Today I find myself feeling the emotions that surround another tragedy involving kids and violence at a school. This time it was much closer to home. Many of you are aware of what occurred this week at Freeman High School near Spokane WA. Every time a tragedy like this happens, I find myself grappling with the reality of evil, life and death, and why bad things happen in the world. I think we all search for an explanation and meaning in it all.
I feel the need to offer up a perspective coming from my experience as a physician and father of young kids, as well as being on this planet for almost half a century. I want to say upfront I can't purport to know all the details that lead to these events, there are however some hauntingly similar circumstances surrounding the individuals who end up committing these terrible acts as we witnessed this week. I don't know what will come out about the perpetrator from this week's shooting, but I am imagining that it may likely include a history of parental absenteeism, deficient discipline, access to violent media, ignoring warning signs, and perhaps medications for supposed behavioral problems.
A neglectful and disturbed upbringing: I think we've become too complacent about how kids are brought up today. Many are left alone far too early and often with media and video violence as care-giver. Like a frog in a pot, our culture has numbed us to the increasing fantasy violence that is in nearly all forms of popular entertainment. Young boys, during critical years of development, are allowed free access to the violence of Hollywood, military and thug-style reality video games ad libitum, with checked-out parents thinking it's fun and games. "Garbage in, garbage out"...as the old computer programmer's motto goes. I was a kid once and we fashioned fake guns out of wood and played battle shoot-outs. But I think there was a difference. The scenarios we created were from an understanding of right from wrong surrounded by a loving community of parents, caring adults and Sunday school teachers. If we ever acted out in a manner not conducive to a loving civilized society, we bumped-up against clear guidelines of teaching and discipline.
Ignoring signs and symptoms: I was not surprised to hear the reports coming out about the perpetrator. Students reported he had said things like "I'm going to do something stupid," and some noticed he showed up at school with an unusual duffle bag. There were reports that a counselor was involved with this individual prior. After an event like this you hear some of the same things: "I never thought this could happen at our school, by someone we know." Unfortunately when I hear about an event like this I am heartbroken and angered, but sadly not surprised given the current culture we live in. We can't prevent every tragedy from happening, but it often appears there are signs and signals from at risk kids, especially young boys, that we need to somehow get hold of and intervene in ways that get at the core of the matter. Easier said than done I know.
Labeling behavior and cognitive problems as disease: I believe this is one of the biggest travesties, often facilitated in the name of good medical care. Healthcare providers and parents are now medicating more kids at a younger age than ever before. There are rarely ever true "diseases" of behavior health. There is very little effort to examine a child's spiritual and circumstantial health to find and treat the cause of mood and behavior problems. It has been demonstrated for example that in many cases food intolerances and sensitivities impact the brain and central nervous system, especially in kids. But instead of investigating the whole spectrum of environmental impacts, these kids are managed with meds and we call it good. Meanwhile, their minds and bodies are in crisis ready to manifest in sometimes unpredictable ways. Gastro-intestinal, allergic, and immune disorders are rampant, largely due to unnatural and early exposure to junk foods, and the junk-media programming. Watching violence on TV or in games causes physiologic responses nearly as extreme as living out the events in real life. This has more extreme effects on children who haven't matured mentally and emotionally to gain life perspective and context. Instead they can become addicted and numb to the violence in fantasy while living in the reality of a loveless world...there are no adults to love him enough to say "NO" and pull the plug.
Lastly, I can't deny the reality of evil in the world and within the human heart. We see every day sad manifestations. Yet God gave us the manifestation and example of Himself and each other as a way out of depravity. To be passive is to give up on ourselves and each other. We must use our God-given abilities to keep fighting for the higher good and seek out the real factors that harm or hinder our physical, intellectual and spiritual growth.
"...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things.