It’s been over four years since I originally posted my musings on bullying and what I believe has changed in youth behavior in a generation. https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/bullying-has-not-changed-how-we-react-has
The situation around how our youth treat one and other has not improved since my original publishing. While I had received many comments regarding that posting, the one that sticks out came from a childhood friend who was raised in a large family. Her comment was simply “Playground justice went a long way”. Meaning that often during our own childhoods kids worked things out on their own, developing skills in the process. I think about that a lot as the news continues to provide us with heartbreaking tragedies of youth who never developed the basic coping skills necessary to deal with frustration, anger or conflict and ultimately leap to “elimination of those causing me pain” as a solution to their problems.
While finger-pointing and attempts at quick fixes make people feel in control at the moment, resolving this plight and reducing the killing of our kids at the hands of their peers needs some reflection on what exactly are the factors creating this and why now? While I am not an expert, I am an observer and by nature am quizzical in a way that makes me ask questions that make others uncomfortable or formulate opinions that are outside the popular mainstream conventions on a current event. I have had many opportunities to read articles and see news stories that share the same mantra of “guns are bad” and the naïve belief that criminals will be moved by gun laws. Take a look at the statistics of where these blood baths occur, you’ll note the highest frequency is in “Gun Free Zones”. We need to do better.
What has changed is the dismantling of a mental health system that once separated the severely antisocial from society and the elimination of such institutions allows these troubled and struggling individuals the freedom to live among us. That freedom has resulted in mayhem. We have also become more reliant on pharmaceutical companies for “solutions” to the problems of our children. In 1983 after years of drugs being marketed primarily to doctors, the United States became one of only two countries in the world to begin marketing prescription medications directly to consumers via television commercials. While it is well documented that many of our nation’s tragedies have come at the hands of those who have been medicated or recently stopped medications, there seems to be no public outcry against pharmaceutical companies, no demand for accountability for what problems their products may be causing. One only needs to listen closely to the fast paced disclaimers during drug commercials to understand where some of the problems we currently are facing are coming from. Is it acceptable to endorse a product whose possible side effects include any of the following “Hostility, Agitation, Irritability, Frustration, Depressed Mood”? Oh and by all means expect a person to “call their doctor” if they experience “Acting aggressive, being angry or violent or acting on dangerous impulses”. The big one that people seem to have become numb to is “suicidal thought”. Having never gone to medical school I am uncertain how close “suicidal” thought and “homicidal” thought are to each other in the brain but it seems likely to me that they are in fact close and this might explain why so many who commit large-scale homicides ultimately plan to either be killed or take their own lives at the end of their massacre.
Why are there no marches against big pharma and nobody looking at the role their money plays in current politics? We have made youth reliant on medications because of an expectation that they either at one extreme end of the spectrum focus and overachieve or minimally fall in line and quell any behavior that makes them remotely different than the classmate seated beside them. Is it easier to parent or teach “Stepford children”? My guess is absolutely, at least until one of them has an impulse or “side effect” from their medication. It’s impossible to know how many people have committed suicide out of fear of their own drug-induced homicidal feelings, a self-inflicted “mercy killing” so to speak that saves others. Perhaps a truth in marketing demand should make drug companies add “homicidal tendencies” to the laundry list of antisocial behaviors associated with their products.
While the pharmaceutical companies seem to be getting a pass, people want to blame the perpetrators weapons of choice as the evil culprit. Though facts tell us that fewer homes have firearms percentage-wise than at anytime in our nation’s history and safety measures are in place in greater measure than ever before, it is the gun that has become the rallying point and with it the NRA as the villain. First, let me say that I am not an NRA member, nor have I ever been but I am fascinated by the desire of a segment of the population to demonize them for their support of the Constitution. When pressed about the NRA, ironically many of the people who oppose them don’t know much about them and are simply parroting others. They are not familiar with:
- Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- Always keep finger off trigger until ready to shoot.
- Always keep gun unloaded until ready to use.
Additionally the NRA are proponents of proper cleaning and maintenance of firearms and security and storage of guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons. They provide more youth education on firearms safety than any other organization I am aware of. They are basically like the AAA is for car owners, even those who are not members can benefit from their efforts. Just because someone is a proponent of public transportation is no reason to be hating on AAA. That’s the best analogy I have for those who are anti-gun and think the NRA wields all sorts of power. I was shocked but not surprised to hear the Minneapolis Mayor a couple of weeks back during a school walkout exclaim “These kids are the NRAs worst nightmare.” Sorry dude but an antisocial youth shooting his classmates is on the NRAs list of worst nightmares.
Clearly, complicated problems require multifaceted solutions but those efforts should at least be focused in the right direction. Tragic and senseless violence is unfortunately the catalyst for youth involvement for this generation. Drunk driving became the rallying point during my college years and understanding that individual choices make a difference and starting with youth by developing parent/teen contracts for “no questions asked” pick-up from parties evolved to “Sober-sis” and “Sober-bro” programs in Greek life on college campuses. Public transportation in some areas offer free rides on days like New Years Eve and Saint Patrick’s day. While drunk driving still exists, it’s evident that many lives have been saved through awareness programs and trying to eliminate a behavior. Note the solution to drunk driving was not a call for prohibition or a demonization of car manufacturers.
With bullying, shootings and even bombings, it’s the behavior of people that needs to be addressed, not limiting the rights of others who don’t have that behavioral affliction. I’ve shared before in other settings that there were numerous guns in lockers (if you biked) and cars (if you drove) at my husband’s high school, as many hunted after school. My husband even built a firearm from a kit in one of his shop classes. There was no panic, no expulsion, no lock-down. Just like every generation before his going through puberty, there were kids who didn’t get along. Aggressions were taken out in either athletics or fist fights and despite access to guns, bats, knives and other weapons, that simply was not how things were handled. Something changed and it certainly wasn’t accessibility to weapons.
Clearly I don’t have all the answers. Would people be willing to allow their kids to learn about disappointment and how to process it “the old fashioned way” by keeping score in youth sports and only rewarding the winners? Are parents willing to step back and let their child try to resolve a conflict on their own as a way to develop skills they will need in adulthood? Are we as a society willing to accept that not all kids need to act the same or achieve the same and foster an environment where a young un-medicated person who may exhibit more energy than the kid next to him is not considered a burden or disruption but simply a kid?
Why are people so resistant to accept education as part of the solution to guns? As a protected right of our citizens, it seems that it would be wiser to have comprehensive education regarding firearms. Just like in high school after “Foods” class nobody was forced to wield a spatula but at least they knew the basics around a kitchen. Many have backwards ideas that guns are not to be seen or talked about, it’s simply a forbidden topic where “that’s not for you” is what the curious are told. We know that works so well with sex, just tell youth that is not for them, don’t provide any basic information, cross your fingers and that usually turns out well. That’s sarcasm folks. We teach our kids about nutrition, we teach them about sex, we have them take lessens when learning to drive because it’s an enormous responsibility and impacts others around them. There is greater fear in the unknown than there ever is in providing information and showing a person the proper way to use a tool.
Finally, I will acknowledge that I grew up in a home where guns were present. I was taught gun safety and use by my father and as a result had a respect for their use and capability. While many of my friends are anti-gun, an equal number of my friends are gun owners and not one of them has ever unlawfully used it to take the life of another. Taking away their firearms would save no lives and laws already exist against the acts that currently fill our newsfeeds.