We are facing something unprecedented in America, premeditated mass murders plotted out by teenagers against other teenagers and teachers. Their goals seem to be attention, fame and ultimately suicide. Why?
There is something wrong with the cultural cohesion of our country. We now have kids, researching past school mass murders to find out how they were done but also to plan how to commit even more spectacular shootings. There is something narcissistic and sick about that.
But we live in a society, with a current generation, where all displays have to be over-the-top: Hands Across America, Million person Marches, there must be a big showy display for every cause. Religion or lack thereof is worn on people’s shoulder instead of being private. Quiet, humble acts of charity, stoic fights for good causes are out. Bling is in. I’ll grant that most of the causes are worthy, but the narcissistic showiness as a norm is new when compared to past generations. Past generations were more stoic. This is part of the environment that these kids are learning in, becoming acculturated in.
Media plays a role. Not so long ago, newspaper stories had datelines, because the article was about something that happened days ago. It was already days old, no immediacy. Today we have saturation coverage within minutes of an event. And when the media is done with the facts they still have live air time to fill so they dwell upon the drama, the horror the angst and the pathos. They wallow in it, they immerse us in it, not for the public good, but for ratings, sales and profits.
Then social media and social networks take it up, howling to silos of yes men followers, stirring themselves into a frenzied mob of righteous indignation devoid of reason. Because it makes us feel good. Because this too is narcissistic. And feeling good is a drug.
And yet nobody wants to face the underlying problems. Because in facing the problem we can’t shift the blame off on others.
This is part of it. We are not teaching our kids the right things. Most things are learned not inherited and you cannot take it for granted that kids will just know right from wrong, or how to solve problems.
When I was a kid, adults all read from the same playbook. Adult authority was not to be questioned or challenged. If a neighbor or teacher caught you being bad, they dressed you down right then and there. And you took it, because the last thing you wanted was for them to report it to your parents because then the punishment got real. If you smarted off to the neighbor punishment got doubled and you were marched down there to apologize and work off any damage. Adults all backed each other up. Yes it was a conspiracy. It worked. Because, as I look back on it, most all those adults were also looking out for our own best interest. It didn’t always seem so at the time. They were teaching us right from wrong and what was acceptable behavior and what was not. How to respect others and other people’s property and ourselves. The lessons were hard, because all kids are brain damaged. :) And yes, sometimes those adults made mistakes, but they were honest mistakes.
Life isn’t always fair. It’s an important lesson, best learned early on. Once when I was bemoaning this after being punished for something I didn’t personally do, my father sat me down, “Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes the entire squad gets punished for the actions of a few. You were in the area and that is enough. You take your punishment like a man, Learn from it and move on.”
There is something wrong, deeply wrong with our social fabric, when you have kids PLANNING, how to kill other kids. This is more than just momentary rage, these kids are researching past mass murders and then planning, preparing, building things, to top past school shootings. We can remove some of the tools, but we still have not answered the question of what is so missing in their lives that they would resort to heinous crimes against society on their way to ending their own lives?
People on the religious right, keep saying that this is because we have taken religion out of the schools. Religion has never been all that deep in the public schools. It can’t be all on the schools shoulders. That is a cop-out. Learning begins in the home. Parents are the single biggest influence of child behavior during their formative years, and I suggest later years too. Learning how to conduct oneself does not have to be in religious terms: duty, honor, courtesy, manners, societal obligation, kindness, right and wrong, citizenship, love, morals, tolerance, humility, limits and empathy, these are all learned things - things that we are not teaching our young. It begins in the home. Squirm parents, squirm.
Parents are primary, but we all play a role. Bullying, plays a role. So does indifference. To be indifferent, to ignore someone else is also a form of cruelty.
I’m going to paraphrase this quote I heard over 35 years ago because I can’t track down the exact wording or source.
“You may say, ‘but I am not my brother’s keeper.’ That may be true, but in many large ways and small ways, you are your brother’s - maker.”
To say that the problem is just guns, bombs, violent games, psychotropic drugs, depression, mental illness any ONE thing is to attempt to find a quick fix, avoid the underlying problem and make us feel better. The fix is like the fix for racism, it will take a long time, it will be generational, it will be hard But just because it isn’t quick, does not mean it should not be done. We have failed as parents, not all of us, but enough of us have failed so that it becomes a threat to us all. Government, parents, teachers, adults, media must all start speaking with one voice and support each other in this: that this behavior is unacceptable, that violence does not solve the problems of life, that shooters are not to be admired but considered for what they are - losers.
Enough for now. More in future posts.