School Shooters

School shooters, like the boy who just killed several people in Red Lake, Minn., bear a strong resemblance to suicide bombers. They have a combination of rage and despair that motivates them to kill others and then themselves.

We had better pay attention to American youth. Of course, school shooters are rare in comparison with all the students, but they are certainly symptomatic of something dreadfully wrong in our culture.

In trying to explain these tragedies, we can eliminate guns. Guns are inanimate objects, and it is impossible for an inanimate object to motivate a human being. To blame crime on guns is as stupid as blaming pencils for writers.

We can also eliminate poverty. For decades, socialists have argued that if poverty were eliminated, social problems such as crime would go away. In the first place, such a premise is an insult to poor people, the overwhelming majority of whom don’t commit crimes. In the second place, we see the same social problems among the affluent. The shooters at Columbine High School came from affluent families.

If you take away poverty and guns, then you are left with the person and the person’s mind. All human actions originate in the human mind. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why so many young people today seem to be unhappy.

Looking at my own childhood, I came from what most would describe as a poor background, though no one in the family, including me, ever thought of us as poor. I got my first BB gun at age 5, my first rifle at age 8, and my first shotgun at age 11. Never once did I ever entertain a thought of shooting anybody with them. Life to me was pleasant and exciting and full of hope.

Since I consider myself as typical of the time and place, the question arises, What has changed in our society? For one thing, today almost half of American children live in one-parent homes. Starting in the 1960s, the cultural elite condoned living together without benefit of clergy. The states made it much easier to get a divorce. Feminism poured forth its poisonous discontent, pretending that being a mother and a wife were somehow inferior to working in a corporate office. What nonsense that is. It is a thousand times more difficult to be a good mother and to manage a home than it is to do the mostly rote work that corporations require.

Ironically, even though I grew up during World War II, there is far more violence in the media today than during the war years. The incessant violence on TV, in the movies and in video games has a deleterious effect on children. That’s not even debatable. At best, it makes them indifferent to violence. Furthermore, Hollywood and television don’t provide boys with many heroes. Youth is presented either as a mindless drunk and a woman-chaser or some nihilistic killer. Homosexuality and drug use are presented as normal.

Children are exposed to sex at a much earlier age today. Nothing is sadder to me than to see a 13- or 14-year-old with ennui. They’ve already been there and done that. What is there to look forward to? When I was in high school, the sight of a girl’s knee could cause me to break out in a sweat. Today you can see high-school girls with bare midriffs and skirts with hemlines up to their crotch. No wonder kids do less well in academic subjects. And, of course, the results are teenage pregnancies and teenage venereal disease.

Another sin the media commit, especially the advertising industry, is bombarding children with an unending depiction of affluence. This is bound to cause discontent, because for so many children today they see such affluence as impossible. Expectations play a huge role in a person’s mental health.

This might seem far away from student killers, but it is the cultural soil out of which they grow.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.