On Dec. 14, 2012, my grandchildren spent the day at their elementary school and came home safely. But sadly, 20 of our children didn’t make it home that day. Horrifically murdered by a lunatic, we lost 20 of society’s most precious assets. Make no mistake those children that were lost belonged to me, to you, and to all of humanity. With that loss now comes the time for us as a society to take a stand against violence.
A lot of the discussion in the media is about gun control. While gun control is one very important part of taking a stand against violence, it is not the entire solution. To effectively take a stand against violence we must come together and face the underlying culture of violence that pervades our society. From the television shows that our children are exposed to, the movies that they watch, the video games that they play and, more importantly, the everyday behavior of the adults in their lives our children are exposed to violence on an alarming scale. If you can’t hear that alarm then you need to wake up.
What can we do? Where do we start?
We can start with the person in the mirror. As you examine your daily life ask yourself if you are routinely watching those television shows that show graphic violence. If you are, maybe it is time to turn those shows off. Once you do, you will not only be taking a step to end violence, you will also be taking a step towards a calmer, more caring self. It is especially important to monitor the shows on your television if you, as an adult, have the television on and it is tuned to such shows when there are children in the room.
Far too often parents use the television as an electronic baby sitter with little care exercised about what is on that television. Children, especially young children, are emotional sponges who soak up the emotions around them. Let’s not fill those sponges with undertones of violence. Turn that damn television off and read a book with your children.
We need to be more selective about the movies we take our children to see and the movies we purchase or rent to watch at home. Even Disney movies are filled with violence. Most parents slough off the violence in children’s movies saying it is only cartoon violence. A young child’s psyche isn’t developed enough to understand that the cartoon violence they are watching isn’t real. I recently took my grandchildren to see Disney’s "Wreck-It Ralph." Many of the scenes in it were so intense that my seven-year-old grandson covered his eyes and clenched his arms in front of him because that cartoon violence scared him. Don’t buy into the theory that if it is from Disney that it must be appropriate for young children.
To me, video games are a large part why our children are becoming desensitized to violence. Unfortunately many adults not only let small children play violent video games, they play them with them. Some of the video games that are sold in America are so graphic that I don’t think that anyone, young or old, should be playing them.
Recently I was at a Christmas party were Santa Claus made a visit. Before Santa’s arrival the parents of the children present snuck gifts into Santa’s bag for the kids. One by one the kids sat on Santa’s lap and opened the present that they thought was from Santa but was really from the child’s parents. One eight-year-old boy received a video game entitled "Call of Duty: Black Ops II." The game was rated 17+, which means that it not only wasn’t intended for young children, but that it was illegal for anyone under the age of 17 to even purchase it. The rating label listed the following items which the game contained: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Drugs. Are these the type of games that we should let an eight-year-old child watch?
Far too many parents are purchasing those violent video games for their children. And what is worse is that they are playing them with their children. When parents spend time playing with their children it has a huge impact on them. What little child isn’t going to think that all that violence, gore and mayhem is accepted behavior when they are experiencing it by playing a video game with dad!
The point is, we have a culture of violence that threatens the very fabric of our society. If we as a society don’t decide that a change is needed it will only get worse. How many more children have to die before we say that it must stop?
While gun control is getting the lion’s share of the media attention, there are many other facets of violence in our society that need our attention. Besides those already mentioned, we need to address the mental health problems in today’s America. For several generations now funding for mental health care has been slashed. As a result far too many people are on the street that should be institutionalized. Had the shooter at Sandy Hook received the care he needed, maybe those children would not have died.
I feel that one very important thing we must do is combat the disproportionate influence of the National Rifle Association and others such as the radical members of the Tea Party. Their pressures on our elected officials have given them much more power than they deserve. We need to stand up to those who would keep us from being heard in the debate concerning the future of our children. If we must, we should borrow a page out of the NRA’s playbook and let our elected officials know that if they succumb to the pressure of the NRA and the Tea Party that then they will face a greater pressure from those of us who truly care about the future of our country.
The debate concerning violence in America is currently a hot topic. If you truly care about our children please keep that debate going. For the sake of our children don’t let the passage of time silence that debate.