (physicaly) absent dads are, in the upper-middle class, workoholic dads do tremendous damage to thier families. Ask your husband how many of his law school classmates went to went to work for high powered firms ended up with a divorce or messed up kids in pursuit of more and more billable hours. ~ Pax tucem, Greg

  • Davide

    Great article thank you. I have lived in America for eleven years. It still confuses me. Its like a paradox it has to be one of the most violent nations on earth with a high crime rate, but yet it is a generous nation. Americans are known to be some of the most generous peoples. I wonder why America is so weird-so unlike any other nation. It because of its bloody beginnings, enslavement of a whole race of people. Or is it because there is no such thing as true culture in America no true roots-just a assortment of peoples of all differ nationalities and races. America is definitely an experiment but I am thankful to be a part of it. But stories such as Kaylee’s sadly happens far too often in America and is very sad…heartbreaking even. But we as a people, when we hear of stories such as hers we barely take notice. Maybe we Americans have become accustom to great crimes, even great crimes of mother against child. Yup sad



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