Tuesday, October 03, 2006

School Shootings Back in Vogue, Unfortunately

I don't understand what the deal is with the spate of school shootings again. First we have someone who sexually abuses four girls, executes one, and the commits suicide. Then we have a 15 year old who shoots his principal three times because he was suspended for carrying tobacco on campus and because some kids made fun of him. Finally...the biggest coward of the group, who I am hoping was just mentally deranged or I have lost all faith in humanity, goes into an Amish school...an AMISH school...you know, the Amish...no electricity, modern appliances (Internet, phone, refrigerator, etc.) and kills four fourth grade girls as retribution for something that happened to him when he was a little kid. Let me dissect these items one at a time.

1. Colorado Shooting - Someone sexually abuses a group of girls and then executes one before committing suicide. Now, even though I have a psychology degree, I am not going to try to evaluate the the state of mind of someone when I have almost no information on this incident beyond what I have read from CNN.com. But one thing about this that I cannot deal with is that the gunman felt it necessary to assault and execute someone before he committed suicide. If that was his final objective, why take advantage of total strangers. Its because he can.

2. Principal Killed - So a kid gets teased and then gets busted for carrying tobacco at school and will get a day of in school suspension. So, the 15 year old goes home, comes to school with three guns, and shoots the principal three times, once in the head, once in the chest, and once in the leg (and the principal, a very well liked 49 year-old, wrestles the gun away from him - he was shot in the HEAD). He then dies several hours later at a hospital. Now, I will be the first one to say that kids can be cruel and if a student feels like the school will do nothing about it, sometimes feeling of helplessness can lead to rage. But what happened to just dealing with it, or finding constructive means of dealing with negative energy, like getting off the couch and going for a run? But since violence towards each other is acceptable, and too often celebrated, this student feels the only way he can be vindicated for such an evil done to him--to be suspended for breaking a rule...and a rule that most certainly was in a handbook with explanations of repercussions, was to kill the principal. Because that will stop bullying. And not being a parent, I probably have no right to sound off, here, but I am going to do so. This is a fault of upbringing on our society. And it lands on the moral lessons we teach our children. But its not something that can be taught only at school. Not with no child left behind breathing down our necks. Schools cannot function as day parents for those who are too engrossed with work to do his or her job of raising a child. DO you want to know why this student did this? Yes, some will point to that he is a special ed student, but by-and-large, it is because he was taught that human life has little value besides to the owner. If it is someone he does not care about, that person's life is valueless because it is not about the teen. Society sees strangers largely as "not all about me, so why should I care?". And because of that, lethal violence becomes about as serious as shooting a department store mannequin. Not to get into psychobabble, but I am mad. This student has been shown that it is perfectly acceptable to have an external locus of control, and then he is allowed to act upon what he sees as the controlling factors of his life. Its a sad microcosm of how self-indulged, self-diluted, and self-pitiful our society has become. And its ridiculous.

3. A Gunman Executes Four Fourth Grade Girls as an Amish School - He does this because of retribution for something that happened to him as a child. So it makes perfect sense that he perpetuates violence against people whose parents were probably little kids when the act that has twisted him happened. And, the worst part is that he decided to target an Amish elementary level classroom, no doubt because of the relative ease of the target and the fact that the complete lack of crime in Amish communities makes local police unnecessary. Again...the kids become mannequins. Dolls to act out with. Strangers, thanks to TV and the Internet, become faceless objects and not people. Human life is devalued and this mentally unstable man finds solace in executing little girls. Take a look at our society. Parents, teachers, actors, musicians, T.V. and film executives...this is what you are creating. We are awash in a bath of self-centered existence, and almost no one is doing anything about it. Full speed ahead on reality shows. If its cruel, put it on youtube...if its foul, on comedy central.

I come back to one unbelievable and frightening truth. These things are happening and will continue to happen because no one will take responsibility for themselves or their actions. The blame for actions are always slid in other directions to other people and other groups. We have become a nation of enablers. And it allows us to devalue human life, because we are not responsible for what we do, so why bother thinking about the consequences? We are simply not use to it. Its just not our thing. We also have a bigger problem with entitlement than people realize. Too many people think they are entitled to benefits and rearwards they have not earned. They should just get them because they are who they are. Tobacco products are illegal on most school campuses. And someone gets mad because they are caught? It happens when students are caught swearing or skipping class, or even plagiarizing. Its as if that if you get mad enough, it makes it not your fault you broke the rule. And please don't think that this applies to just students. Its just that I am a teacher and its the population that I deal with everyday, so I have the greatest frequency of interaction with that population.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. Two weekends ago, while driving back from a rugby game, I was talking to some teammates in my truck in an a part of Vermont I am very unfamiliar with. I didn't notice a speed zone change as I entered a town and a local police officer rang me up for speeding. After I received the citation, there was some discussion of how I could get out of it. It was offered that I should write a letter to the judge and inform him I was lost and looking for roads and just became distracted trying to find my way. It was among other suggestions of how to beat the ticket. But, I am going to take the "sucker" way out. I am going to plead guilty to the ticket. I will pay a fine. My insurance will go up. And you know what? I deserve it. I was not paying attention and that is what you get for not following the rules. I am not happy about it, but it is not the officer's fault that he pulled me over. Its mine. Its not his fault that he didn't give me a warning. I am not entitled to a warning. Sometimes you are lucky. This was not one of those times. And I am going to pay the consequences without a grumble...except at myself for being a bonehead.

But then I sit down and watch The Family Guy or watch the news running a special on how teenagers are starting fights with local homeless while other teens film it so they can put it on the web and I begin to realize that modern media...our ability to project ourselves, and the complete lack of a moral compass or ever having to take responsibility because of the anonymity of the Internet, may very well be the undoing of our entire existence. And I consume that media through digital cable and phone and Internet, and by doing so, continue to power the corporations who are slowly eroding our social structure and concepts of basic human decency.

And so, I wait for the next act of extreme violence and shake my head as I begin to fear that there is little that I can do about it in between teaching about grammar and literature.


Da'Ka rih hon tye said...

"I come back to one unbelievable and frightening truth. These things are happening and will continue to happen because no one will take responsibility for themselves or their actions."

Hmmmm...wise words, my teacher. I wrap this idea around my mind day after day, and yet, sadly, my search for an answer still leads toward massive genocide. Yet, one must ask, does humanity still deserve one's faith?

P. Mody said...

Sometimes, Mr. Dewitt, faith is all we can go on. However, your theory of mass genocide and a total genetic cleansing (as in all humans) of the planet seems to be more of a destiny than a theory, as of late.

Da'Ka rih hon tye said...

Well, let me start my response by saying kudos on the Blog, and that if one goes by your message board, you seems to be fairing quite well in Burnt Hills. Seems you're just a universably likeable guy.

Anyway, you're right. Sometimes faith is all we can go on. Times like these school shootings.
I must admit, I'm really wishing I'd never come up with that theory. For one thing, I'm stuck with the finality that yes, that is what we're heading towards. Plus, that's just one of those "sad truths" we always seem to encounter in life.
Ah well. Keep that faith, teacher. For now, I'll keep mine. If humanity goes to far downhill, I can always run to the wilds... :)

Pete Mody said...

Lets hope you fair better there than Alex Supertramp.

Although, it appears that as long as you are not in Alaska, you have proven yourself capable of surviving just fine in the wilderness.