|Kidnapped Israeli teens, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrach|
In today's news it is the entire Jewish world (all 13 million, more or less), and an entire country, about the size of the tiny state of Rhode Island, that mourn the senseless kidnapping and murder of children. They were not soldiers, as Palestinian news suggests. The innocent are vulnerable, the terrorist message. Hamas praised the kidnapping. Nice work, the "oppressed" might have said, slapping one another on the back. They were young: Naftali Fraenkel, 16; Gilad Shaer, 16; Eyal Yifrach, 19. http://online.wsj.com/articles/missing-israeli-teens-found-dead-near-hebron-israeli-official-says-1404150423?mod=WSJ_hp_RightTopStoriesTheir whole lives ahead of them.
Yet on late night Chicago television I see local Jewish parents and their kids, interviewed on the street, a busy retail thoroughfare known to cater to different communities (just east of the Jews and Russians are our Arab cousins, then just a few blocks east of them people from India; Assyrians and others sprinkled within). It is the Jewish parents at the microphone, and they are saying:
"Hell no, we're not keeping our kids home. They will go for their year after graduating high school to learn more about the country, for seminary study, maybe two or more years. Maybe they will settle in the Holy Land. We will not be intimidated by sociopaths."
As you know, we have them, sociopaths, here in America, too. The reasons for blatant disregard of social norms, and there's nothing like murder and kidnap to top that list, are multivariate. But because so many young American youths are about to leave home for college, and so many of them will be pledging fraternities are likely to subject themselves to initiation rites that present serious health hazards, let's look at only one.
But first a little background.
This time of year I see college kids on vacation, home for the summer, a great time to check in with their local therapist. But some of them are new to me, seeing me for the first time because their parents are terrified to let them go this fall. They aren't terrified because they are overly dependent, or because their marriages are in such distress that they need the child at home, although these are plausible explanation, and you would have that right on a test, but because their kids have given them reason to worry. They acted out in high school in ways that your average teenager, testing the waters of independence, acts out in high school.
And when I listen to the story, the insanity of the deed that brought a late-teen/emerging adult to therapy, the one trait that screams out is really quite normal, considering the developmental stage, adolescence.
It is omnipotence. Some kids, from the ages of 12-25, able to abstract and think for themselves, are flooded with a sense of omnipotence. Nothing can happen to me. I am a capable person, even more capable than my mother and father. I can think for myself, make my own choices. And nothing will happen to me.
We discuss that in therapy, and what it will be like away at school, and how that sense of omnipotence is likely to get them into trouble if they don't harness it, get those choices under control, recognize that bad things do happen to good people. When they will be told to drink fifteen straight shots of tequila as a hazing ritual to get into a fraternity, those bad things are more likely to happen.
What does this have to do with kidnapping and murder? When the boys were kidnapped, the Jewish world shook with emotion, first sadness then anger. FD and I talked about it late into the evening, both of us very sad, too sad to be angry. Anger comes later. He said to me, "They are probably dead."
"Why?" I asked, innocently, hoping for another prisoner swap with Hamas.
"There is so much in-fighting among the Palestinian world, and a need to prove one's superiority. This is likely to have been an initiation rite of some kind, a way to get into the higher echelons of terrorist society."
An act of omnipotence. I can play God.
The boys were walking, on their way home, while others were playing God.