Yet another horrific shooting. More innocent lives snuffed out. Twenty children sitting in their safe, familiar classroom. Gone.
These shootings have become an all too familiar story. I now think twice about visiting public places. I still go. But I am wary. The same defensive mechanism which kicks in when I drive is now present in my thinking. But let me back up a bit and explain my aversion to violence.
As a classicist I am quite familiar with our love of violent spectacles. Chariot races, gladiator contests and mock naval wars are all, as far as I am concerned, precursors of 21st century video games and movies. That does not mean that I like them. Not one bit.
My first taste of real violence was during the terrorist activities which took place in the Province of Quebec back in the 60s when I was a teen. I knew nothing of violence prior to that, having been raised in a leafy green English neighborhood in Montreal called Westmount. My family had lived there for several generations. But the French Canadians were tired of feeling oppressed and shackled economically and socially by a minority population, i.e., les Anglais. They started blowing things up. I was out for a walk one day heading north on Roslyn Avenue. I heard what I to this day recall as a thump. Not a bang. A thump. As I turned the corner onto Westmount Avenue I saw a body lying on the pavement. It was a letter carrier. He had lost his life when he opened his transfer station to fetch the mail for the next part of his route. Now matter how hard my parents tried to explain what had happened I did not understand why somebody would do that. Killing another human being was as senseless then as it is now in my mind.
Fast forward to December 14, 2012. As the details of the Newtown shooting came in, I found myself thinking the exact same thing: why would somebody commit such a senseless act? I looked at the timeline of shootings in our schools over the years. It is an appalling record.
Let's do something about violence. You and I as parents and grandparents can make a difference. We can do something.
Express your views about violence.
You may feel that violence has many causes. Perhaps you have experienced violence in your own personal life. Tell others how you feel. You will never know when your story might just be the one which resonates with others and galvanizes them into action.
Do you feel that shootings in our schools have their roots in the availability of assault weapons? Express those views. Be sensible and practical as you express your views and beliefs. Becoming hysterical and overly emotional when you express your views in public fora is not effective.
Do you feel that violence has roots in video games and movies? Perhaps you need to advocate for stricter ratings. Certainly you shouldn't patronize businesses which purvey violence.
Use social media to express how you feel. We have seen how social media has toppled politicians, governments and business leaders. Social media has given you and me real power. Figure out how to use it. Be an effective advocate for change.
Elect public officials and representatives at every level who will do something about violence.
If you feel that we need laws to prevent violence, then make your views known when you vote. Email, write and call your elected representatives. Most have web sites these days. Post your comments. Tweet them. Be rational and pragmatic when you contact your representatives. Try to lay out reasonable steps which have a chance of being enacted into law. Ideally you and I would like violence to cease immediately. Practically speaking that is impossible. However we have seen how the power of public opinion can make even the most jaded politician change his mind.
Communicate your views persistently and frequently. Our politicians will hear from millions of upset parents in the days immediately following a shooting. But what about three months after the event? That's when you and I need to keep the pressure on.
In many ways the toughest thing to do is to control, even prevent, violence in our society. Controlling and preventing violence starts with you and me. Watching violent movies and playing violent video games privately is one thing. Doing it in front of or with children present is entirely another. Children learn by example. Whatever you do is something they will think is acceptable and proper to do. Teaching them to love violence as entertainment is not something most children will understand. That ability to reason and analyze comes with years. Surround children with activities and influences which will shape their impressionable young minds and imaginations in healthy, creative ways.
- Control what your children watch and do privately.
- Know their classmates and their classmates' families.
- Teach and explain why you feel as you do in age-appropriate ways.
- Hold on to your core values and beliefs.
- Be vigilant for signs of bullying.
- Teach your children to respect others.
None of this is easy for parents to do by themselves. Find affinity groups on Facebook or at your church or synagogue. You cannot control violence alone. You will need the support and affirmation of other like-minded people.
Work with other parents who feel the same way you do. Join forces today with your fellow citizens everywhere to do something about violence. It will not be easy. But together we can make a difference. Together we can do something about violence.