This is a page I never
dreamed I would have to publish.
It makes for sad reading, but there IS hope!
The following is a letter I wrote to the editor of the newspaper. They didn't publish it because they said it was too long. I intend to try to get on the school board's agenda, here in my home town, to ensure that it is heard by them.
Our Worst Nightmare...Isn't It Time To Wake Up?
I have never written a letter like this, but in light of events in Littleton, Colorado at Columbine High School I feel compelled to write.
It would be easy, popular, and politically expedient to cry for tougher gun control laws. It would also be wrong. Our nation has in place the most stringent gun control laws in the history of our country and they have little impact on on this kind of violence. Indeed, the tragedy at Columbine High School would have happened even if guns had not been available. Clearly it is time to look deeper and address the problem(s) rather than blaming the problem on an inanimate hunk of metal.
We must look at our society and the direction it has taken in the last twenty to thirty years. In that time, we as a society have become desensitized to violence. We don't just tolerate it; we have embraced it as our preferred entertainment. Music, particularly that popular with teens, exhorts them to violence. Movies and television demonstrate violence as a solution of choice, often portraying the hero as an outsider battling the established order which is shown to be, at best, inept--and more often corrupt and unworthy of respect. Finally, video games actually train the violent response into our children. The children of today are highly trained killers in a society that, to all outward appearances, places little value on life. Most of us know that is not true, but those completely immersed in the electronic media are brainwashed to the point of believing it. We should not be surprised that this tragedy happened; we should rather be thankful that it doesn't happen more often.
That is ONE side of the problem. The other is the issue of children taunting other children, now literally to death. It is easy to write it off by saying that "kids are cruel and kids will be kids." After all, it is just words,right? They don't do physical harm, right? Perhaps not, but the harm they do is far more devastating to the psyche than physical blows would be to the body. Beginning at an early age, these taunts are incorporated into our own self-perception: they color the way we see ourselves and the world around us and are carried with us into adult life. Recently, there has been a round of television talk shows concerning those who were taunted and out-cast in school. You find in these shows that the victims, after turning their image around, often adopt the attitudes of those who victimized them; the victimizers overwhelmingly are unrepentant, often failing to even acknowledge they were wrong in the first place.
One learns early on that there are victims and victimizers...predators and prey. In the savage jungle this is the way of life, but isn't this what we are teaching kids about our "civilized" society? In our society, if someone runs down your good name there is a civil remedy for slander; if someone goes out of their way to follow you, gathers inappropriate information on you, and otherwise intimidates you, there is a criminal penalty for stalking; if someone verbally abuses you there is a criminal penalty for assault; if they come up and assault you and then physically attack you with say, a slap, a punch or a kick, there is a penalty for assault and battery. Why should we expect our children to tolerate these same offenses because such things are considered "kids games"?
It is easy to say that parents are responsible for teaching their children the self-respect and self-control that will prevent this sort of thing. To an extent they are right, but consider this: my daughter (in middle school) gets on the school bus at 6:30AM and returns home at 4:30PM. She is gone from home 10 hours a day - 50 hours a week. Usually, she is in bed by 9:00PM. If we spend every minute with her from the time she gets home each day and 12 constant hours with her each day of the weekend (for a total of 46 and 1/2 hours), we STILL won't have equal time to UNDO the damage done in the time she is away from us -- and we STILL have to contend with media violence in that time. Even if we can convice her that the "adult" world is a far different place, what comfort is this in her world where these rules seem not to apply? At best, we can teach her that home is a warm and safe haven, but that she is on her own, to cope as best she can, at school and in the "real" world.
The question of what to do about all of this is harder to answer. A cry for censorship might be expected--and might even have a favorable impact--but as a free society we abhor censorship. In reality, such a cry would be symptomatic of our society which seeks to place blame (and therefore responsibilty) elsewhere so we may feel better about ourselves. As parents, educators, and citizens of a free society it is OUR responsibility. We must acknowledge that we have a problem and then find the courage to change it. We must educate our children about the results of their actions. We must show them that their choices have consequences. Children must know that words are powerful and just as painful as sticks and stones. We must teach our children to "Just Say No to Violence"! As parents, we must have the courage to just say no to our kids -- to turn off the television and refuse to buy or even allow music and games which promote violence into our homes.
Our law defines obscenity as that which is deemed repugnant and reprehensible to the community. I find unrestrained, gratuitous violence obscene.
Essay Copyright 1999 © by Rain SilverSplash. This article may be distributed freely, so long as this notice remains and the article is in no way edited from it's original form. No fee may be charged for the distribution of this article in any form without consent of the author.
As I was browsing the web, I came across this article quite by accident and was deeply touched. As parents, we often wonder just what our kids are thinking. This is what an 18 year old graduating High School senior was thinking right after the incident at Columbine High School.
Violence in America's
By Valerie Lines
It's been a devastating two weeks. While our government wages war on nations all over the world, things are falling apart in our country's schools. In the wake of the Springfield, Oregon, school shooting, the families, friends, and acquaintances of the victims hoped that the rest of America would see that school violence was not just a problem in inner-city schools. Unfortunately, history repeated itself in several schools throughout the nation until a year later, when the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, shook the country.
Our leaders are urging us to realize that there is a problem with school violence in America. We need to wake up to the problem. We need to see that there is a problem facing today's youth.
We KNOW there's a problem. At a time when we're so lost and confused that we don't know which way to turn, our fearless leaders are telling us to wake up. We ARE awake; some are wishing they weren't, that this is just a nightmare and we'll all wake up soon. We can't wake up unless we do something about it.
The following is from an email I sent Tuesday about my reaction to the events of the past week. It's only part of the solution, but it is an important part. We've realized the problem. Now it's time for us to do something about it.
Tuesday, April 26, 1999
I didn't sleep at all last night. I stayed up all night working on a paper that was due, so I was pretty spacey and woozy all day. Everything seemed so unreal and I'm not even sure today even really happened.
A boy at my school committed suicide Monday night. I didn't know him, but it still upsets me. I'm not angry; I'm not thinking, what a waste, how could he be so stupid? No one needs anger right now. I'm just incredibly sad. One human being is so much; there is so much to one person, his love, his fear, his embarrassment, his talent, his memories, his joy, his sadness, his heart--so much is gone. Just like that.
Human beings are not disposable, but it seems like that's what so many people think lately. Every time somehing like this happens, where a person dies that didn't need to, people say, Wow, we need to realize there's a problem. And then we start to blame everyone within pointing distance.
When you're busy pointing fingers, you can't carry your share of the weight and nothing gets done. THIS is what we need to realize. Nothing is going to get better unless we ALL pitch in and help out.
I heard some people say that the boy who committed suicide (a sophomore, so that would make him about fifteen or sixteen) was a very nice kid, never had anything mean to say to anybody. He took a lot of heat from the other football players. They'd make fun of him; I don't know how badly but that was mentioned. I don't know if it's even relevent.
The world can be uncaring sometimes. There's so much that contributes to the mess that things are. So what can we do about it? The only thing I can think of is this: those of you with children, let them know how much you care about them. Give them a hug and tell them how wonderful they are. Do this every once in awhile even when they're middle-aged and too old for that kind of thing...and do it a lot during their teenage years. They'll need it. Surprise them with small gifts every now and then. Not like a car or something like that, but something to let them know you were thinking of them. For example, there's this kind of miniature teapot where the bottom of the pot is the cup. I love those things and have been looking for one for awhile because I like knick-knack things like that. Well, this weekend my father got one for me, for no reason. He doesn't do this kind of thing often; if he did, it wouldn't be special. But I do the same for him. There was this really nice pen with a wolf on it that I saw and I knew he'd like it, so I got it for him. You don't need to wait until birthdays or Christmas to do things like that. Also, make your child's favorite meal, do something with your children to show an interest in their interests. Be a friend to your children most of all.
We can't force kids to be nice to each other. Kids are cruel. We can do our part to make our own corner of the universe beautiful. Sometimes your kids may get on your nerves or make you mad, getting into things they shouldn't, arguing, talking back, the millions of wonderful things kids do, but they are your kids. You can't be sure that their lives outside the home will be wonderful--most of the time it won't--but you CAN do something to make sure their home lives are.
Sometimes things seem overwhelmingly hopeless, but there are small things we CAN do.
Thanks for listening. :)
This article is © 1999 by Valerie Lines This article may be distributed freely, so long as this notice remains and the article is in no way edited from it's original form. No fee may be charged for the distribution of this article in any form without consent of the author.
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This page last updated 5/30/99