We watched in horror as another school shooting unfolded, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This tragedy took the lives of 17 students and faculty February 14. In the immediate aftermath, the nation stood mesmerized as surviving students, articulate and determined, demanded that lawmakers not only take meaningful action to stop violence in our schools, but to address the real factors contributing to the decay of our society.
Those of us who grew up in the 1950s, when gun violence was virtually unheard of in our schools, are fed up and full of sorrow over the bloodshed that is costing innocent lives. Yes, gun laws need to be tightened, the FBI must preempt attacks by making use of robust databases and artificial intelligence, and police officers need to put the safety of children ahead of their own. And yes, our nation needs to do a much better job providing mental health care and screening to make sure mentally unstable individuals can’t use guns to wantonly destroy young lives.
But there is more to this problem than easy access to guns and inadequate mental health care.
Why is it that shooters, such as the 19-year-old who reportedly confessed to police in the Parkland shooting, are unable to control their violent impulses? Although each case is different, the common thread is that shooters, almost always young and male, devalue human life.
I believe much of the blame for that lies squarely with elements of American society that are polluting minds.
Fact – Media violence contributes to aggressive behavior and desensitization to violence, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Although recent school shootings have prompted politicians and the general public to focus their attention on the influence of media violence, the medical community has been concerned with this issue since the 1950s,” states the report, citing “a growing and nearly unanimous body of evidence associating media violence with increased aggression in young people” that dates back decades. “Prolonged exposure to such media portrayals results in increased acceptance of violence as an appropriate means of solving problems and achieving one’s goals. Television, movies, and music videos normalize carrying and using weapons and glamorize them as a source of personal power.”
Fact – American adolescents watch much more pornography than their parents know — and it’s shaping their ideas about pleasure, power and intimacy.
“There is growing concern about young people’s exposure to sexual content through television and other electronic media and about its potential effects on their sexual attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors,” according to a review of scientific studies. “Researchers have documented the growing prevalence of sexual talk and portrayals of sexual behavior in televised media, as well as associations between adolescent viewing patterns and their sexual activities.” That study was published in 2000. Since then the explosion of the Internet and smartphones have exposed millions of young people to hardcore pornography. The full consequences are not yet fully known, but addiction, sexual abuse, and violence are certain side effects of a society that has tossed out basic human values.
Fact – The vast majority of school shooters come from broken families.
Much has been written about the sharp decline in marriage and the family, with its benefits of stability for parents and children. This problem is well documented in Dr. Mitch Pearlstein’s From Family Collapse to America’s Decline. Dr. Pearlstein argues persuasively that the erosion of marriage and family is a root cause of declines in educational and economic performance for generations of American children raised in broken or never-formed families.
Fact – Celebrity role models promoted by the media often reinforce violent, vulgar, and disrespectful behavior.
This is another widespread media problem. Young people need noble, moral, and altruistic role models who exemplify values such as decency, hard work, and personal ethics. There are so many good role models out there, but they don’t seem to get the press of the bad boys and girls, many of them young adults who are spoiled, selfish, and self-centered. Children without strong positive role models in their lives are easy victims for this culture of celebrity.
Fact – Computer games that act out violent fantasies on a screen desensitize people to violence.
“Violent video games teach kids to practice aggressive solutions to conflict…” states one study. “As a result [they are] more likely to use these strategies when real-life conflicts arise.”
Media, politicians, and society have all failed to address these problems. The only way this will change is if a majority of the public demands it. Unfortunately, society at large seems to be in a race to the bottom when it comes to morals. So it is up to those who know the value of strong morals and care about our kids to take a stand and lead.
Our Constitution (1789) and Bill of Rights (1791) were written in an era that was vastly different from today. Yet we interpret the Second Amendment to allow virtually anyone to own almost any kind of weapon, and the First Amendment to protect as “free speech” the influences that damage the hearts and minds of our youth, no matter how vile. It’s time we come to an understanding of both that is in line with the realities we face today.
Our students are fed up with our elected officials’ years of inaction to reverse the trend of increasing violence and anti-social behavior. Most of us grandparents have been around long enough to see and understand the changes underlying this sad state of affairs – our society’s “anything goes” acceptance and embrace of crude, selfish, and denigrating behavior.
It’s time that we join the movement students have started and stand up to confront the root causes of our decaying values.
To make our point to the fools in media, entertainment, politics and business that have failed our children, please join me with a boycott of all TV, movies, games, and entertainers for one month, effective April 1st—April Fool’s Day.
If you’re fed up, stand up! Boycott the fools that glamorize and celebrate violence, indecency, and crude behavior.