behind his back


Derek is away from the house, at his first day of work… so I’m going to do the most natural thing and talk behind his back. Nothing negative, mind you. I’m just savoring my first or second day alone in two weeks and feeling that I’m free to say whatever I please.

The first thing I want to say is it’s hard having someone around who is not only smart, but is always asking challenging questions. I can tell the guy has my best interests at heart, but that doesn’t necessarily make things any easier. Living alone, I have become accustomed to giving myself a “free pass” about some pretty fundamental questions.

For example, Derek asks questions like, “What do you want to accomplish by that post?” and “Who is your audience?”

The truth is, I often don’t know the answers to the questions he asks. I realize I’ve become fixated on daily traffic to the blog, taking comfort from your general approval of what I write… but what it is about you that leads to your approval I cannot say. I hate to say this, but Derek has exposed the ugly truth that I really don’t know who I’m writing to. “Everybody” isn’t a good answer.

Oh, I do know a handful of readers and supporters like Paul, Frank, Jeanne, Matt, Peter, Wolfgang, and Philippe, and I do feel I know them well. They have become my friends, mainly because they have reached out to me. But they’re a small minority of the 400-600 people who currently visit the blog each day. I don’t know for sure, but I think it would be a mistake to assume that everybody’s like them. They all share compassion in common, but beyond that, I am unaware of why they read the Diary.

Maybe I need to put out a general call for feedback that will help me to learn more about you… but I know that a lot of people on the Internet prefer to be anonymous. So here’s an idea.

Derek hates it when I write about “parricides” and refer to them as such. He says it sounds too much like “parasite,” and being independent is important to him. It is particularly stinging when he refers to me as a “zoo-keeper” or “collector.” I prefer to think that I’m specializing so as not to be overwhelmed by kids in trouble.

But let’s assume that Derek’s criticism of my use of the “parricide” label is getting at a legitimate concern. What should I be saying? Please tell me what you think and why.



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17 Responses to “behind his back”

  1. 1 Elaine
    May 23, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    I read your posts regularly and look forward to new ones. I have taken interest in the young people you serve. I agree with Derek, Paracides sound to much like parasite. I would prefer they be referred as youth that you are helping. I particularly love to hear of their accomplishments and am saddened by thier failures

    • May 23, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      Elaine, it is unfortunate that “parricide” and “parasite” sound so alike but mean entirely different things. We are sometimes cursed by the English language.

      I will try cutting back on the offensive word, but sometimes it is necessary to use the term for precision of meaning. Murder is an offensive crime, but murder of a parent is particularly offensive to our society. Sometimes it must be acknowledged, understood, and forgiven.

  2. 4 Ronnie Savill
    May 23, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    I don’t exactly visit the blog everyday hardly ever but I do read your email everyday Dan.

    I really admire you for the work / vocation you have chosen I’m not sure how to describe it.

    I’m not that old I’ve not killed anyone I’ve maybe wanted to die a few times. Not suicide not take my one own life but more wish I’d never been born.

    It turns out my high levels of anxiety and depression come from the same source. I was diagnosed a few months ago as being autistic. Or more accurately Asperger’s.

    I’ve had a life time of being or feeling bullied. A couple of cousins are ‘bullying’ me at the present. They probably don’t even know.

    I got pretty upset. I didnt say anything I just quietly broke of contact. That was the right thing for me at the time.

    You said you wanted to know more about who reads your posts.

    One thing you did or rather said that made me see red is that there wasn’t any evidence of the Holocaust. I’m still angry about that.

    I don’t know what you should call the kids you work with. VERY TROUBLED YOUTH. I’m not trying to be facetious there. There are enough labels knocking about and stereotypes. I know because of how people react to my being autistic.

    That’s sort of it from me in the UK.

    All the best Dan and looking forward to lots more posts.


    Sent from my iPhone


    • May 23, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Ronnie, thank you for your response. I am very touched by it, not least of all by your disclosure of your Asperger’s diagnosis. My son has Asperger’s, and as tomorrow’s post will make clear, I admire him very much. I continue to learn much from him; he is much more than his disability.

      As to your assertions about the Holocaust, I don’t recall ever having said there is no evidence of it having occurred. Anti-Semitism was a big part of National Socialist Germany; but current laws in Germany and most of Europe prevent us from questioning it and assessing its true dimensions. As a result, the “Holocaust” we have come to know is as much myth as reality (for example, the “gas chamber” at Auschwitz was built by the Russians after the war). This is not healthy and it is not dispassionate. It has fostered a lot of unnecessary hatred.

      Thanks again for your feedback. I admire your grit.

      • 6 tape
        May 29, 2016 at 10:25 am

        “but current laws in Germany and most of Europe prevent us from questioning it and assessing its true dimensions.” Not really. There is no law which hinders scientific examination. There are copyright laws for certain materials (e.g. Spielberg put great effort into producing interviews when researching for Schindler’s list, but (at least at that time) refused historians to validate the statements, and locations might have limited access due to property laws. Serious studies are still possible, as well as an academic discussion about the data, as long as it is based on evidence. In fact there is a constant scientific debate about the actual numbers of murders, as the SS was less interested in documenting who they killed on their way east, than they were about the death camps (where they tried to be efficient, which is only possible with long paper trails). Not a single serious historian denies the dimensions further than having different estimations about digits behind the decimal point. J. P. Reemtsma’s exhibition about the crimes of the Wehrmacht for example was criticized for factual flaws, which led to (relatively minor, but nonetheless important) corrections.

        Free speech over here just does not mean that one can dodge the responsibility for what has been said.

  3. 7 elizabeth t.
    May 23, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    I have to say that “parricide” and “parasite” sound way too close for comfort. The other aspect is that it has an “intellectualized” aspect to it. Although the word is certainly an accurate description of the crime, it separates the accused child or young person from his or her humanity. What Ronnie said about people reacting to labels is certainly true. And the last thing that a child or young person who has killed a parent needs is to be further labelled. Very Troubled Youth may not describe the crime well, but certainly describes the person.

    Words are very important to me, and I fear that this is not well said, but putting these young people in a class by themselves probably doesn’t do them a great service. Still, no one is doing the work that you’re doing, with your heart, so please don’t give up your efforts.

  4. 9 Frank Manning
    May 23, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    I did a little search for synonyms for parricide. They include murderer, patricide, matricide, even liquidator. Apart from the gender-specific words the others are too dilute and do not accurately define the unique nature of the crime of parricide in our society and legal system. You support not just kids who kill but kids who kill their abusive, often homicidal parents. Derek’s complaint reminds me of the state official who got in trouble and actually had to resign because he referred to a budget allocation as “niggardly.” Ignoramuses and disingenuous political activists condemned the term as racist even though it just means “stingy,” and has nothing to do with a nasty epithet for black people. That mob actually hounded the poor man out of his job. If he had said “parsimonious” he would have gone unnoticed. So be careful, Derek, about attacking words that have nothing to do with other words. I suppose you could call them “children who kill their abusive parents” but “parricide” is a lot more succinct.

    I was first drawn to Wandervogel Diary when looking for more info on Paul Gingerich and Colt Lundy. I was incredulous that rational adults would treat a little 12 year old like a latter day Charles Manson. I work with 13 and 14 year old boys who bounce off the walls and have the attention span of a gnat. Anyone who says that such a child is an “adult” in any way belongs in a padded cell. For Christ’s sake most of these kids don’t even have pubic hair yet. Adults???? In your sick delusions perhaps.

    I read an attack on you on Facebook. Seems rather ungrateful and spiteful.

    Finally, just to set the record straight. Yes, Dan, you have never denied the Holocaust. But it’s also not true that ‘the “gas chamber” at Auschwitz was built by the Russians after the war.’ The Soviets reconstructed the gas chamber and crematoria that the retreating nazis tried to blow up to hide the evidence of their monstrous inhumanity. No one had to fabricate evidence of nazi war crimes. They left behind lots of damning documents and infrastructure and millions of surviving victims.

    • May 24, 2016 at 12:43 am

      Yeah, after I read your comment earlier tonight, my curiosity got the better of me and I went out to Facebook to read it. I am being damned for using my own money. I then had a dream tonight about being attacked by rattlesnakes, but I survived. Same thing. Happy to say, ungratefulness doesn’t run in the family.

      This is the first I’ve read that the Russians are only guilty of having “reconstructed” the gas chambers; the destroyed gas chambers show no chemical evidence they were ever used as some have claimed.

      Lies die hard when the facts go against what we want to believe.

  5. 11 Frank Manning
    May 23, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    forgot to check the box

  6. 12 Jeanne
    May 23, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    I started reading your diary after taking an interest in the Jordan Brown case. I was shocked that Pennsylvania was charging a child as an adult and sought out a child advocate who felt the same. After learning about you and your assistance with the King boys, amongst many others, I wAs happy to learn there are so very many people who think like us.

    Your words, your work, your compassion, and knowlege, provides awareness. Educating the public is so important and change begins with one voice. I hope to one day be more active in this area as I believe we need to help these young people. I feel drastic change is needed within our juvenile system, prison system, and in many areas concerning the safety and wellness of children in general.

    You are the most interesting person I know. I feel your story, you, need to be on 60 minutes. You need to do a Ted talk, write a book, go on Ophra, etc.,as your knowledge is vast, your heart pure, and your goal, unselfless. I see your vision. I want it to blossom.

  7. May 23, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    FYI: selfless… Lol. And I don’t like the word parricide but it is what it is. I refer to you as a child advocate. They are children.

  8. 15 Willow54
    May 24, 2016 at 5:53 am

    I started reading your blog after watching a documentary about the Gingerich/Lundy case. I don’t visit every day but maybe a few times per week and I’m always interested in the other cases you cover. It is incredible to me how the US treats its juvenile offenders. It’s way more vengeful and punitive than what happens to teens in my country who commit similar offences.

    On the specific matter of the term parricide, I have to confess that I’m not offended by it. It’s a word that the English language has come to define a particular set of actions or person who has carried out those actions. No big deal for me to accept it for what it is. None of us has a God given right not to be offended, at least according to a succession of judges who have presided over court cases about people who have written stuff on social media that has outraged others. In today’s world of instant gratification and short attention spans I guess few people want to read a long description of something when one word suffices to convey the background and meaning so I suppose what I’m saying is carry on calling it a parricide if that’s what it is, and if anyone gets offended thats their prerogative.

  9. 16 Daryl Watton
    May 24, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    I began to read your Blog, Dan, when researching youth-at-risk and starting following the Colt Lundy story. Colt was the first inmate to whom I ever wrote. At your suggestion, I began to write David Childress and we have become good friends, he and I. Through your stories and commentary, I’ve come to learn that tolerating others’ differences can be challenging but worth the price of freedom.

    Supporting those who have been busted up by the prison system is challenging, too, not just financially but emotionally and spiritually. Reintegrating them into another broken system which we call North American society and which inmates inaccurately refer to as “the Free”, is equally as challenging when they have developed a code or morality within themselves on the inside that doesn’t fit the environment and culture we live in on the outside. I’m gathering myself for the day when I wish to help David Childress upon his release, hopefully upon his first eligibility in about 9 years.

    As for Alex King, I suspect he has become angry over a misunderstanding, as most arguments begin. It does beg the question: is the Redemption Project run under a legal framework or trusteeship? My understanding is that trusts are typically managed by hands-off professionals with regular audits — but that they are needlessly expensive for that very reason.

  10. 17 tape
    May 25, 2016 at 9:48 am

    As a foreign speaker I don’t think I am of much help here when it comes to finding words. This however would be my thought process if I had to find something in my native language:
    “Parricide” labels them according to what they have done (or are suspected to have done). And when it comes to statistics this might be the perfect description. But when it comes to the individual and the reason you get involved, I am not even sure that it is the only defining factor. I can’t put my finger on it, but I guess when you define what you are doing exactly, what your aims are, and who gets to take part, and also who not, you might find a better term.

    Over here we had an aid organization which started out as “campaign problem child”. But at some point they became aware that part of their work, especially in the case of success, is that the “problem” is not the main factor anymore and also that their clients tend to grow up. So they switched to the much more open term “campaign human” (or maybe for the sake of better translation: humanity), which describes their idea much more than the people they are helping. Parricides might be what your clients start as, but depending on the context, is not even what you want to express. In fact while typing “clients” I felt that this is the gap that term should be able to fill.

    In common they have that they are detached from a fixed anchorpoint while still being in the process in finding or founding such a point on their own, while being caught up in a system which seems to be focussed on keeping them from getting there as much as possible. And when looking at your blog, even the posts which don’t seem to be directly connected to cases or the topic as such, are often relating to such points (which of course makes sense as part of being a Wandervogel is to orientate oneself).

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