The three most obvious elements of this tragic era have always been present in American (and all) cultures: weapons, teen angst, and bullying. Until the recent past, all cultures have had weapons. In many cases, particularly a hundred or more years ago, those weapons were accessible to everyone in the home as tools needed for daily living. Part of being a teen is being in flux and trying to find a way to deal with it. Unfortunately another aspect of this, bullying has also been present throughout history. Teens killing large groups in schools was not common throughout history. What has changed?
Let's look at some of the things that get thrown around by the media and by the rest of us every time something tragic like this occurs (and yes, it saddens me greatly that I had to say EVERY TIME, and that this isn't a one-time shock). The following are what some groups call the "ultimate causes" of these events:
- The family has been torn apart by divorce and single-parent families. Broken families are the reason this keeps happening.
- God and/or religion has been removed from our schools/culture. God is peace and provides us with knowledge that we are not the greatest being in the universe. God not being allowed to be a part of our culture is the reason this keeps happening.
- God and/or religion have been a part of our schools/culture and have caused bias, prejudice and hate. Religion is the opiate of the weak mind and has destroyed lives and community, and this is the reason this keeps happening.
- We must have gun control. Access to guns allows us to take our worst instincts and act upon them with deadly effect. Guns, and access to guns are the reason this is happening.
- We have demonized guns so much that we don't teach proper respect for them. We don't teach gun safety and that using guns has real life consequences. This is the reason this keeps happening.
- Parents (either single or married) don't spend enough time pouring life, love and respect into their children. Children feel like they are not valued enough. This is the reason this keeps happening.
- Parents and our culture have told children that they are the most important creatures in their world. Parents spend all of their time taking kids to the kids' events and programs and spoil their kids. This is the reason this keeps happening.
- Kids are not taught proper respect of others and tease/bully one another. Kids are not taught proper conflict resolution. Bullying is the reason this keeps happening.
- Video games/movies/TV are the problem. Video games/movies/TV teach violence and immerse people in situations showing that violence is acceptable and necessary, and that there are no real consequences. This is the reason this keeps happening.
- Male dominated culture and machismo are the reason this keeps happening. Masculinity is toxic and leads to outbreaks of violence. This is the reason this keeps happening.
- The destruction of, and belittling of, masculinity is the ultimate cause of this. Boys and men are told that they are worthless and the ultimate cause of everything that has ever gone wrong in the world. This leads to anger and despair and this is the reason this keeps happening.
I know the preceding list doesn't cover all of the reasons that get thrown out. These are just the ones that come to mind as I write this. I also know that many of these have at least some bearing on the situation, even the ones that seemingly contradict one another. I think we are in a "straw that broke the camel's back" situation. I know that no single cause (listed above or others) has caused us to be where we are. Many of these things have piled up into a festering national and cultural wound that will take much care and effort to hopefully recover from.
As I said previously, I don't pretend to have THE answer, or ANY answer. I just want to ask you all to consider and pray (if praying is something you do) about this. I want us all to look into our hearts and consider with our minds how we as individuals can impact our world in positive ways. Peeling back the individual issues (much like a doctor must do with an infected wound) may be painful, but may ultimately be the only thing that ultimately saves us.
I don't mean that you should pick your favorite issue on the list and flog it on Facebook or elsewhere as your personal soapbox. I mean that you and I need to do something meaningful to pour into people. Find the issue (or issues) which tug at your heart, and try to help someone. Do you know kids who are being bullied? Talk with them and, more importantly, listen to them. Do you fear that video games are warping kids: find one or two kids and take them to the park. Do you know of a family in crisis? Talk lovingly (not judging) with the parents. Offer to spend time with the kids. Whatever it is, make it be about people and not about causes. Causes don't heal people, positive interactions with other people do.