Dazed & Confused

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2001


Violence as entertainment destroying next generation

So…..here we go again. Once more a disgruntled child has opened fire in one of our schools. This time it happened in Santee, Calif. And this time the final bill was two dead, 13 wounded. So, what was the trauma that would drive a kid, in this case one 15-year-old Charles Andrew Williams, to commit mass murder on his peers? What could have caused the kid to snap, to decide that the right thing to do at that particular moment in time would be to start gunning down your friends and acquaintances without regard to their thoughts, feelings, or futures? Well, from what I’m reading it all seems to come down to this: He was picked on. That’s right. He was picked on. According to some of the news reports I’ve read so far, young Mr. Williams is skinny with big ears and apparently was the target of more esthetically fortunate kids. So, what do you do when you’re picked on day after day? You turn into a homicidal maniac, of course. It’s OK. They shouldn’t have picked on you. Get a gun, take it to school, and kill as many people as you can. Astonishingly, it’s the same twisted logic used by the two lunatics at Columbine. When you read the following you will probably decide that I’m not very sympathetic to young Mr. Williams or any other young idiot who thinks that murdering his or her classmates is good for a wounded psyche. And you’d be right. Let me say this. Almost all of us were picked on as kids. Some of us were fat, some of us thin, some of us had acne or a lisp or big ears or big feet. Most of us go through some sort of awkward phase as kids. Those that never did generally turn out to be the insufferable kind of people I don’t like to be around, then or now. How we deal with the traumas our childhood throws at us determines in a big way how we deal with our lives as adults. Almost all of us can vividly remember some cutting remark, some stinging slight about our appearance or faults that was made by some thoughtless, arrogant clod. And we remember how much that teasing hurt. I had an unfortunate resemblance to a certain movie character (never mind who) in my early adolescence, and I deeply resented the teasing that likeness brought me. But I didn’t get a gun and slaughter people over it. And neither did you when you were teased about something you had no control over. We dealt with it. Sometimes not well, but that’s life. So, what has happened that makes these kids think its okay to do things like this? What changed and when? I have what may be part of the answer, although I’m sure there are those out there who will disagree. It’s partly our fault. We have managed, in this age of prosperity and ultra high technology, to raise a generation of spoiled, selfish, self-interested children who can’t understand it when things don’t go their way. Most of these school shooters have been middle-class white males who seemingly didn’t want for much except maybe the acceptance of their peers. They were raised with the bloodless violence of vicious video games where killing is a recreation, not a brutal reality. They watched incredible violence in television and especially in movies from the time they could focus. They were protected by their parents from any form of outside correction with a litigious zeal that is unmatched in our history. If a teacher or anyone else makes any attempt to correct rude behavior or the absolutely appallingly bad language they use these days they run the risk of immediate lawsuits. And the parents don’t dare correct a child physically themselves because if they do they could scar him psychologically, at least according to some of the more modern ways of thinking. Or they just might be arrested. And as a result the kids will talk to adults any way they want. And they don’t like it if they can’t. It’s their right. I think this carries over into their world as well. When they are confronted with a situation they can’t deal with, like the brutal reality of childhood teasing, they take control at gunpoint. They’ve been conditioned to embrace violence without ever understanding the harsh reality of it. And they’ve been conditioned to have their way at all costs. The combination of these two things is having deadly results. So what’s the answer? I don’t know, although personally I think that killing anyone on school grounds should carry an automatic death sentence, like killing a judge or a police officer does. And don’t hand me that stuff about it not being a deterrent. Sure it is. To be aware of a serious pending penalty has always been a deterrent for kids when they were thinking of misbehaving. Maybe if that thinking started a bit earlier in life some of our kids would still be alive today. LEE DRESSELHAUS writes this column every Wednesday for L’Observateur.