Teenagers gunning down classmates is quickly becoming part of the fabric of American life.
How did this start? What are the dynamics that cause these kids to take such extreme action?
I have a bunch of opinions regarding this rather grisly phenomenon.
In generations fairly recently past, it was normal for a kid to have two parents, and it
wasn't particularly abnormal to have a mother at home whose job was to oversee the household
and the children. It was also appropriate for parents to dole out a certain amount of corporal
punishment without having to worry about state workers taking an interest. You were expected
to serve out your "life apprenticeship" by paying a certain amount of attention to those who
had already achieved adulthood. You were also encouraged to maintain a certain amount of
respect, coupled with a small portion of fear, towards your parents and authority figures in
general. Discipline isn't learned in a vacuum. Children were able to look forward to
adulthood as a time when they could do what they liked. Blow off steam. Raise hell.
They no longer have that discipline. They will no longer wait.
Ah... Life in the '90s. It's become an anomaly for a kid two have two parents. It's even
weirder if they're "original equipment." How many children have a single parent? How
many have multiple parents? That's my dad. That's my Mom's second husband. She's my
dad's third wife... ad nauseum. I think it's a fact that parents today, in general, don't
feel the same genetic need to nurture. I think many of us have become compulsive about money.
In most families it doesn't really matter how many parents are present, they're all working
for a living. Many have careers. There's also a tremendous amount of "fear of the future"
coupled with an inate paranoia, born of guilt, that the sky may soon fall.
When things are going very well financially, over a long period of time, it's human nature
to develop a tic while waiting for that other shoe to drop. We expect the Dow Jones to take
a major header. None of us truly anticipate that the safety net of Social Security will still
be in place when we need it. Health care costs have spiraled out of control. Pakistan
has the bomb. LIVE FOR TODAY!!! The kids? They've got problems? Hell... We had a bunch of
problems when WE were kids. We turned out okay. I'm, obviously, not talking about ghetto
kids bumping each other off here. That's been going on for quite some time. This new
phenomena is about middle-class kids who pull the trigger.
I sat with my jaw propped against my chest when I read about the latest youngster to go
postal. His father actually bought him a Glock 9mm pistol and had him trained in its use
when it came to his attention that the kid had an unhealthy interest in firearms.
oooo---eee---oooo!!!! This is different than buying a few gallons of gasoline and a
zippo for a kid with pyromaniacal tendencies? The kid likes to torture and kill animals?
Let's buy him a bunny!
When we were in High School most of us went through the normal period of teenage angst. We
were a little gawky. We got picked on by other kids who knew exactly which button to push
and were brutal beyond belief. We felt like non-entities. We had an uncertain future and
were scared witless about how we'd turn out. Most of us had no idea whatsoever what we
wanted to be when we grew up. The reality of being a fireman or a nurse had long since
sunk in. Some of us turned to drugs as a way to fit in and explore our own consciousness.
Not many of us hosed down a CYO dance with an Uzi. We had a semblance of discipline instilled
in us from a very young age. Even if we wanted someone dead, we knew the consequences of such
an act far outweighed the brief feeling of power.
Many kids today don't understand that. The kids today who actually act out these insane
fantasies see themselves as the star in their own inner movie. They've been brutalized by
their peers. Their parents have no idea what they're going through and make little attempt
at finding out. I truly believe what they're trying to say is... "I EXIST!" "IGNORE ME NOW!"
"I AM somebody." "You WILL, finally, DEAL WITH ME!!!" What we're seeing here is just the
tip of a very ugly iceberg. Couple these killings with the fact that the teen suicide rate
has climbed disproportionately through every year of this decade and you come up with the fact
that we've bred a generation that feels ignored. They can't see beyond the mess, whether
real or imagined, that they find their lives in. Parents aren't taking the time to
help them through their trouble. They aren't there to tell them that they're bright, or
beautiful and that things will work out. That their day will come. It's equal parts sad,
Brats with guns...
I don't feel sorry for these brats with guns. What is going on with these kids? Too much
sugar-coated cereal? Food preservatives? Nutra Sweet? MTV? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder? Big Brother?
If I haven't said it before, I was raised by the Brady Bunch, so what would *I* know about
hard times? But guess what? This is the same variety of teenagers out there killing other
children.... white, middle-class, suburban (to small town). It is coming from a safe,
clean, stable part of town.
To a point, I can understand bad attitude in ANY teenager, no matter what side of the
tracks he's on. As clean and white and fluffy as my life was, I was a dark, brooding,
anxious teenager. Now that I look back, I think that all that was wrong was my perspective.
I lacked complete control. In my case, I was a kid who never knew what real problems were.
I had never done without lunch. I had never once had to unlock my own house after school
and babysit myself in an empty home. I had never had to take sides between my parents,
never had to share weekends with one or the other. My home was so stable that it was dull.
So I must have created drama. Just as Remo mentioned of kids today, I played the star in my
own drama. Life was but a dream... My dark inner life was set to a soundtrack.
So sure, there's an element of unreality in teenage life...along with angst, insecurity,
and an almost suicidal sense of independence. Even so, there SHOULD be a base awareness of
consequence, of fear, of respect. Hopefully, there is some focus on the future, at least a
short term goal. Rebellion at that age is natural, biological, and necessary. The tension
is not avoidable. The insecurity is understandable. What is missing in the kids that do
the unthinkable, given that all of these feelings are natural? I think that they lack the
boundaries that respect, consequence, and fear provide. Many of them had already suffered
consequences of lesser actions, so maybe what they lacked was respect and fear. Maybe for
some reason they had the notion that everything SHOULD go their way and that everyone SHOULD
act on their every whim, and then feel self-righteously jilted.
When I first started absorbing stories about school masacres, I assumed those children
were just mentally ill. I still don't rule that out, but I think that more likely, they
are NOT mentally ill, but just terminally self-centered. I predict that soon counselors
will invent an illness to explain this extreme behavior. Look at the "illness" called
MUNCHENHAUSEN: for women who injure, starve, overmedicate, and sometimes/eventually even
kill their own children for the purpose of getting attention from outsiders. Sure, they're
SICK. But at some physiological disadvatage? I don't think that's a valid excuse. Sounds
similar to the school shootings to me..... Kid kills people. The whole world focuses on
that kid for weeks. They have validated him. He *IS* afterall the star of his own show,
just as he always suspected he was.
Are there precursers to that kind of violence? Is there some way of knowing whether a
teen's behavior is normal curiosity, facination, preoccupation, or anger..... or whether
it is something potentially disasterous? If I found out that my kid was torturing and
killing cats for entertainment, he would never leave the house without being attached to a
log chain, collar, and mom or dad taking him for walks. Behave like an animal; be treated
like an animal. Anything else would be acceptance and validation. If I found out that he
jammed a stick of dynamite up a cow's bazooka, he would be committed immediately.
I understand that (now dead) father's reasoning when he bought his son the first gun
before the shooting spree in Oregon. He must have thought that if he could not control
the boy's unhealthy facination with firearms, that at least he could control what firearms
the boy used. This is pansy parenting to me. Maybe at that point nothing could have been
done. Maybe that boy would have been a sociopath no matter what parents he had or what
school he went to. Perhaps preventative measures would only have delayed the shootings
until he was grown and working for the U.S. Postal Service. Same guy; different dead people.
Proclaiming these young killers mentally ill is convenient for us. It puts a partition up
between the brats that kill their classmates for mundane reasons and our own rebelliuos,
angry, dramatic, hormonal teens. That can't happen in our family because our kids are not
mentally ill. In most of the cases I've read about, I don't see any vital flaw in the
parents that could have warranted what happened in the end. Maybe those kids were mentally
ill. Maybe they were just cruel, evil, and totally self-absorbed. MAYBE. I am tired of
brats with guns inventing problems and taking it out on the people around them. I don't
care about understanding what was wrong with those brats. I hope they burn. Anything
less would be acceptance and validation for what they always thought was true: that they
could do anything they wanted to, get national acclaim, and ride right through it. This
is NOT a movie boys!
Let's hear your comments about this month's Rant. Be brutally honest, if you will.
Check out what others have to say about our Rants!!!
Everything expressed in The Rant & Rave is most definitely the opinions of the two authors. Anyone taking exception to any edition of The Rant & Rave is cordially invited to sprout wings and utilize round rolling pastry as their next sexual conquest.