Last week was the second anniversary of the serious wounding of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and the killing of 6 others including nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green. Christina’s mother was in New York promoting a national plan to prevent gun violence. Afterwards, she went to Newtown, Connecticut to support the families of the 20 children who were killed by another crazed young gunmen. Last week also featured the pretrial hearings of another sick young man who gunned down 70 people in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater last year. This surge of murders has us again scrambling for solutions; gun control, more intense background checks, and curbing media violence, but that’s not enough.
I’m reminded of the story about people picnicking by a riverside who suddenly see a drowning child in the water. The picnickers mobilize to form a human chain to reach and rescue the child. No sooner do they return to their fun than they see another child in distress. Again they link up to save the child, but when they emerge from the water one of the rescuers walks away. The others call out to him “where are you going, we may need you again?” To which he replied, “I’m going upstream to see how they are getting in”.
I think we need to be looking upstream, and addressing what’s happening to young people in our culture that sets the stage for such psychopathic acts of violence? Jared Diamond, the distinguished scientist and Pulitzer Prize winning author tells us in his new book “The World Until Yesterday” that when it comes to raising kids we can learn something from our ancestors who lived in traditional,‘ small-scale cultures’, where kids didn’t grow up to be psychopaths.
Kids raised in traditional cultures grew up in community, with extended families, all of who shared responsibility for childcare, training and the development of social skills. These people talked to each other, and didn’t spend much time by themselves in passive entertainment; their children felt secure, and became young people who were capable of facing their fears, insecurities, and challenges without becoming crazed killers.
These are lessons worth considering; let’s spend more time talking to each other rather than communicating only online. Let’s restore the evening meal to a family ritual; make it the rule to turn off phones, headsets, and computers at the dinner table. Share what’s happening and important in your life. We can find, create, and nurture a community of support; build a network of people who mirror your values, expectations, and who will be there for you in your joys and in your struggles.
Surely we need to enact some gun control, and also intensify the background checks, but let’s also go upstream and make some changes in our child rearing practices.