Another week, another senseless mass shooting followed by the usual call on one side for thoughts and prayers and on the other, gun control. In this case, a school was shot up by a kook and there are additional calls for arming teachers. Next week it could at a mall, movie theater or city park, so just who do we arm then? The usher? The Penney’s clerk? The professional dogwalker?
I get that we are all outraged by the seemingly nonstop senseless murdering going on. I think we all agree that no child should die at school. Quite frankly, no one should ever have to worry about being shot to death as they go about their day, no matter where they are.
But sadly, people are. In the race to bring some sense to the problem at hand, social media is flooded with inane, simplistic answers. I initially tried to bring some logic to this discussion, explaining that arming teachers is pointless, if for no other reason than we would almost immediately experience a teacher shortage because teachers want to teach, not police.
There are others who point to overly simplistic causality, such as violent video games, mental illness, or strangely, drugs. I would maintain that anyone who shoots others is mentally ill by default. Sane people don’t typically open fire on others.
I will also maintain that part of the problem is our shoddy parenting skills. Spare the rod and spoil the child is very true. I’m not saying that we should beat our kids. But in our effort to be their friend and to build up their self-esteem by awarding them participation trophies, we have coddled an entire generation of children who don’t know how to negotiate the difficulties of life.
In our effort to spare them the pain and agony of failure, we have protected them to the point that the slightest setback destroys them as individuals. Rather than teaching them to be resilient, we have taught them to be weak. Instead of teaching them the magic of the golden rule, the sanctity of life and ideals such as honesty, respect and love, we have created monsters who act out in the worst way when they finally snap.
I obviously grew up in a different time. I guarded our yard with a Mattel Tommy Gun and in my teens, drove a tank to college. Famously, I sat in the back of Ed Eaton’s journalism class at Green River Community College and snapped together a World War II machine gun. Hearing the sound, Mr. Eaton simply turned nonchalantly to the room and said, “Robb, put the machine gun away” as the class laughed at my antics.
Today, that would set off a SWAT-level response at a school. The gun was plugged; it couldn’t shoot. And the idea of anyone shooting up a school was ludicrous in the aftermath of the Vietnam War when we watched daily as our dead brothers and cousins came back in caskets.
We understood the tremendous loss one feels when a loved one didn’t come home. If our own family members were lucky enough to make it home, we had friends whose relatives didn’t. I went to college with veterans who lost limbs or were bound to a wheelchair. I understood the painful fact that when people die, they don’t come back. And the loss of a loved one haunts you forever.
I know in my own family that my parents were all about tough love. When I became a parent, my mother said, “Use every weapon you have at your disposal with your kids. You are not their friend, you are their parent.”
My parents used to spank me. I spent a lot of time in the corner. I was sent to bed without dessert. I was told I couldn’t play with the neighbor kid who just knocked on our door. I wasn’t coddled. I was parented.
In school, I was the one who was bullied. I was punched a couple of times by other kids. I was dumped in the garbage can. I was made fun of. I was a nerd and worse, a band guy.
Yet, to this day, I haven’t punched another human being. I admit there were a few times I hit my older brothers, but I don’t think that really counts. Yes, I’ve been in tons of situations where I could have rightfully landed some blows, but I always found it better to use my words, my humor and my intellect to get out of these situations.
I don’t consider that weak. In fact, I’m damned proud of this ability to avoid violence. I wish kids today would learn the same skills. Perhaps we’d have fewer kids going off the rails and shooting up a school or a mall.
Unlike many out there on Facebook, I don’t have any easy answers. I can say that as of this moment, Kat and I have raised five kids who haven’t shot any place up. They are nice kids who care deeply about the world they live in and are pained by the violence happening around them, in part because two of our children are now parents themselves.
That said, I do believe many of the problems we are experiencing are due to the breakdown of the nuclear family. Latchkey kids can get into all sorts of mischief. My mother probably searched my room weekly when I was a teen. That doesn’t happen now. Many parents don’t even know what their kids are doing or who they are associating with. I always had to bring new friends home so my mom could look them in the eye and then, unknown to me, give them the eye, if you know what I mean.
We live in different times to be sure. TV and social media have become the new babysitters. We don’t have dinner at the table anymore. We don’t have family nights where we play games and talk. We just move around the house staring at our phones, living in our separate worlds, living together but apart, strangers to our own family.
Maybe this is the true problem, our increasingly self-imposed isolation from the real world. Maybe this is why we have so many modern day monsters.
In the Emerald City, wondering where we go from here,