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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik slaughtered 76 people, but guess who's really responsible.  His dad. That's the fact-free opinion of one Katharine Birbalsingh writing here (Telegraph, 7/26/11). Now you may wonder, as I did, what part his father played in Breivik's bloody rampage.  Did he help with planning?  Buy the ammo?  The fertilizer?  No, he did none of those things.  What he did, to his everlasting shame, is seek custody of the boy post-divorce. Really.  Just read Birbalsingh's piece and you'll see.  I didn't make it up; I'm just not that imaginative. Birbalsingh's piece is so disjointed and lacking in logic, it's a bit hard to follow, but I'll try.  She explains that Anders Breivik "shirks" his responsibility for his terrible deeds and then informs us "But Anders Breivik is not the only one to shirk responsibility." She explains:
Jens Breivik says he does not "feel like his father'. Oh really? I wonder whether he felt like Anders" father when he abandoned both him and his mother to marry another woman? 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?
Let's see, Dad and Mom divorced when Anders was a year old.  Birbalsingh knows to an absolute certainty that the divorce was Dad's fault.  Mom played no part in it.  How does she know?  She doesn't let on and of course anyone at all conversant with the reasons for the breakups of relationships knows that there's rarely one innocent party and one at fault. But Birbalsingh's having none of the murky stuff called subtlety or nuance.  For her something that happened between two people thirty years ago - something about which she has no knowledge - is all about good and evil.  And guess who's good and who's evil according to her. Like so many in the anti-dad crowd, she's happy to substitute a made-up narrative of the callous father and the victimized mother and son.  (He abandoned them!)  She has no facts - or desires none - so mythology is a handy stand-in. Notice too that, in her book, papa Jens Breivik, can't win regardless of what he does.  Birbalsingh excoriates him for "abandoning" his son and former wife, but when he tried to get some form of custody of the lad, that's wrong too. She doesn't notice that Jens tried to get custody of his son or at least some form of access to him and apparently failed.  Birbalsingh never wonders why. We don't know, but it's possible that the mother of Anders Breivik kept father and son apart.  When Jens figured it out, he left and relied on the courts to give him what Mom would not.  It's speculation on my part, of course, because no one knows what happened between the two - no one that is except her and Jens. And typical of pretty much all attacks on fathers, we never hear his side of the story.  He's alive and well, and doubtless has something to say, but as usual, the anti-dad crowd don't want to hear it.  In fact, they don't want anyone to hear it, so Birbalsingh sticks to character assassination instead. In an unusually lucid moment, Birbalsingh remembers that millions of parents divorce every year and their kids don't all grow up to be mass murderers.  But alas, the moment doesn't last.  One sentence later, she's back to her theme - that Jens Breivik bears a heavy load of guilt for his son's wrongdoing.
But his father is deeply confused. "How could he just stand there and kill so many innocent people and just seem to think that what he did was OK?' Well maybe he didn"t have a father when he was growing up to teach him the difference between right and wrong.
But wait; isn't she missing something?  Let's put aside the quaint notion that parents only control their children's actions as adults to a very limited degree, if at all.  And let's also put aside the fact that Birbalsingh has literally no evidence that his fathers' actions had anything to do with his son's. Now, let's look at what Birbalsingh neglected to mention.  Anders Breivik lived with his mother all his life.  If anyone were to have taught him right and wrong, she'd have been the one.  We don't like to blame parents for their children's deeds, and we sympathize with this mother's grief. However, it certainly is strange for Birbalsingh to blame the father for Anders Breivik's awful deeds, completely ignoring the possible shortcoming of the person who raised him, his mother. As speculative, slapdash, fact-free and illogical as all that is, it actually gets worse.  Go to the article and at the top you'll notice a link to Birbalsingh's website.  Click on it.  There you'll see a tab entitled "Conservative Conference Speech;" click on that and then on the video of her speech to the aforesaid conference. Gaze in wonder as Katharine Birbalsingh explains to the assembled multitude the value of taking responsibility for one's actions!  She's a teacher, you see, and she tells a story about two little boys who, when in trouble for some infraction, seek to pass the buck, as children often do.  Ah, but Birbalsingh is there to correct them.  She lets them know the necessity of taking personal responsibility for their own wrongdoing. Fortunately, the youngsters are too young to read her Telegraph article that delivers the opposite message, which is "if you do something wrong, you can always blame dad." But I have to say that even that hefty measure of hypocrisy isn't the last of Birbalsingh's unwholesome mess.  To all of the other shortcomings of her piece, we must add a shocking lack of empathy. Jens Breivik's son has just committed what must be the greatest single atrocity in Norway in recent history.  When things like this happen, everyone of any sensitivity wonders "how could someone do such a thing?"  But when it's your own son, imagine the horror; imagine the incomprehension; imagine the pain. Birbalsingh doesn't.  She displays not the faintest trace of empathy for Jens Breivik.  In his hour of darkness, at his time of greatest vulnerability, she attacks.  Never mind her ignorance, never mind her illogic, never mind her hypocrisy.  It is Katharine Birbalsingh's willingness to kick the man when he's down that renders her article, not merely bad, but disgraceful. Fatherhood advocates are used to the lies, misrepresentations and antipathy for science of the anti-dad crowd.  We're used to fathers being attacked for any or no reason.  We're used to seeing mothers being held up as paragons of virtue even when they're anything but. Given all that, it must be said that Katharine Birbalsingh has hit an all-new low.  To attempt to tag an innocent man as an accomplice to mass murder just when he's grappling with the most harrowing event in his life is beneath contempt. "At long last, have you no shame?"

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