Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog


Why Do They Do It?

In a time when violent crime rates are actually falling, why is it that tales of school shootings are becoming more common? I'm not an expert on teen violence, like Dr. Smith and I'm pretty sure she'll have a different take on this than I do, but the question of why kids are killing teachers is something I want to address as a parent.

Why are kids taking guns to school and shooting up the place? I know when I went to school not too many years ago, this wasn't an issue. You may have not liked a teacher or two (I had a fifth grade teacher I couldn't stand) but you never even dreamed about shooting them. Well, I didn't at least, and even if there were kids who thought about it, they never did it.

Why not?

What was so different then?

First, let's eliminate all the usual suspects. It's not rap music, or violence on television, or violent movies, or books, or any of these thing. These are all symptoms of the same underlying phenomenon, effects, not causes. It's not right wing conservatism or liberal permissiveness, it's not atheism or religious dogmaticism. The true culprit is a profound and pervasive lack of respect for the value of life that has become integral to modern culture. A product doesn't sell unless there is already a market for it. Movies, music, books, and games don't make out culture; they are reflections of it. They are indicators, not instigators.

Instead of placing a value on life itself, we've shifted over the years to placing a value on the quality of life, as if that is something that can be measured, when in truth it is an unmeasurable and intangible quality that can never be quantified; it's subjective. But by pretending that we can assign a value to the invaluable, we allow room in our ethics to do things previously considered beyond the pale and still call ourselves ethical.

Abortion. Capital punishment. Euthanasia. Assisted suicide. Fetal research. Eugenics. What do these all have in common?

All of these practices reduce the value we place on life, yet each and every one is ardently supported by one group or another. Some of them are claimed as rights, some treat life as a commodity, while others are said to be duties of the state in taking care of the general welfare. (And if you don't think that eugenics belongs on the list, then you haven't been paying attention to debates over mandatory sterilization for the mentally handicapped, among other issues.) When the leaders of a society signal so clearly and consistently that the value of life in no longer an absolute, it should not be surprising that some mebers of that society will show a decreased reverence for life, making it more likely that they will kill for lesser reasons than previous generations.

So that's the first factor; kids are more likely to kill today than 20 years ago because we've told them that life is less valuable.

The second factor is that we as a society have deliberately become less judgmental and more permissive. Morality has been replaced with behavioral norms. An action is no longer wrong, it is "inappropriate." While many folks feel that this is a step forward, it also enables those who do not share the cultural norms increased freedom to act outside the bounds of those norms. While listening to callers on the radio today talking about the shootings, I heard one caller blame it on the principals for being to strict. I heard several others claim that the shooter was just as much a victim as those who were shot.

We are no longer comfortable passing judgments on actions regardless of how extreme they are. When Andrea Yates drowned her five children, family and supporters wanted to blame her husband, her preacher, her doctors; everyone had blood on their hands except for the hands that held the babies under the water. She was a victim.

When actions are no longer good or bad, or even normal or abnormal, but merely appropriate or inappropriate then there is less of a societal restraint on those actions because the consequences are reduced.

These are the twin engines driving the school shootings. Combine a reduced respect for the value of life with a more permissive society, and increased violence is the logical result. We don't see this in the adult community because most of us were raised differently, in a society where life had a higher value, and where there were real consequences for our actions.

Like I said, these are the things I see as a parent, and they are things that I've worked at combatting within my family. I've tried to teach my kids, not by words, but by actions, that all human life has an innate value, that right and wrong are concepts with real meaning and are not relative, and that there are consequences for their actions.

Unfortunately, society rarely takes the hard path; more than likely, all we'll see come out of this is a renewed push for more restrictive gun laws, metal detectors in the schools, and clear plastic back packs.
Posted by Rich
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