"Get used to it guys. Here in America you will see a lot of these murder cases: children killing parents, parents killing children, siblings rubbing out each other. This might shock you now, but in a few months, you will just glance over it in the paper and forget". This was the slightly snobbish admonition delivered by a distant relative to my parents and I in response to our shock about the Susan Smith case. We were in America for only two months when Smith admitted to deliberately drowning her two infant sons in a South Carolina lake. And less than two years later, the Menendez brothers were locked up for life for the brutal murder of their parents.
All this came as a great shock to us recent "off-the-boat" immigrants. After all, the murders we were used to in the former USSR were either gangland shootings or the typical bludgeoning or stabbing of one drunk by another. And now, in the land of these beautiful suburban houses and immaculate green lawns, seemingly happy Americans were killing their family members in the cruelest ways possible.
How bizarre, grotesque, and surreal these cases were for us. After all, these well-fed (to say the least) Americans did not have to stand in line for hours for stale bread, had hot water in the summer, and enjoyed working elevators and urine-free hallways in their municipal buildings. Heck, they even had their own cars and did not have push their way through a dingy Moldovan trolleybus. What more did these shmucks want from life? What sort of infernal force made these smiling suburbanites turn into homicidal monsters seemingly overnight?
I recalled our shocked reaction a couple days ago when I watched a murder trial in my local courthouse. The defendant, a young whale of a man was on trial for the double murder of his parents - shot dead at close range on the day they celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary. The alleged motive? Scandalous allegations of parental abuse like in the Menendez case? Unhinged fury like in the Mazaltuv Borukhova case? Nope, mere greed. According to the prosecutors, the guy just wanted a few thousand dollars from his parents' bank account. On his part, the accused claims that it was his older brother, not he, who wanted the parents' money and hired a local thug to fake a robbery, a plan that turned into a massacre when the thug went rogue. So, no matter how you look at it and who you believe, one thing is clear: one of the brothers is responsible for the parents' death.
I told this wretched story to an Armenian friend over some sandwiches and seltzer during a break in the trial. "On trial for killing his parents? Back home in Yerevan, someone like that would not have even made it to court alive", said my friend with a grim frown while adjusting his sunglasses. But in today's America, with its cult of fast money and immoral living, can one expect anything else? Even close-knit, patriarchal Armenia is adopting the noxious lifestyle of the modern West. "Give it a decade or so, and you will see cases like this in Yerevan", I told my friend before wearily making my way back to the courtroom.
Eugene Girin is a New York-based attorney and commentator.