Traveling east on I-90 and passing Ellensburg, we saw numerous windmills atop the hills as we made our way towards Vantage. From one of our young boys came the uninformed, yet insightful question, “Do those big fans make the wind?”
The Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary broke our hearts. We grieve for the loss and the pain of the families. As I listen to the debates that have followed those tragic events, I can’t help wonder to what extent political responses will be about the “windmills” believed to be the cause, instead of the violent “winds” that leads to such events.
There are great parents and young people growing up in our country today. Home is where we first learn to be civil and responsible; and it is reinforced in school. With good core values, appropriate modeling, and the ability to distinguish right from wrong young people learn to value themselves and others – so, if or when one with this foundation views “violence” in media he/she does not necessarily act in a similar manner.
However, some children and teens grow up with inadequate or ineffective supervision; they are over indulged or exposed to or have readily available access to a multitude of media that includes graphic violence. There are interactive video games in which they get to star as the “shooter”. These have no real consequences, other than gaining or losing “points” in the game, or moving to higher levels of accomplishment depending on one’s “success”. Extreme exposure to violence in the formative years distorts a child’s or teen’s view – violence is learned. When these young people have emotional challenges, they act out with what they have “learned” for how to deal with it. If a young person has a foundation of seeing violence as an acceptable response and one adds troubled life experiences, social/emotional issues, and the availability of high powered weapons — then that combination can result in an act of social violence that shatters the safety of life.
Educators, law enforcement, and caring people in communities across our country have intercepted, intervened, and helped to prevent perhaps hundreds of school incidents that would have caused the loss of life. Truly, the good will and care of the loving and responsible people in our world are what keeps us all together in society. Sincere thanks to all of you who are aware of and who are constructively involved in our collective safety every day in our schools and community.
So how do we really improve public safety? Just as the real nature of the problem is complex and multifaceted; effective solutions will have to be equally sophisticated. Central in this is that we as parents, educators, elected officials, citizens, and taxpayers need to effectively protect and educate young minds and make available the mental and physical health supports that families and young people need to develop responsibly. If we Americans are not comprehensive in our actions, we will address “windmills” and then wonder “why” — each time a violent wind results in the unnecessary loss of life.