The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

This Society Burns Its Children

Apr 22, 2024

On April 8, Jennifer and James Crumbley were sentenced to 10–15 years in prison—for a crime their son committed. They are the first parents convicted in an American courtroom for a crime their child committed.

Their son, Ethan Crumbley, went into his high school in Oxford, Michigan in 2021, shot and killed four of his fellow students, and wounded six other students and a teacher. He was later convicted of murder, and at the age of 15 was sentenced to life behind bars.

For the first time ever, the parents were charged for a crime they did not directly commit. The Crumbley parents were each found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors said that the parents failed to safely store a gun and could have prevented the shooting.

It is not the only time that someone other than the actual shooter is being held accountable for the killing that took place in the shooting. More such charges are to come.

Ethan had drawn a picture of a gun, a bullet and a victim on a math assignment, accompanied by the words, "The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. My life is useless. Blood everywhere." But he told a counselor that the drawing only reflected his interest in video games.

James had recently bought Ethan a gun, a Sig Sauer 9mm, which resembled the gun in the picture Ethan had drawn. Ethan had that gun in his backpack.

No one checked Ethan’s backpack or locker. Later that day, Ethan pulled out the gun and shot and killed four of his fellow students and wounded others.

And yet, the parents are deemed responsible.

The parents were negligent. They could have easily locked the gun up in a safe, or even with a cable lock that would have rendered it useless. They neglected to do any of that.

But who is to blame for this tragedy? The parents could have done more, certainly. The school could have done more, absolutely. After all, who let him into the school with a loaded gun in his backpack?

Charging the parents is a desperate attempt to hold some individuals responsible for a problem that truly is this society’s fault.

Ethan was clearly distressed. But who should carry the blame? Himself? His parents? Or maybe his school, which let him carry the gun in and didn’t do anything once he arrived?

How about the society that allows children to grow up so isolated and alienated that they would even consider killing their own classmates?

This is a society based around profit; a society that atomizes and alienates individuals, and then acts as if it is shocked when one of those individuals reacts and kills others. It’s a society that treats all individuals as if they are perfectly whole on their own, even though we know that humans have evolved within a group, needing connection to other humans. NO individual is complete on his or her own. We ALL need many others around us to be complete, and even to survive.

Charging and sentencing Ethan Crumbley’s parents is to pretend the opposite. It says that this society can produce humane people, if only we follow the rules.

It cannot. And the perpetuation of all these mass killings is the proof.