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School Shooting: A Societal Disease

February 26, 2008

school-shooting1.jpgHate crimes involving shooting and death have occurred around the world, but nowhere has the disease of school shooting been more prevalent than in the United States. Of 38 notable occurrences involving multiple injuries and death since the year 2000, 30 were in this country. Some news sources immediately want to make a case for gun control. However, the issues are actually much thornier and usually reach into the family lives of assailants and the attitudes of society.

A case for many of these highly-publicized shootings has been made from the halls of mental illness. It can be argued that most assailants have been on regularly prescribed drugs for various mental maladies. Yet, some sources state that prescribed drugs is a prevalent myth. Many of these school assailants come from abusive or emotionally neglected family backgrounds. Some psychologists point out that the behavior stems from a need to be noticed and the distorted desire to carry out that need. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and researchers have found that killers don’t snap. The act is carefully considered and premeditated. The school assailant plans and acquires weapons. These children and adults take a thoughtful public path toward violence. They often let their thinking and plans be revealed to others around them in an effort to draw attention to themselves or perhaps even as a “cry for help.” Typically, they tend to feel alone and misunderstood, even if they are surrounded by friends. Ultimately, the shooting is the misguided effort to elevate themselves to mastery and control of their perception of a hopeless and lost situation. Most are young males that struggle with their place in society and the need for direction and attention.

school-shooting2.jpgDespite the often-sporadic nature, school shootings feature extensive media coverage that can quickly evolve into moral panic and insecurity. The real roots lie in the hands of parents. Children are often restless and quickly prescribed Ritalin for the long-term. Most parents are stressed and want parenting to be easy. Many don’t care what their children do or are totally emotionally detached. Parents can be intensely self-centered or permissive. As a result, depression ensues and schoolwork may suffer. If the school or a parent notices, the common reaction is to treat this new distraction in life with psychotropic drugs. The self-centered attitudes and isolation in the personal lives of all involved continue unabated.

The crucible of stress and an American litany of false expectations are factors. Students and even adults are under academic pressure and later job stress from society. Students are often faced with difficult relationships in school and some adults can suffer the same specter. More importantly, students that are “coming of age” face an onslaught of biological stress. When this effect is coupled with the unknown effects of prescribed medication, the results are often destructive. Revenge seems to be a common thread rooted in a sense of deep-seated injustice against society from being denied respect or personal recognition.

The huge body of evidence points heavily to cultural factors of a selfish and detached society obsessed with accomplishment and compounded with the need to look good to others. This statement embodies the societal character of the United States. Officials can debate about new rules and laws until the “cows come home”. You cannot legislate morality, try as you might.

Fortunately, there is a ray of hope. The chief component in the entire makeup of this country could be summed up as “selfish detachment” or “running on automatic”. Every person that has any presence of mind can immediately begin to make a difference by changing automatic thinking, whether that thinking was acquired from parents or from society. Learning to care for other people breaks the destructive pattern and shines the light on those involved in anti-social thinking and events. Involvement and attachment rather than detachment is the solution for this crisis and many other problems that plague the United States. Are you willing to do your part and risk attaching yourself to other people? Are you willing to assist or think about someone besides yourself? If you are willing to think outside the box of your life, then there is hope for this country.
E. Manning

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