First Thoughts On The Littleton Massacre

The latest in a tragically long and sad series of events in which children kill children occurred just yesterday (4/20/99) when two seriously disturbed boys methodically went about their business, killing 25 children and wounding at least that many. This time, the place was Littleton, Colorado at a suburban school with a population of students who come from mostly middle-class families.

It isn't clear, just yet, whether they belonged to a group called the "Trench Coat Mafia" or whether the other students had labeled them thus but their attire of choice was long, black trench coats and generally dark colored clothing. They apparently described themselves as misfits and outcasts and had a hatred of jocks and minority students that was very deep. So far, there isn't much in the way of factual information available, although that certainly hasn't stopped the flow of speculative nonsense erupting from the flapping lips of the plastic Barbie and Ken talking heads that make up the characters hosting the tabloid news programs that were once a relatively trustworthy source of information.

As the newsletter from Kids Campaign points out so well, the media is focusing, once again, only on those causes that are so superficial and are the easiest to demonstrate through the use of cheap and handy stock video clips. Violent movies and video games and television and on and on are used as the fall guys for what any thinking person realizes was a problem that plagued these two boys for many years and was caused by far more insidious and corrupting obstacles than those spoken of so cavalierly, now.

It has become a well established fact that boys have become inept at dealing with their anger. Confronting their emotions is no longer an acceptable alternative in a time where silly movies made by actors portraying "action heroes" (usually poorly, at that) have become the yardstick by which the term "manly" has come to be defined. Instead of society offering young men opportunities to vent their anger and frustrations in ways that preclude harm to others it offers plastic movie star roles as role models. Instead of offering the medical and psychological help that would prevent so much of the violence that destroys so many, many lives every day, America only offers sports and media personalities to worship. Instead of holding up for respect those in America who actually make life better for those around them it offers only the adoration of wealth and simple and undeserved celebrity.

While these two young boys must take full responsibility before their God for all of their actions, this nation must stop and take a very careful and in-depth look at the abyss that we, as the adults, have allowed this nation to drift into. It is far past the time where we must acknowledge that the Right has successfully narrowed the debate regarding this nation's moral fabric down to the base and disgusting "Family Values" disease they harp on and on about. It is time that we acknowledge that this disease is only a thinly disguised desire of the Conservatives to return this nation to the 1950's, a time when segregation and Jim Crow laws and the tactic acceptance of child and spousal abuse and the time when Corporate America didn't have to answer to the world for the massive and tragic afflictions that its pollution causes everywhere.

America must discard this divisive and hateful national disgrace and begin the long and arduous trek from its current tendency to blindly follow the corporately owned media's profit driven drivel and to demand that information be made available to all without it being filtered through the biased and slanted teleprompters of their "news" programs. America must become an all inclusive society where our differences are encouraged and celebrated. We must show respect for the intelligence and energy of youth and the wisdom and experience of age. We must cease this sick fascination with the private lives of people who are born into the in-bred royalty of Europe or who are born only with an ability to play a children's game better than most but who add absolutely nothing to the fabric of our society. We must, finally, refuse to allow any politician to distract us from these worthy goals with their oily and hate filled appeals to the lowest common denominators in our society.

America will only discover just how great it can be when the people refuse to allow the Reagan's and the Buchannons and the Gingrichs to poison the debate with their absolute obedience to their wealthy owners. We must ignore and ridicule them and refuse to ever again take their base and mean policies of exclusion and abuse seriously.

Okay, I've outlined what steps we must take to turn this nation around and to redirect its energies towards a far better world. Now, here are some suggestions for just exactly what direction that may be and some very important ingredients that must be included for us to succeed.

First and foremost, we must have universal health coverage, a program which must include mental health, as well. Everyone must have immediate access to assistance of all kinds but with a special emphasis on early intervention for at risk youths.

Every school must not only have an in-house mental health professional on campus at all times but all teachers should be knowledgeable in regards to the first warning signs of students headed for trouble. They must also be empowered to intervene and be protected from any liability in their efforts. These interventions must begin in the earliest grades, as well, in order that the problems be addressed long before they become a part of the child's everyday lives.

Next, conflict resolution must become an everyday part of a student's curriculum. Schools should create student led councils where anyone can come before it to ask for assistance in any area of interpersonal relationships. Any conflicts that this system cannot resolve must then be referred to the school's administration. Granted, no such system will be perfect but time and experience will eventually prove to make it successful in many if not most cases, alleviating the now so common result of children becoming so frustrated and filled with despair that they take guns in hand and set out to solve their problems themselves in the only way that society now makes acceptable.

Next, schools must also be allowed to teach not only classes in all phases of sex, such as sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy prevention but also to give basic education in parenting and all of its responsibilities. Schools must also be allowed to instruct its students with the truth about drugs and alcohol and all substances that can negatively affect young lives and futures.

The schools, with all of their daily influences in our children's lives cannot be expected to be the focus of all efforts to create a more loving and caring world. Their powers are limited drastically by the level of involvement of the parents and other citizens living within their districts.

America's media must begin to portray the involvement and compassionate activities of Americans as the positive and progressive resource that it is. Parents who abandon their children or abuse their children or in any way harm their children must be shown to be the tragedy that it is. A national database that registers all court ordered child support requirements should be created in order to assure that the custodial parent be economically able to support their children.

Knowing that this will send conservatives completely out of their minds, we must re-institute a national welfare program in order to allow mothers to be at home with their babies and adolescent children. These mothers would be required to become active in the local schools as teacher's assistance or lunchroom helpers or wherever the school most needs them. This would have not only for the obvious benefits for the schools but would also provide the mother with an opportunity to network and gain support from others who would understand her situations and obstacles and would provide the child with the opportunity to gain role models in the older children that it interacted with along side its mother. Once the child is at a certain age, perhaps three or four, a national system of childcare centers would be available to care for these children while the mother either attended classes to improve her skills or to be employed either full or part time.

From an international perspective, the nation must renounce all treaties such as NAFTA and GATT and protect the American worker from the horrors of the Global Economy. This nation must cease allowing American industries to abandon this country in search of cheaper wages and no environmental or worker safety or any other reason. Their products must be taxed upon import so that they sell for the average prices of those made right here in America. This will cause the appellation "Made In America" to become a very important factor in our nation's huge economic buying powers.

Government must also make remaining in America and providing well paying jobs with decent benefits attractive to Corporate America. Tax breaks and other incentives would be offered to those who meet basic requirements in employee benefits which could be funded through penalties on those who refuse to provide those added advantages.

All media monopolies must be broken up and rules limiting the number of outlets in each area of the media be reinstated. No longer should we allow the Rupert Murdochs of the world own such huge percentages of our airwaves. Furthermore, the airwaves must be returned to the control of the American people and every outlet must again be required to provide an honest percentage of airtime as educational and entertaining programming.

Well, while there are many, many other areas that must be addressed, these offerings will stand as a beginning. I am in no way making excuses for these two young men. Their decisions can never be anything but evil and tragic and completely avoidable. What I demand be discussed is the nearly complete lack of any support system in this nation that could have detected the pain and complete disengagement that these children lived with and, eventually, died because of. I demand that this nation cease in its sick fascination in only the most superficial and irrelevant aspects of simple celebrity and turn its considerable resources to the task of making this a better country and world. There looms only two options for us, gentle readers; we must either become a nation of decent, caring people or the future holds nothing but more and more Littleton, Colorado tragedies. I fear that the nation's lethargic response to every avoidable tragedy of late dooms us to the latter.

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Copyright 4/23/99