I had planned a light, sarcasm filled editorial this week, but the events in Littleton, CO on Tuesday completely wiped any traces of this out the door. After such a horror, it is human nature to look for the one reason these two young men chose to murder their classmates. If we debated the issue forever, it is doubtful that a single cause could be found. Rather, it seems as if violence and isolation has become an integral part of our popular culture and of our children’s lives.
I in no way am holding the media, parents, gun manufacturers or schools singularly responsible for this event, or any related violence. However, tossing these elements together creates a glamorous cocktail of violence without consequences for kids. “No Fear” is the catch phrase for the ’90s
Take a look at popular entertainment. MTV sports the ever-popular “Celebrity Deathmatch” where claymation characters maim, mutilate and murder each other for fun. Sure, it is just clay and not reality, but it is violence without consequences. Then there is the trash churned out my Nintendo, Sega and the like. Our children can spend the day wiping out an entire civilization, in 32 bit color, and show up for dinner none the worse for the wear. More violence without consequences. Then, of course, we have the high art of cinema; “Scream”, “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, and let’s not forget the bevy of gang glamorizing movies. Gore, slashing, sex, all for your child’s enjoyment without consequences. No look at devastated families, no scenes in the emergency room as staff tries desperately to piece together bits that used to be a person. Nice, clean, family fun.
Now, toss today’s busy parents into the mix. Have you ever noticed that parents of children who perform mind-blowing acts of violence always announce to the press how shocked they are? Why is it that classmates cite a laundry list of anti-social behaviors from these children prior to the incidents? Why aren’t we seeing the indicitive behaviors, and addressing them? Is there any dialogue going on with our teens, or do we really just believe that once a child hits the teen years, they are beyond our reach as parents, and won’t listen anyway. Giving up on attempts to communicate with our kids sends them what kind of message?
Add gun manufacturers to the mix next. They are sitting pretty amid all this. At the hint of any public outcry, the NRA is right there with the constitution in hand. For some reason, adding child safety locks or a waiting period is seen as the one straw that will topple democracy in America and lead to riots in the street. No one acknowledges that a teen’s reasoning abilities are not equivalent to an adult who chooses to own arms.
If you can’t understand the responsibilities of owning a gun, and the consequences of using a gun, why should you have access to them? Schools, finally, have been saddled with educating our children, setting boundaries, keeping them safe, teaching values, and handling discipline issues parents aren’t addressing. This is not why they were created, and is certainly beyond what they are equipped to handle with any measure of success. Why are we surprised that so many illiterate kids graduate? Who has time to educate when each student may be packing? My kindergartner came home bearing a project about fairness. While the concept is wonderful, isn’t this supposed to be one of the first lessons taught at home before a child enters school? Child-rearing has degraded so far, that schools, not parents are teaching what fairness means. What is wrong with this picture? As a society, we suddenly have no time for actively participating in our child’s development once they are school age.
Whether a child is 4 or 14, violence is not entertaining, funny or acceptable. No exceptions. Children must be taught this from day one at home, in the form of the entertainment they are allowed to access, clear boundaries on acceptable behaviors, consequences for unacceptable behavior, knowing where your kids are and who they are with and what they are doing. If the goal is to raise responsible, respectful citizens, it is about time we adults become involved, responsible, respectful advocates for children. No exceptions.