It’s the whole life experience that counts

March 13, 2018

Here are two thoughts and one observation regarding the tragic developments with respect to school shootings.

Is this life imitating art? The hypocritical narcissists who roam through Hollywood, the music industry and Broadway make millions peddling sex, drugs and alcohol, infidelity, violence, and profanity to our youth, and then feign horror as one of those lads replicates what he hears or sees on the campus of a school. When will they learn that our lives are unabashedly boring and, while they attempt to cram as much antisocial behavior as they can into a film, song or play, all they are doing is providing fodder for our young to attempt to amplify their lives by playing out those fantasies?

Could not their projects deal with nurturing an important relationship, promoting altruistic behavior, or providing examples of how to volunteer in the community? Are they not sufficiently creative to make these kinds of behaviors appealing to the public? When will they learn that our values are communicated less by our words and more by our behavior?

As each tragedy unfolds, the default response is to consider the mental health of the perpetrator, as if to make an excuse for the nefarious behavior. Would that not suggest that one way to reduce these incidents is to make it more and more difficult for those individuals to access firearms in the first place? Could it also be suggested that new laws may not be necessary but that those currently "on the books" be followed with fidelity? Another troubling trend rendered after these incidents is that institutions charged with dealing with people so afflicted continuously "drop the ball" which leads to the shootings.

Also, this victimization of the perpetrator mentality does little to prohibit future shooters as they know that they will be marked as troubled youth who did not get the support they needed and will not be held fully accountable for their behavior. Who is held accountable? The survivors of the victims pay twice, first for the loss of a loved one, and next to see their taxes support a life sentence or shorter for the individual responsible for their lost loved one. That, I suggest, is disingenuous.

Finally, an observation. Considering these terrible developments, the shooters are likely to be white males, in the teenage or late teenage years. It also follows that most are absent a significant and positive male role model in their lives. What follows is not meant to be either racist or sexist, but merely an observation. Could close attention not be paid to these young males who, through either divorce, death, or some other reason find themselves absent such male mentoring? Would that make a difference? Could we not make an effort to people elementary schools with more male teachers?

And, as these young males enter middle school, when Maslow's "Affiliation Need" really begins to kick in, could not those isolated in the cafeteria, walking alone in the halls, or otherwise not accepted into a group, be identified and receive special and positive support? The seeds of these tragic behaviors are so often sown in elementary schools and manifest themselves as students move through the middle school level.

I am neither a gun supporter or a gun critic. You may have noticed the absence of attention to guns in this response. That's because I feel the gun is merely the instrument. People pull the trigger - only after thought and contemplation, thought and contemplation that is fueled by a whole life experience that may be less that what most of us would enjoy.

Dr. James H. VanSciver

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