In an appalling example of shaming, Katherine Birbalsingh, a British schoolteacher, has thrown some of the blame for the Norway massacre on Anders Breivik’s father, who was absent for most of the confessed killer’s childhood.
Some commenters have noted that he was raised by a single mother, and Breivik himself evidently wrote about this fact in his manifesto, but given that a number of other mass murderers (e.g. Timothy McVeigh) were raised in intact homes, I’m not sure we can draw many conclusions from this. However, people are always interested in the family lives of the infamous, so there is sure to be speculation.
Given the state of family law in the West for the past 40-odd years, blaming a man for “abandoning” his children is akin to blaming a factory worker for losing a hand in an industrial accident. Evidently, the elder Breivik did in fact fight for custody of his son. Naturally, he lost. Birbalsingh compares his attempt to gain custody of his son with “treating him like some kind of football,” which is to say he was kicking the infant boy around:
I wonder whether he thought about his son’s peace of mind when he thought it best to move to Paris and then put his son through the ordeal of a custody battle where he and his new wife fought to take him from his mother and half-sister (his mother had a daughter when she married his father) and his homeland, in order to attempt to raise him in Paris? Anders was only one year old at the time his parents separated with his father treating him like some kind of football. Such traumatic events in a child’s life so early on can have life-long effects.
Even worse, she goes on to blame him for not being there for the boy, when it was Anders’ mother who moved him away from his father. Throughout her entire piece, there is not a mote of criticism of a mother who would separate a child from his father, but only contempt and blame for the father dispossessed of his child.
Far too many of us know first-hand the cruelty of a system that allows women to rip children away from their fathers for any and every reason, but, believe it or not, it was even worse 30 years ago when Anders Breivik was a small child. At that time, fathers hadn’t a chance, and “visitation” was extraordinarily meager. I grew up with a number of young men in that situation. Their fathers were, for the most part, ordinary, decent people. I can’t say the same for most of their mothers, unfortunately, and the outcomes for these men were mixed, but usually far from ideal, and undeniably worse than for those in intact families or who had continuing contact with their fathers.
Perhaps we’d like to think that fathers still have some means to foster a relationship with their children despite having an unreasonable ex, but the obstacles are very steep. The most straightforward route offered by the law is disengagement from one’s children and payment of child support. Fighting an unwilling ex for time with one’s children is expensive and fraught with uncertainty — it is a martyr’s cause that can lead to poverty and possibly incarceration.
The callousness of Ms. Birbalsingh in attacking a father who is losing his son all over again is breathtaking, but at least it shines a light on one of the ugliest aspects of contemporary Western society: the utter contempt in which fathers are held.