We will forever have strong associations when we hear the words Columbine, Aurora and Gabby Gifford. In each instance, young men acquired weapons for the purpose of doing violence and destruction. We are at that point in the wake of the most recent tragedy where most everyone wants to figure out who or what to blame. Video games … easy access to guns … a generally more violence society? I know very, very few of the details about these individuals, let alone what was going on within their heart of hearts. So don’t let my thoughts be construed as a grand explanation for all of these types of situations.
Let me compare a few things that have changed over the last couple of generations. Back in the days of my youth (and perhaps my parents youth as well) there were the kids that dressed in not-so-fashionable clothing and those who had nicer cloths. Today, there are still those who dress more modestly, but some spend many thousands to get the latest and best wardrobe, perhaps to be worn once … or maybe never. Years ago, there were the kids who were slower in school, and those who were brighter. We still have the slower group, but on the high-achieving end, kids are under high stress to get perfect grades, marvelous test scores and get into prestigious schools. Years ago, for the most part, we all just went out and played games until we got through the sixth grade, then we got into sports. I don’t remember any parents getting overly excited about how their kid was doing until they played at the varsity level. Today, parents often pressure their children to out-perform their peers during kindergarten … and earlier. Same is true with music, theater, tech gear, what kind of car you own, etc.
If you take second place in the Super Bowl of life, you are a loser. Compete, compete, compete. Most kids do manage to cope in this changing world. They find some sort of arena in which they can shape their individual character. But I wonder about those kids who just get exhausted trying to climb the various ladders that are put in front of them. So they just step off. The extreme stratification that they face is simply too great. To heck with it all. There are likely tens of thousands of kids who might fit this description, but only handful who flip off the deep end. But might it be from this group which come the few?
Then what do we do? Create more ‘programs’ to help? Yes, better parenting can make a difference, but parents are already stretched pretty thin. While it may help some, the problem spans most every corner of public and private life. Church groups or scouting can be helpful. But there isn’t as much extrinsic motivation to join up as there once was.
I fear it is easiest to simply callous over, and get use to this sort of thing.
Just a thought … DonC