An argument:
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:
    • Authoritative parents set limits in a warm, loving way and always explain "why."
    • Authoritarian parents set limits without explanations and are not warm, but they are not cruel.
    • Permissive parents are all sugar and nice and set no limits, but they do that with "lots of love."
    • Uninvolved 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 often now?"

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 children?

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




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