In a perfect world you would be able to give birth to nine children, live on public assistance in a ramshackle caravan park in rural England, take your kids out of school for six months to travel to the drug-filled Indian resort of Goa, let your 15-year-old daughter have a 25-year-old "boyfriend," leave that daughter in the care of a "tour guide" while you and your other offspring headed off on your own tour in-country, and not end up with your daughter raped and murdered on the beach outside a sleazy bar. But we don't live in a perfect world, though it seems as if Fiona MacKeown still doesn't know that.
MacKeown is the mother of Scarlett Keeling, the 15-year-old from Devon whose suspicious death last month--the police originally said she had drowned--has now been ruled a murder. Scarlett's not the first Briton to be murdered in Goa. MacKeown says she should have been warned it could be a dangerous place: "The police really need dealing with as well because this is an ongoing thing, it has happened before many times and if they had dealt with it in the past, Scarlett may still be alive today."
Or perhaps, Fiona, if you hadn't taken her to Goa, or left her alone, or if you'd been able to convince her not to drink and drug to excess (a witness said Scarlett told him she had taken three drops of LSD, two Ecstasy pills and then snorted cocaine), Scarlett might be alive today.
There can be few things worse than being the parent of a murdered child, and of course the ultimate responsibility for Scarlett's death rests with her murderer. But being a parent means doing all you can to protect your child and I don't see how Fiona MacKeown can argue that she's anything other than a bad mother, eager to blame others for her own bad decisions.
I thought much the same thing when I read about a 14-year-old girl who almost died from downing a quantity of vodka outside a skate park not far from Oxford. An ambulance crew, confused by two similar-sounding town names, went to the wrong skate park. There's a legitimate fear that consolidating emergency services loses some local knowledge, but a 14-year-old girl chugging vodka? Did she have her parents' permission?
The English like to criticize Americans for our supposed victimology and the way we employ it to shift blame--"I was abused as child, that's why I'm not guilty of murder"--and yet they seem just as eager to embrace that mindset. Something bad happen to you? It's anyone's fault but your own.