Another tragedy… and while people are grieving and consoling each other one thing is for certain: it will happen again. Those who go beyond grieving, and others with an agenda, are already discussing “why” with the same conclusions as always. Conclusions that never change anything. Tragedies like this happen everywhere in the world, but nowhere do they appear to happen as frequently as in the United States. So the question is indeed: what differentiates this country from the others where school shootings are extremely rare?
Guns and video games are prime suspects. It’s true, Americans are as much in love with their guns as Germans are with speed-limit free autobahns, so no politician will touch the second amendment any time soon. But I’d have to go with Michael Moore who, in “Bowling for Columbine”, discovered that Canadians own an equally large per-capita amount of guns, and they don’t go on killing sprees.
Do computer games desensitize? I’ve played them for decades and the answer is a resounding “no”. Most people (and kids, for that matter) can handle the difference between life and fiction very well. On top, it would seem like kids in Asia spend even more time in front of such games without noticeable effect to their social behavior (except that playing these games isn’t a social activity) so that’s not the answer either.
Neither disarming the country nor banning violent computer games will resolve the issue; nor are they attainable goals to begin with. So what is the solution? I strongly believe that the answer lies in the country’s acceptance of violence as a means of conflict resolution. Violence in all areas of life outside the house; an economic system where the winner takes it all, Monopoly style; a political system built on military dominance and bullying; a movie industry thinking forever of news disasters, villains, and heroes; and a public under 24/7 surveillance by ever-present authorities, too numerous to even know them all. To reconcile all this, the only bastion for a child is family. Family, a refuge of unconditional love, trust and freedom from physical harm. Alas, as German criminologist Christian Pfeiffer reports in the “Neue Presse” newspaper, only 15% of children in the USA grow up without physical punishment or violence. For comparison, this number is 64% in Germany (still shamefully low, I thought) and 80-90% in Scandinavia. Psychologists and criminologists all over Europe have discovered that experiences of violent behavior are directly correlated to the acceptance of violence in a person’s later adult life.
If that’s indeed established then the answer would be for this country to put its best psychologists to work, send them around the world to study other countries, and then have them lay out a master plan for non-violence on all levels of society, and to eliminate the presence of violence in families. It’s not a quick fix, in fact it may take generations, but I am quite sure it’s the answer. We can not bring the innocent victims back to life and we can’t save those who will die next year, but maybe we can save one of them, and then two the year after…. If you want to harvest fruit, plant a tree you must. Let’s do it! And of course there is a simple thing almost anyone can do to make a change today: if you’ve been hurting your kids for whatever reason, stop doing so right now. There is always a smarter way.