Effects of the devaluing of human life
- by Alice Marie Beard
At a seminar in
Sept. 1999, a gentleman lectured about "School
Violence." It was a consideration of teen violence
such as happened in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999.
The lecturer has a law degree and a degree in
psychological counseling. He works with seriously
troubled young people, the "crazy time bombs."
Below is a thumbnail presentation of his analysis:
- Some folks are
born with biological preconditions so that they
are prone to be "difficult babies."
That is the "biology factor."
- Each child grows
up in a family with its own traits. The parents
can be grouped into one of four categories --
authoritative, authoritarian, permissive,
uninvolved. Definitions are as follow:
parents set limits in a warm, loving way
and always explain "why."
parents set limits without explanations
and are not warm, but they are not cruel.
parents are all sugar and nice and set no
limits, but they do that with "lots
are uninvolved and don't give a damn
about the kids. The worst of the lot are
the "uninvolved" parents so far
as producing "bad kids."
- Then, kids have
the influence of their peers, peers who often
reinforce choices already being made by teens.
Peers at school are more of an influence than the
teachers at a school.
- Then, kids have
the influence of media -- including the hours of
video games, internet surfing and communicating,
television, music, videos, etc. [Reading? The
speaker didn't mention that.]
- And finally, some
kids born with bad biology risks who grew up in
the worst family situations (uninvolved) have
crummy peer and media influences, and have a
"really bad day" [my words], such as
not getting into the Marines. That then triggers
them off so that they go nutzo, make bombs, get
guns, and try to kill lots of people. Thus, the
recipe for Littleton.
At this point, the
speaker said the trouble with those who support the 2nd
Amendment is that "they fail to recognize that there
has to be an accessible 'real trigger,' and if we could
just keep those 'easily accessible guns' away, well then
..." The speaker completely ignored the law student
[not me] who said, "But I thought there were some
bombs, and there was a good deal of premeditation at
Littleton." The speaker continued on the premise
that it all happened because a psycho "just
happened" to have found an easily accessible gun [on
Hitler's birthday, by chance, and with no preplanning].
The lecturer then posed a question, first with a bit of
info: "These situations (teens going psycho and
shooting lots of folks) seldom happened in the 1950s and
1960s. No, the change is NOT the media. What do YOU think
has changed to make it so that these things happen more
Having held my tongue the full two hours, I finally added
my two cents:
There has been a
basic devaluing of human life, of children, and of
people who tend to the children. If children aren't
valued as life -- but only as property or status
symbols -- and if, therefore, folks who tend to
children are not valued since children themselves are
not valued, WHY should we expect folks to get MORE
involved as parents? You claim that the WORST family
model for a child at risk is the uninvolved model.
However, if we don't value children, and, if folks
who tend to children have no status, WHY would
someone choose to do something that society values so
little and respects so little: Devote him/herself to
I thought perhaps a
help would be working for a society that understands the
words, "Respect human life." The lecturer saw
me as the fool, the slow-learning older student who could
not see the problem: That the guns were there and
available for the kids who had been "pushed over the
edge" by disappointments and uninvolved parents. I
wasn't sure he was looking at his own model.
Alice Marie Beard