Jewish World Review May 17, 1999 /2 Sivan 5759
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One such delusion is that some psychologist's checklist of so-called "warning signals" can assure us that we can predict what is ultimately unpredictable. In New Jersey and New York, such profiling for drug dealers, gang members and other criminals is under attack for "stereotyping."
Another such delusion is some psychologist's notion of THE cause for a teen-ager's murderous activity, which when known, will give us the power to control what is ultimately uncontrollable. The activists protesting media violence, free access to firearms, and the ban on prayer in the schools have taken the opportunity to promote their causes, while naysayers argue that not one of these issues is THE reason children become violent.
Both the activists and the naysayers are correct. It is not one of these problems that is the culprit; it is all of them in unison and more. To loosely paraphrase Peggy Noonan's Wall Street Journal op-ed piece of April 23, children are like fish in the water -- when the water is polluted, the fish become sick.
However, only some of those fish die. The question is why aren't more of the fish dying? Well, if we look only at murderous rampages, it would seem that most of the fish are OK. However, if we look at cynicism, nihilism, cheating, vulgarity, negativity, low character, drug use, promiscuity and other behaviors and attitudes, it would appear that many of the fish are the living dead.
As contradictory as it is to our desire to believe that people are inherently good unless some force makes them different (note the rationale that the teen gunmen perpetrated their horror because they were "picked on"), the truth is that some people simply choose evil. And the more that people, especially impressionable children, are surrounded by evil, the more influenced, tempted, seduced and intrigued by evil they become. In other words, the more familiar evil becomes, the more it seems a legitimate outlet.
It is unarguable that evil has tremendous power, and from that power comes the allure. Evil delivers immediate gratification. Evil provides a sense of power, dominance, importance, control and security. Evil is a strong identity.
And in this imperfect world, evil often not only wins, but is also defended, protected and venerated.
The day after the massacre, one of my radio listeners faxed me a newspaper report from Pennsylvania. It seems that one of those kids who fits the profile as "dangerous" was thrown out of school. He had put horrible pictures on an Internet site (our modern cesspool of uncontrolled ids), morphing his math teacher with Hitler and soliciting a hit man to take out the principal, among other threatening and ugly words. Believe it or not, the parents are suing over his dismissal. The suit includes such outrageous, blasphemous First Amendment claims as that the dismissal over Internet images infringes on his right to speech. Ironically, he is reported to now be in a private school in Colorado.
Note that it is the boy's parents, those foremost responsible for their children, who are defending evil, and in doing so, endangering our children.
In The New York Times on April 25, the Littleton sheriff had these words to say about responsibility. Noting that detectives had found a shotgun barrel on one of the teen-ager's bedroom dressers, bomb-making materials and weapons in their houses, and a diary detailing a year's preparation for the apocalypse, he said: "A lot of this stuff was clearly visible, and the parents should have known. I think parents are accountable for their kids' activities."
One can listen to shrinks such as Dr. Donald Cohen, director of Yale University's Child Studies Center, who says, "You can blame a parent only until you've become a parent." This is true only up to a point. Astonishingly, I have gotten a dozen letters from parents, alarmed and directionless, who fear that, in spite of their loving guidance, they have demons for children, and believe their children will likely become violent. They are probably right.
According to these parents, they get very little help from the criminal justice system that delivers slaps on the wrists ("he's but a child"), nor from once-a-week therapy sessions ("he needs love and understanding"). According to criminal behavior expert Dr. Stanton Samenow, these children need serious consequences (prison), serious supervision (special, expensive lock-down schools), and specialized attitude, thought and behavior modification treatment.
Our society, instead, gives these "demons" easy access to guns and Internet instructions for designing weapons of mass destruction. It inundates our children with images of violence and depravity, rewards immorality as long as the person is "doing a good job," and mocks godliness.
Small wonder that our
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