I wonder what kind of response *this* particular entry is going to garner. Disclaimer: No insult was intended in the authoring of this text.
High: Got a letter, chatty and full of Maine-isms, from my sister.
Low: Work got a smidge more stressful today.
- Finding a *good* book to read.
- Starting my next class up tomorrow night.
An e-mail conversation between myself and a friend who moved back East a few years ago.
Who I Read
And I thought the woes with my own (step)kid were bad.
So. This San Diego school shooting. I have several thoughts and opinions on the matter.
Media CoverageI opined about it during Columbine, and I'll opinion (opine?) about it now. Get. The. Frigging. Cameras. Out. Of. The. Frightened. And. Grieving. People's. Faces. You will not win a Pulitzer (or at least, you'd better not) for getting the most heart rending photograph of a parent just learning that their child has been killed. They swarm all over the area, erect satellite towers, hover in helicopters, and add to the chaos of the emergency personnel trying to do their JOB, and parents trying to find their KIDS, and kids trying to find SAFETY. They stick microphones into the faces of anyone who will stand still long enough to offer a sobbing comment. They actively hunt for the most upset bystanders. They push through paramedics in order to get close enough to the wounded for a gasping comment or two. They're all about soundbites and looped images of frightened children, playing them over and over in every news program for the next two weeks.
CNN's website today is all about "Images of the Aftermath" and "Interviews with Students who Witnessed the Shootings". They call the kid an "angry young man" who was "picked on by his peers". They're focussing on the man who could have "Stopped The Horror", the father of a friend who conversed with the suspect the weekend before, and apparently "knew the boy's plans for murder". They are dropping terms like "deadly bloodbath", "broken home", "deadly consequence". They've got audio files of students first hand accounts. Get the most dramatic angle. Use the catchiest headline. Remind people over and over again, to the point of repetition, how awful everything is. How it's a repeat of Columbine.
We know all this stuff. And yes, I agree that all this information should be reported on. Give us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. Spark the conversations with our kids that so need to take place. Remind us that history, even recent history, repeats itself. And that's the whole problem. We need to find the answer to why this stuff keeps happening. Because we don't seem to be learning anything, incident after incident.
Education vs. Gun ControlThis kid, this "suspect", is fifteen years old. A freshman in high school. Apparently not horribly popular, but with some friends (who have been interviewed over and over again). He brought a gun to school, and used it. And his father kept guns in the house.
So now everybody is freaking out about gun control.
People, we have plenty of control over guns. Registration. Background searches. Waiting periods. As we all well know, no matter how tightly something is "controlled", there's always a way to get a hold of it. Where there's a will, there's a way. And a black market. And a healthy underground business. Gun control is simply treating the symptoms of the disease, not the disease itself.
This parent, in this case, was responsible and kept his guns locked up. It isn't even clear if the gun this kid used was out of his father's collection. But once again media, authority figures, and concerned public are firmly placing the blame on the guns.
Now, I realize this is a sweeping statement. Surely not *everyone* is blaming *everything* on gun legislation, or parents who (gasp) possess guns in a household in which children reside. So don't freak out on me. I'm offering an opinion.
I'm fully in support of the right to own guns. Whether for hunting, sport, or protection. I myself own a 9mm. Calvin owns handguns and rifles. The entire family understands the proper way to handle them, and is fully aware of the respect they should be accorded. I am also in support of mandatory gun operation classes. If folks have to take Driver's Ed and pass a test in order to operate a car, why not the same for operating a gun? I also belive that using such good practices as keeping guns unloaded and locked up, keeping the ammunition separate, and even the use of trigger locks are all good ideas. (In this I do need to add the comment that there are gun owners (and I myself am one of them) who use their gun for protection. That necessitates the gun be loaded, and accessible. Good sense needs to be applied in that kind of situation to ensure that the gun is in your presence at all times, and is in no way left unattended for a kid to take possession of. For instance, in our case, if the loaded gun is not on our person, it's locked up when we're not home. It is only accessible when we *are* home, and able to prevent its misuse.)
What I'm not in support of is the non-education of children in the proper handling of a gun. We've tried to instill tighter and tighter controls on the availability of guns, and it's not working. So what we should be doing is reassessing and re-evaluating our efforts. An intensive educational effort has never been tried. And it's common knowledge that it's the lack of information, not the information itself, that causes problems.
There are some positions on the matter that insist that "educating a child on the proper use of a weapon means that the child will want to go out and use that weapon". I disagree that a child will automatically misuse a gun just because they know how to handle one. That's akin to saying that giving a child sex education only encourages that child to go out and have sex (and yes, I know plenty of people still believe that). So fine, they might go out and have sex. But they'll be more likely to do it safely. The comparison can be made to handling guns. I believe that education will quell any curiosity which might become dangerous, and teach the kids that handling a gun in "real life" is not the same as their "shoot-em-up" video games. Most importantly, children will understand the mechanics of how a gun works. They will learn that just because a gun's clip isn't in, doesn't mean there isn't a bullet in the chamber. Or that just because a gun doesn't have a trigger, doesn't mean that it's incapable of firing.
In tandem with this education should be the emphasis that using a gun as a weapon against another person is WRONG. I don't know of any parent who hasn't told their kid, in some form or another, that killing is wrong. Mentally and morally we all know that. Okay, sure. I initially purchased a gun for self-defense. If a person is intending to harm me or a loved one, and I have a way of preventing that, I will use it. But a kid can't understand or determine the circumstances in which it is acceptible to use a weapon against someone, so they should be taught that a weapon should *never* be used against someone. Kids don't understand the reality of it, or the repercussions of it, or the responsibility that having that kind of ability holds. They're not educated in what a bullet can do to a person. They see an actor taking a hit in the shoulder or leg, and going on to kick the bad guy's ass. They translate that to their own reality. And we know it isn't. But do they? How many times have we shaken our heads at our kids' perception of reality?
And of course, all this means that the *adults* need to have a clear understanding and respect for the proper care, handling, storage, and operation of a gun. If the adults are idiots about it, how are the kids supposed to learn? If the adults think that violence is an acceptable means of anger management, what's stopping the kids from thinking so, too?
ParentingThe preliminary cause of the San Diego school shooting incident is, apparently, low self esteem. The kid, pissed off that he was picked on in school, decided to retaliate in an excessive manner. Way excessive.
In essence, Johnny killed Billy because Billy called him a "freak".
This screams to me of a severe lack in parenting. We need to build self esteem in our kids. We need to get them to *believe* that all the opinions that other people have of them is so far beneath the opinion they should have of themselves. We need to talk, and more importantly, listen to our kids. Understand the source and extent of their anger, and find a healthy way to channel it. The media is examining the end result - killings. We as parents should be examining how the kid got to that point in the first place.
But at the same time that we take ownership and responsibility for teaching our kids right from wrong, we also need to teach the kids how to take responsibility for their own actions. There comes a point when a teenager becomes a young adult. For some reason, perhaps they still operate under the misconception that "anything that is wrong with me is my parent's fault". Certainly their upbringing has some impact on their behavior and morals. We as parents always ask ourselves, "What did I do wrong?" "Did I spank him too much, or not enough?" "Did I fail to lead by example?" But sometimes all the talking in the world, all the soul searching and analysis and counseling parents and kids could possibly participate in, won't stop the kids from doing the wrong thing. Our family could be the poster children for that. There's no help for that, no solution. Nobody knows why violence is so prevalent among our teens. I'm just as helpless as anybody else, trying to find reasons.
I do know some things need to happen. Kids need to learn responsibility and anger management. Parents need to learn communication skills and how to identify problems in/with their children. Incidents need to stop being sensationalized so that any kid looking for attention won't think "Hey, that would be a good idea." Report the news, don't dramatize it.
The person pointing fingers and finding fault should turn that hand around and point at themselves. Look inward to discover the contributing factors, because the louder you talk and insist on placing the blame in one particular area, the harder it is to hear your own inner voice.
And that, dear friends, is my soapbox for today. Bring on the e-mails!