Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it would be hard to deny the rise in violent deaths that have been publicized to the world over the last decade or two. In 1999, the country was shocked by two boys who had exhibited dark behavior in the past and who had entered their school to senselessly murder classmates, fellow students, and faculty. Most recently, we are still holding our young children tightly as we think about the devastating consequences of a young man’s shooting spree in an elementary school up in Newtown, Connecticut. Having grown up not far from Newtown, this seemed to have had a greater impact on me and my family.
Now, we hear about 3 teenage boys in Oklahoma who were bored and decided to allegedly victimize at random a college baseball player. The further troubling information, according to NBC, is that there has been a rise in violence among kids under the age of 18 in this area specifically. Within the same jail that these 3 alleged criminals are being held is a juvenile accused of shooting his girlfriend as well as another one who is accused of killing a store attendant.
When tragedy strikes, we become so judicious and seek blame as expeditiously as we possibly can. Yet, I wonder if the blame may lie closer to home than we might think. We want to find out what was behind someone’s behavior but I wonder if we really dig deep enough, and if we do, are we willing to acknowledge what it is that we find if it seem self-indicting?
As the summer comes to an end, I have been somewhat frustrated with my boys and their behavior. They aren’t behaving the way that I would like for them to behave, so I’m asking myself where have I gone wrong. What have we done to make them think that this behavior is acceptable? While I might look to TV shows, games, or websites that they have been looking at, who has allowed them to look at these things? I have. I can blame outside sources, but who controls the inflow of those outside sources? I do.
We have become so busy in our society that powerful tools have become babysitters for our children. While television once may have held innocent and innocuous shows that were more educational than entertaining, the times have changed. We can no longer mindlessly allow our children to sit down and ingest hours of television, movies, and internet without some kind of careful observation and discernment. If we think that these things are harmless, than we shouldn’t be surprised if we find our children exhibiting behavior that stands in contrast to the values that we embrace. After all, it’s a rare occurrence that I completely agree with all of the values touted by TV shows, movies, or websites.
A young man is dead. His life has been extinguished because a few teenagers were “bored.” Really? Is this what we have come to? What are we doing with this next generation? What are we allowing them to become? We cannot shift the blame on others or on television, movies, or media. We cannot continue to call for stricter gun laws when it’s not the guns that pull the triggers by themselves, it’s the people behind them that pull those triggers and point them at other people. Guns are not the problem, people are the problem, and until we begin working on the heart of the issue and the heart of those people, we will continue to hang our heads in despair as we experience senseless behavior like this.
I am responsible for those with whom I have an influence, and right now, that is mostly my family. What am I doing to make sure that my kids understand that this kind of behavior is wrong? What am I doing to discourage boredom when TV, internet, and video games are not an option? What am I doing to instill a sense of creativity and imagination within my children so that when given a simple piece of paper and pencil they can find themselves occupied for ours within a world that was created in their own minds?
Stronger laws and regulations will not solve our problems nor will these problems be solved overnight. We did not get to this place in time overnight, therefore we will not be rescued immediately from it. We can slowly make our way out of it one step at a time, one life at a time, but it will take work. I need to ask myself if I am ready to take on that kind of workload, and so do you? If we’re not, then we shouldn’t be surprised when we find ourselves devastated again by senseless acts of bored children in whom we’ve neglected to instill values and beliefs.