Updated: Jan 8
Schools used to be a place where our children were sent to learn. Now all parents live with the real knowing there’s a chance they may be sending their child to their violent death on most weekdays.
Unfortunately it’s always a relevant time to discuss school shootings in America. What was once a rare tragedy has been happening with such increasing frequency it feels as if one takes place daily. We’ve even taken steps to normalize the behavior and built procedures and policies that codify school shootings as here to stay. What else are school districts to do when the supposedly obvious cause of these shootings is impenetrable?
That would be a lack of adequate gun control, as you probably guessed. Each time the horrific details are transported from the mausoleum-like halls of another American school and into our lives and social media feeds, we demand Congress act on gun control when we know it won’t. At a minimum, careers would be instantly decimated if the conservative guard were to relent on their duty to protect the second amendment.
More to the point, guns are just an obvious scapegoat when society loses its sense of accountability. As human beings we create our entire reality, but the majority of us pretend to be the victim instead of realizing how powerful we are once we accept responsibility for everything in our lives and world. What our children do after the age of seven is a result of the programming we as a society permit them to receive during their first seven years.
By making school shootings an issue of gun control, it allows society to escape the uneasy questions regarding what the school shootings say about the adults that run the society where children are regularly murdering their classmates in classrooms. Only after those questions are answered do we have a chance of living in a society where we no longer have to worry about our children’s lives being in jeopardy while we work to provide for them five days a week.
Gun control conveniently deflects the blame from the true source. If we took the time to get to the root of the problem, it would take a lot of work, but we’d find it’s solvable.
It makes sense to point the finger at gun control. The western health system treats symptoms until they go away while rarely addressing the underlying cause. It’s an approach we take in many aspects of life. Something happens and we react very specifically to the current event. This approach logically leads to inadequate gun control being the largest reason for school shootings. Guns aren’t at the heart of the problem behind America’s school shootings. What’s truly driving these school shootings is deeper than that. Somewhere deep in our societal upbringing we learned to crave witnessing violence. It’s why the NFL is the top sport in America. It’s why we rubberneck and unnecessarily create traffic when there’s the faintest hint of a violent car crash.
The strange thing is that behavior on its own can’t be violent. In the same way behavior on its own can neither be good nor bad, but we as human beings can attribute qualities to it and describe it as good or bad. Fishing to feed your family wouldn’t be considered as violent but savagely grabbing a fish and ripping its head off for no good reason would. Why? Because violence is dependent on the emotion the demonstrated activity evokes from an observer.
Violence isn’t natural. It’s a learned behavior that’s used to evoke an emotional reaction from others. Apparently an emotion that people like. Or at least one that sells. Violence has been glorified in television, movies, and video games perhaps more than any other theme. Every problem is solved through violence. After a while this has an effect on the people watching it all the time. They become more aggressive and display forms of subtle and gross violence.
As the glorification of violence in all forms of entertainment has become more pervasive, it has made its way down into media targeted at the most impressionable among our children. We know that children are in a hypnagogic state from birth to age seven (human brainwaves resonates at delta from 0-2 and theta from 2-7) essentially being programmed by their surroundings. As school shootings only become more prevalent, it’s time to take a serious look at what our children are being programmed with.
“Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” ~Aristotle
Over time, particularly more recently, the level of what we permit our children to be exposed to has changed. Our standards have loosened as they should have. A lot of it was dictated by access to the internet and smartphones and knowing that children would access the materials being kept from them no matter what. However, at some point, the standard stopped expanding and simply disappeared. The content in some of the material created for and marketed at children is exactly the same as the content that is geared toward adults dressed down in a younger package. Then there are games like Fortnite. It’s well documented that Meta and social media giants became the giants that they are by targeting users with the same techniques that Vegas uses to turn customers into gambling addicts (e.g. structuring their platforms to trigger chemical reactions by the brain). Fortnite has taken these same techniques and targeted them towards children. In addition to the violence being reflected to these children through every aspect of their lives, Epic Games now has virtually every child hooked on a game where the primary goal is to win by killing everyone else using any creative weapon that can be conjured. While playing these games, the kids are normalizing death and killing into their minds and speech, all while getting emotional about the game. I’m not one that believes in overparenting. I’m in the Dr. Shefali Tsabary school of thought where you let children experiment and live their own lives. However, I still believe parents are stewards to children and when there is a safety issue you must address it. We can’t keep feeding our children violence, during the hypnagogic years and beyond, and expecting some of them not to reflect that violence back at us in the ugliest way possible. “Since everything is a reflection of our minds, everything can be changed by our minds.” ~The Buddha
Changing what we allow to go into our children only completes part of the accountability required here. It’s also the part of the equation that’s not completely in our control. In the age of information it’s impossible to control everything that goes into our children. But we can make sure that no violence is being watched and normalized by us in front of them. That we aren’t programing our children to believe it’s okay to use violence to get an emotional reaction from anyone. The step beyond that is where we change ourselves. Having an affinity for violence isn’t something that should come naturally to us as humans. It’s not a survival skill and it doesn’t help us grow. Humanity has consistently been at war since the end of World War II, the war that was supposed to end all wars. Yet the biggest war we all face each day is the war with ourselves. The war on what kind of person we choose to be. On what type of example we choose to set for those who we know are watching us and for those who we may not even know our actions will affect.
It's time for us to ask ourselves, why do we want so much violence? Why do we keep buying it when they sell it to us? Who are we on the insides if when given the choice of what all the great creative minds and technology that exists today can provide us with for entertainment, we choose violence? Movies and shows on war, kidnappings, and generally shooting people are always on top of the box office and Netflix top lists alike.
Beyond the movies, who are we in our daily lives when our children are watching? How do you react when someone cuts you off on the highway, or swoops in and steals your parking spot at Whole Foods. How do you interact with your partner when you’re upset with them? What do you say about the neighbor after they do something that angers you? Whichever way you react, remember, you’re programming your child.
The first step to solving the issue of school shootings is to admit there is an issue and to decide if we truly want to commit ourselves, as Americans, to solving the problem. In case you haven’t noticed, we can’t really wait for politicians to solve any problems for us. They’re too busy with the business of getting elected. We must solve our problems in each of our communities. Only then, collectively we the people, will have the capability to solve America’s problems.