The Clare Spark Blog

October 5, 2015

Chris Harper-Mercer and the evasion of family dynamics

Ian-Mercer-CNN-interview[This is the second of my blogs on the Chris Harper Mercer story. The first one was based on early reports, and had blind spots and errors, which have since been corrected. See

The Roseburg, Oregon massacre may have come and gone, with either gun control or the shooter’s [narcissistic “loner’s” ] drive for fame or antagonism (“hate) toward “Christians” being the focus of such sensationalist and brief media coverage as there was, with the exception of Ian Mercer’s coldness regarding his son’s suicide and shooting spree as reported by Daniel Greenfield and others here:,, and, and

I have often noted that Freud is far more controversial than Marx or Lenin in academe. After all, our primarily populist politics can find shelter in either of these social theorists and antagonists to capitalism, whereas Freud’s revolution is at best ignored or diminished in significance. (

I remember a seminar that UCLA historian and psychoanalyst Peter Loewenberg invited me to. Robert Brenner, a leading Leninist, started his remarks appalled by the focus on the family, as opposed to capitalist institutions, that he attributed to “psychohistorians” as they used to be called, usually derisively. Feminists, of course, find this neglect of family dynamics to be detrimental to the cause of female equality, and this blog will reflect the concern that I and other feminists feel where parenting is involved. We are particularly concerned about the idealization of the patriarchal family, a concern not shared by prominent male leftists or by those conservative reformers who seek to solve the deterioration of urban black life by recovering a golden age of Good Black Fathers (

We know now that CHM had a black mother and a white father, of British origin. We don’t know how old Chris was when the divorce occurred, or how he reacted to the shattering of his world. We do know that he lived with his mother. Was this his choice, how old was he when the divorce occurred, and to what did he attribute it? We know that many children blame themselves for such catastrophic events. Are there no court records? Did the father abandon his son? Did mother work?

Nor do we know anything about the socialization of young Chris. Was the family religious? Were either of them political? How was he disciplined? We do know that he attended a special needs school, but have not learned why, though several sources blame Asperger’s syndrome. Why was he reportedly celibate at the age of 26? Was he a misogynist? Was he overly attached to Mother, who accompanied him to shooting ranges, and perhaps infantilized him? Did he ever get the benefit of counseling by a mental health professional? What did he make of the concept of “race”? (I have heard that he rejected such extremist organizations as “Black Lives Matter,” though the Los Angeles Times article tries to tie him to white supremacist doctrines and Nazism, which is suspect.)

Besides these obvious questions, we note that various media outlets are in disagreement over his politics; was he a conservative Republican as some reported, or a registered Independent? Does this even matter, given his obvious rage, in the end, turned against himself?

The public has a right to know these details, for they are germane to our understanding of the family, and why young adults go off the deep end, but the press has moved on to other topics, leaving the murders/suicide unexplained as undoubtedly too “divisive.”

As long as we refuse a national conversation on child-rearing and how we can promote mental health, expect more mass shootings and even more unanswered questions.

Is this framework complete enough? Does it suggest gun control?

Is this framework complete enough? Does it suggest gun control?


  1. I note that Mercer on his facebook page said he was of mixed race!
    Given Obama’s sensitivty to race issues, well white on black violence, I wonder why that hasnt been reported on!
    (His mother, Laurel, came from a middle class African-American family.

    Comment by Roman Szeremeta — October 7, 2015 @ 12:48 am | Reply

    • It has been widely noted, but not drawn out as to the implications of a mixed marriage where the son is close to the black mother, and the white father seems to keep his distance. Chris was only two when his parents divorced. He surely experienced being brought up by a single mother.

      Comment by clarelspark — October 7, 2015 @ 1:34 am | Reply

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