What do you think of when you hear the state name Oregon? I think of woods, streams, log cabins and meadows. Today you can add Oregon to the list of states that have had deadly school shootings. One student is dead, the shooter is also dead by his own hand, and a teacher is injured after violence erupted in Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon. SWAT was soon on scene and a room-by-room search was conducted as innocent students were hurriedly evacuated in a now all-too-familiar routine. No matter what side you land on politically, no matter what you feel about gun restrictions, school security, and personal freedom, America has got to stand up with a plan to end school violence – now.
There are at least three things we can do to restore a safer, more innocent childhood for our children. Can we agree to do them, or shall we keep fighting over the rights being afforded to adults, putting child safety — and childhood itself — once again in the backseat? Civilizations that sacrifice their children are ultimately doomed, historians will tell you.
Video Games: The first thing that any sensible coalition (let’s begin to think of ourselves as such; maybe we will get things done) would agree to is that the societal benefits of violent video games in the hands of children are virtually non-existent. Let’s ask ourselves: what is the benefit of violent video games? How do they make us stronger, brighter, or more capable? Ask a teenager and they may think a minute and then mutter, “I think I have better eye-hand coordination than I would if I didn’t play video games.”
That’s it? I’ve heard that before, from people to whom I am genetically linked. The truth is, these games babysit our children while we are out working, going to the gym, grabbing Starbucks and compulsively checking our Facebook “Likes.” We have handed the duty of raising children over to a remote control and a plastic box with a graphically violent cover and a glaring “M” rating. We roll our eyes when we pay at the video store, and say to the clerk “I can’t believe I am buying this,” as a child who cannot yet master complex division in math class is looking forward to blowing some dude’s head off in a virtual playground that feels all too real.
If parents are not going to parent, we have to restrict the sale of these games. I still have hope that an enlightened society can somehow live without a game that has prostitutes, guns and gang-bangers as its enticements. My older sons were mad at me for years for not allowing Grand Theft Auto to cross our doorstep (my third son didn’t even bother to ask; the older two warned him). I’m sure they played it at other homes, but there was a standard of decency somewhere in their lives, and they knew it (They do talk to me now; they got over it).
Please do not let your child disappear into the basement with that violent, numbing game again without sitting down and playing it yourself – you owe that to yourself, your child, and society.
Guns: We have got to restrict the sale of guns and dangerous military-grade ammunition, plain and simple. If you need a gun, you should have no problem waiting thirty days to get it. You plan your doctor’s appointments, you plan your leisure time, you plan important events in your life – surely we can plan ahead when purchasing a gun.
There should be no sale of the so-called “cop killer” rounds (pierce armor, body armor), no dumdums (flatten out and explode upon impact) and no magazine that hold more than 7 rounds. This seems so simple that to disagree with it seems either obtuse or frighteningly angry, at someone or something. Only trained professionals should have access to this ammunition.
If you distrust your government so much that you need unlimited freedom to stockpile weapons and military-grade ammunition, then you have bigger problems than stockpiling weapons — you need to get very active in your own government until you believe in it again – it is built to work that way. Do this instead of plotting for the day it turns against you. Start online petitions, run for office, begin a blog or website where you can develop your arguments, and share it with others. Everyone has a legal right to their voice in America — but not everyone should have a right to possess a gun.
Parenting: The last piece of the puzzle is the most fragile, the most elusive and the most effective: return to hands-on parenting. Let’s grow up as adults, stop worrying about our own popularity and claim the wisdom that our years offer. We are the voice of authority, but we are now down to a whisper. If your child is troubled, then that is the priority in your life, and nothing else (this is what “priority” means.) Look through their notebooks, their drawers, their lives. Talk to their teachers, their coaches, their friends — there is almost always a trail of sadness, brokenness or extreme isolation in acts of violence committed by young people.
Show your love by your interest, involvement, time, and yes snooping — this is what “parent” used to mean. I followed one of my teenage sons in my car after school let out, his baby brother in a car seat behind me, and caught him when he didn’t go where he told me he was going. I did this for years. That son, my oldest, is now the strictest on his little brother, a man of character, and will someday be a great dad.
Aren’t we tired of seeing parents sobbing on television after losing their children to school violence? Aren’t we sick of the details of violent child death, served up with our sports and weather every week? And why isn’t this America’s top conversation after the small children — babies, really — were murdered at Sandy Hook?
Dear God, are we becoming immune? Let’s save our kids … and our culture.
Deirdre Reilly has written one humor book, and authored a syndicated family life column for Gatehouse Media for 13 years. She has won a Massachusetts Press Award for humor, her op-eds have been published in the Boston Herald and The Hartford Courant, and she has had short fiction published in literary journals. Deirdre was raised in Columbia, Md., and now lives outside Boston, Ma. She enjoys outdoor pursuits, and is obsessed with the care and happiness of a retired carriage horse named Nello that she bought for a few hundred dollars on a menopausal whim.