It is with the heaviest of hearts that I write today's post. My blog is dedicated to helping parents navigate their way through the difficulties of parenthood. But the events that occurred Friday in Newtown, CT, leave me searching for answers and depressed at the collective state of our American culture.
What have we become when a 20-year-old (a whisper away from a teenager) takes a gun and shoots his mother, and then proceeds to drive her car to an elementary school and take his vengeance and hatred out on poor, little defenseless children, and educators who dedicate their life to them? I can't help thinking about the preschoolers that I teach and how I would do anything to protect them. Their little faces. Their little bright eyes and inquiring minds. How did this young man go from that innocence to a monster in the short years in between?
Our culture needs examination. We are headed in the wrong direction. When this happens and is cataloged against the backdrop of other recent events it has become startlingly clear. Shootings in movie theaters, shopping malls, houses of worship and now elementary schools! What have we become? We are all responsible at some level for this. And I am outraged about it. So what are the causes? Here are my theories:
Violence has been spoon-fed to our children through video games, movies, television show and the internet has dulled our senses and lulled us into becoming more accepting of the unacceptable. It cannot be healthy for young children, and then preteens, and then teenagers to play violent video games for hours on end and watch entertainment that continually glorifies violence.
Families are fracturing: Two-parent families are becoming less and less common. And although there are many excellent parents who bring up successful children in single parent homes, the fact of the matter is that it is EXTREMELY hard to be a single parent. And often times when both parents are still in the picture, there is still a great deal of unresolved anger and rage on the part of the children--who are always the casualties of divorce.
Lack of Spiritual Direction: Our society glorifies superficial successes and worldly possessions over character. What do we desire in the U.S.? We want a big house, expensive car, designer clothes and shoes. Where does a healthy, happy, well-adjusted family rank on our list of wants? I am not sure. We hire nannies to raise our children, or just leave them to fend for themselves. And then wonder why they didn't turn out the way we wanted them to. We rank a spiritual life as something to discover during trying times, but do we take our children to religious education classes? Do we impart on them the importance of being a good, kind, loving person? No, we are too busy. But we allow Hollywood and gaming companies to shape their young minds with absolute dreck?
Think of what is glorified in our society? "Jersey Shore?" The "Real" housewives of multiple locations? Pro athletes? Rap and pop artists? Where are the positive messages coming from any of those sources?
Lack of mental health services are another concern: Where do families turn when they know their loved one is capable of committing a crime but have no clue about what to do to stop it. We need facilities and legislation that will give us a safety net for deeply troubled individuals.
And finally, the guns: Our society must get a handle on guns. If you don't believe me, look at the death by gun rates of other developed nations. You cannot convince me that the Constitution was meant to guarantee our right to carry concealed, automatic weapons that were manufactured to excel at killing human beings, including little children. Do you want to hunt? Fine. You may have a hunting rifle. But you should not be allowed to lawfully own rapid-fire, high-powered, automatic weapons that can efficiently kill my children. And you should not be allowed to have a bulletproof vest and body armor. Good, law-abiding citizens have no need for such items and as a society we should not tolerate their sale and possession. We must get serious about this! We need creative solutions to get the guns out of our homes and only in the hands of our law enforcement agents.
The time is now to do some serious soul-searching about the direction of our nation. Take action. Write to your representatives about gun issues. Get involved on a community level to help struggling families. Give money to mental health organizations. Turn your televisions off and throw away your inappropriate video games. We must all do something so that events like Sandy Hook will never happen again! My prayers and deepest sympathy go out to the families of that tiny little school and all of the families that have lost loved ones to senseless violence in our country.