Teen Rampage: Episode 745

Perfect newspaper cliche ruined by an overabundance of guns and religious extremism

In the trade, we call it burying the lede (as in, the lead concept, development or image in a story), and it happens a lot despite the fact that most student reporters hear the term before they get out of Journalism 101. Often it occurs when the hard nut of a story is inconvenient, or just plain too gritty for the writer or their employer.

Case in point: The opening paragraphs of a murderous teen story in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer.

Perfect parents. Perfect home. Perfect kids. Or so it seemed.

Then, unbelievably, two families in agony. A community in shock.

The double-murder case in Lititz - 18-year-old David Ludwig charged with shooting the parents of his secret girlfriend, Kara Beth Borden, a 14-year-old he met in their Christian homeschooling network - has provoked more than speculation about the Nov. 13 incident itself.

It has caused a wave of anxiety among many parents in the region, who wonder if anything ever truly is what it seems with their children.

The boogieman thus defined as a teen with a secret, the handwringing continues for a dozen paragraphs, at which point we learn that law enforcement confiscated 54 guns from the home of the alleged shooter. On his computer they found "images of Borden 'in various stages of undress' and a video of Ludwig and a friend as they planned an armed raid on an unidentified residence."

Why is it that these "inexplicable" teen rampage cases always seem to involve a parent with a gun collection (e.g. Columbine, the Rocori shooter) and a desire for a religiously inspired withdrawal from society at large? And why is it that newspaper pundits are always much more likely to blame popular culture? The Inquirer's academic expert on teen secrecy goes straight there, the story's description of the suspect as a guy who read the Bible during his breaks at work notwithstanding.

"Garbarino attributes children's alternate universes not so much to technology as to popular culture - violent imagery on TV and in movies, an "extremely explicit" level of sexuality, an erosion in adult authority, and more. The norm has become so extreme, he said, that it's hard to know what behavior is an indicator of trouble."

Maybe we ought to look at our culture's increasing acceptance of rigid belief systems. What homeschooled girl do you imagine feels comfortable telling her parents she has sexual feelings--or worse, sex? Why wouldn't a teenage boy in a guns-and-God family hide naked pictures from his parents?

Duh, as the kids would say.

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