What seems beneficial is not always right. What seems right is not always beneficial.
Issues are complicated. Every time I read about another political scandal or a mass shooting (isn’t it a shame that those two things are linked in our minds?) I think about how we are failing as a society.
The only two conversations happening are about guns and mental health. Those are two efficient ways for folks to deflect blame onto something enormous – a faceless foe – particularly regarding the state of people’s mental wellness.
Like most of the problems in society, why can’t we put the blame where it usually should be directed: upon ourselves?
We are a society that has simultaneously embraced violence – in movies, television, video games, sports – all while downplaying physicality and the need to keep our bodies in motion. We have created an indoor-living, isolated generation that has vicariously experienced so much violence that they believe it to be a necessary part of real-world living.
Then, the irony: they participate in less of that real-world living than young people have for generations before them.
We have allowed an entire young generation to view fighting as a sport, and killing as a repetitive ritual, the names and faces of victims concealed in digital kills and player statistics. We – not – they, but we – have worked to give kids easier lives than our own, then complained about their laziness; we gripe about how they would rather play out life on a gaming console than walk out the back door and throw the football through a tire change the oil in their car or get a job.
We market weapons to fit the modern demand, and we too often see those guns exemplify the worst qualities within our race.
Gun control is central in the national conversation, I know. Perhaps that will be the road our nation takes soon, whether it be for our advancement as a society, or our decline, or something that is neither.
I am personally disappointed that we can’t figure out how to deal with the more important side of the issue: people control and family control. The profile of these shooters is that of young men, often at odds or alienated by their own close family, seeking justice (or, more often, vengeance) through use of violence toward others. Bringing up kids is hard if you’re working at it; it is nigh on impossible once you have lost control of them.
The blame for violence belongs upon the perpetrator of the violence, and no amount of parental love and attention can save some folks. But we have to hold ourselves accountable as parents. We must pay attention to what our kids are doing, who they’re spending time with and where their interests lie.
Which is worse: having your child believe you’re always into his or her business, or having your child believe you don’t care what he or she is doing? I am telling you from my experiences teaching that the former scenario is superior to the latter 100 times out of 100.
And in general, we need to take responsibility for what we produce, and what our young people consume. If we only served cake and ice cream at meals at my house, my children would be sick – and whose fault would it be? Mine and my wife’s. Our society serves up media-enhanced violence and gore, then ducks behind our rights and freedoms to do so, all the while neglecting the truth of the matter: we are what we eat.
This is not a general call to action or a demand for legislation. What I am proposing is perhaps a fantasy: that we would take responsibility individually and collectively for what we suggest as ‘normal’ behavior for our young people. Laws attack symptoms. Our choices – including the choice to take personal responsibility for our kids and their influences – attack the root of the problems. This is the hour for our ounce of prevention; then maybe we won’t need a pound of cure later down the road.
Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.