Someone must take the blame for this. Someone must take responsibility for our boiling conversation on schools and shootings and Alaina Petty, one of the 17 innocents who died in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day.
This isn’t just a national conversation anymore. This is us. This is about my son, who starts school next year. This is about your daughter, who you pray walks out of school this afternoon. Someone must take the blame for this.
Blame media. They send choppers and celebrity newscasters to every massacre in this country, devout in their influence over the masses. They’re the ones who turn awful events into fantasies, spurring depressed and depraved teenagers to cross one step over that sandy line between hurt and evil. They give credence to the worst, power to the afflicted, persuasion to the passive.
We can’t blame the media. They don’t load guns; they don’t pull triggers. They show up after our children have died, telling the rest of the world what we already know. If bullets rained in a school one mile from our newspaper’s office, we would never sit on our hands and watch the story pass by. We’d be first on the scene.
Blame social media. Not long ago, our youth shared their sorrows in diaries. They talked to parents, sisters, sometimes even teachers. They found resolve because those awkward years of discovery were placed at the feet of people who once conquered and now cared.
Today, our youth share pain with the rest of the world. They swallow ridicule in their pleas for compassion. They hinge their hope on animation, relentless in pursuit of approval.
We can’t blame social media. Websites don’t walk into schools; they don’t act on our behalf. They are mirrors of the people who bare souls. We never blamed the notes left in yearbooks for destroying a teenager’s psyche. Why start now?
Blame video games. And why wouldn’t we, when some of the most popular are called “Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition,” or “Dark Souls III,” or “Dead by Daylight?” And why wouldn’t we, when Dead by Daylight presents you this:
“In this slasher game, a remorseless killer hunts down survivors to sacrifice them to an evil entity, using a variety of weapons to hack, stab and impale characters. Injured players may crawl on the ground leaving pools of blood behind and can be hung on meat hooks in brutal death sequences,” wrote Jeff Haynes for Common Sense Media.
We can’t blame video games. These are cartoon victims, not real ones. The players are teenagers with developed brains and, in most instances, the understanding of right and wrong. Two generations ago, we didn’t blame the Stooges when one child bopped another with a broom stick. The graphics may be better, but the consequences – those must be the same.
Blame guns. Please, can we blame guns and the bullets in them? Without these weapons, not one of these children would have died. As a psychology professor said, “Guns not only permit violence, they can stimulate it, as well. The finger pulls the trigger, but the trigger may also be pulling the finger,” wrote Leonard Berkowitz.
We can’t blame guns. The first semi-automatic rifle was introduced in 1885, the first semi-automatic pistol in 1892. These are not new accessories in our homes, but consider some statistics, by decade:
In the 1960s, there were 42 deaths from shootings at schools. In the 1970s, 36. In the 1980s, 51. In the 1990s, 91. And in the past five years, from 2013 to now, there have been 101, and we’re only halfway home. By percentage, more U.S. homes had guns in the 1960s (49 percent) than they did in 2017 (42 percent).
We can’t blame mass media, social media, video games and guns. Oh sure, we can.
If media stopped rushing town halls before victims are buried, maybe the demons inside bewildered teenagers wouldn’t rush to replicate the coverage.
If social media tipped the balance from promoting envy to fostering flesh-and-blood interaction, maybe the virtual ridicule would be replaced by group accountability.
If video games intoxicated with achievement rather than destruction, maybe the desensitization of youth would slow to the levels of the generation that used sticks and mouth sounds to emulate backyard war.
If guns weren’t so easy to buy, if our background checks worked, and if we pulled semi-automatic weapons off the shelves, maybe Nikolas Cruz has the extra moment to find light in his darkness. I understand the Second Amendment, and I believe in the right to bear arms, but our Founding Fathers were looking at muzzle-loading service rifles when they granted us those rights. If you’re a hunter who needs automatic shots, take two guns.
Yes, we can blame all those things; then again, we can’t. And that leaves one solution.
This is us. This is about my son, who starts school next year. This is about your daughter, who you pray walks out of school this afternoon.
I am not here to pacify my son. You are not here to befriend your daughter. We are parents, we are instructors, we are coaches, we are in charge.
We teach our children which button turns on the TV. We are too lazy to pull them from social media. We buy the video games. We see their anger and collapse.
This is not a mass media, social media, video game or gun problem. Blame all you want – that’s the currency of the day – but this is on us and no one else.
Either we mold character, or it crumbles. Either we plant conviction, or it wilts. Either we respond, or we blame.