My heart is breaking for the 26 poor souls that were brutally murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. May the 20 children and 6 adults that were so horribly and forcibly taken from their families find everlasting peace in Heaven. Their tormented families will likely never recover…
Of course Adam Lanza, the gunman, was a psychopath. He most likely was on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. It is an accepted fact that these types of drugs trigger a wide range of dangerous reactions, from murderous tendencies to suicidal tendencies and everything in between. Nonetheless, even if he were on some type of cocktail, it would still not be an excuse. Nothing would.
What I would like to discuss is his lifestyle. He seemed to be an average young man of 20- quiet and withdrawn, with no prior criminal record. How is it possible that he suddenly morphed in to a merciless killer? What triggered such a radical change? Was it a sudden switch? Or was the killer hiding underneath Lanza’s skin the entire time, waiting for the right moment to burst forth with a deadly vengeance? I don’t know. But the more important question is- how differently did he live than the rest of his peers?
This article points out how we’re putting our kids in danger by exposing them to the violence in the media. We don’t think twice of letting them watch people getting shot, burned, raped, stabbed, ripped apart, and even buried alive, as long as it’s on T.V. or at the movies. Movies that are rated PG-13 would have been rated R just 20 years ago. Even worse than the T.V. and movies are the video games.
What’s the problem with them? For starters, the level of violence is absolutely horrific. At the end of the article listed above, there is a clip of one of the most violent games that young children are playing, called “Far Cry 3”. It puts the player in a first-person perspective, and the object of the game is to kill as many people as you can. Just looking at the picture of one of the game’s characters traumatized me. He looked like a drugged-out gang-leader, just as scary as the real-life type. What in the world do kids need to be playing such games for? What are we teaching them?
The more general question should be- why are we exposing our children to such violence in the first place? The article hits it right on the head when it states: “The great contradiction in the … shooting is that many of the parents who are horrified at the violence directed at their children are the very same parents who allow their children to be inundated with simulated violence from every imaginable direction. Many of the very same kids who were seen crying after the shooting will go home and watch simulated murder on television, where mass murder is considered ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’.”
To those parents who let their kids watch violence on T.V. and in movies, and then top it off with a killing-spree video game, add up the hours every week that your kids are exposed to violence. If your kid watches 3-4 hours of T.V. a day and adds to that 1-2 hours of XBOX, then sees a movie on the weekend, that’s 44 hours a week of violence on average. It seems that murder is a full time job. Each week that goes by is another week that your child gets the message that violence and murder are okay.
“But it’s not reality!” you may object. Really? Tell that to your kids, whose subconscious cannot differentiate between reality and fiction. Were you ever scared by a movie like “Nightmare on Elm Street”? Even writing that title gives me the creeps. I never actually watched any of those movies, but I happened to see a few minutes here and there while flipping through channels as a kid. I can tell you that they are absolutely traumatizing. I used to be scared out of my mind to go to the bathroom at night, just from a few minutes of watching! But my rational brain knew Freddy wasn’t real- so why was I scared? It’s because our emotions work on a much deeper level than our logic. If something reaches that deep level of consciousness, it is nearly impossible to rationalize it out. Movies, T.V., video games- these all make their way straight to our subconscious, completely bypassing our rational brains.
Most kids these days don’t blink an eye when they watch someone get sawed in half, like in “The Saw.” They think it’s just entertainment, but you can’t imagine the tremendous damage they’re doing to their souls. You can’t imagine how your children’s souls, who can’t handle the slightest trace of negativity, suffer from witnessing such acts of horror. Rav Arush says that giving a child a negative remark is like trampling all over that child. How much more so when we drill the gore and horror into their brains? And all because we think it’s entertainment?!
In the name of entertainment, we’re giving our kids the message that it’s okay to want to kill someone if they upset you. You’re allowed to have murderous thoughts about the bully at school or the kid that just looked at you the wrong way. When was the last time a parent really looked into his child’s eyes? If you haven’t lately, you may be surprised- many kids have a jaded look about them. They have a cold look in their eyes, as if the sensitive child is gone. The innocence has been replaced with a nonchalance, as if a barrier has been permanently put up around his emotions.
Even 8 year olds today walk around with a look on their faces as if they’re hardened adults- like they’ve lived a life of “been there, done that” and nothing shocks them anymore. So where has the innocence gone? I believe it could be several reasons. First, it could be that this jadedness is a method of self-preservation, in order to protect the sensitive core of the child. Since he simply can’t handle all of the violence he’s surrounded by, he must put up a thick barrier that won’t let anything enter his deepest, purest emotional makeup. Second, it could be that the innocence couldn’t handle the violence, so it just picked up and left. Just like the Divine Presence- it can’t exist in the same realm as unholiness, so it exiles itself until the unholiness leaves.
But what if the unholiness never leaves? Then our kids are forced to enter adulthood without ever getting to experience a sweet and innocent childhood. By the time a boy is 5 or 6, he’s already playing dangerous war games and surfing the net, most likely unsupervised. Girls 8 and younger are already putting on makeup and trying to look sexy.
It is unfair to expect our kids to know when to draw the line. They can’t possibly differentiate between what’s okay and what’s not, if we’re confusing them by exposing them to things that are not okay. On one hand, (maybe) we tell kids violence is wrong. On the other hand, we give them practically unlimited access to all the violent media they can get their hands on. It’s like a parent saying to his child, “You can watch me smoke but you can’t do it yourself. And furthermore, smoking causes cancer.” How in the world is a kid supposed to process such hypocrisy?
But that’s not even the biggest problem. The biggest problem occurs when a parent wants to restrict his child’s exposure to violence. That means that the parent will try to severely limit or (G-d forbid) eliminate T.V., movies, internet, and video games. Anyone can see that rebellion coming from a mile away. Of course the kid will think it’s unfair that he’s the only one in the country who isn’t allowed to watch what he wants. And anyways, he’ll just end up watching movies or playing video games at his friends’ homes. So what’s the point of enforcing such an un-enforceable law? Are all parents doomed to throw their children to the media wolves and allow their minds to be dragged down into the abyss of violence?
Oh, what to do?
It is a very tough position to be in. To be honest, I really don’t know the answer. I can only think of two possibilities. One is to just continue the way you’ve been going on, and hope for the best. Hope against all odds that your child will come out unaffected by the continuous programming of violence, and that he’ll turn into an emotionally balanced, caring, and compassionate human being.
But the odds are heavily against that happening. To clarify this point, ask yourselves- how much love, sharing, and kindness is your child being exposed to on a constant basis? When was the last time you told your kids you love them? Did your kids get any hugs and real conversation recently? These are the staples of a strong and healthy emotional foundation. If you were to compare your child’s exposure to love versus violence, what would the scale look like? Would it be balanced evenly, or would it be tumbling over on the violence side? How is an impressionable young mind supposed to resist such overwhelming programming? I think it’s nearly impossible, and unfair to expect otherwise of our kids. They’re human, not superhuman.
The other option that came to mind is that parents are now, more than ever, being forced to choose the lifestyle that their children will end up emulating. Will it be a life drowning in materialism and chasing vanities? Or will it be a spiritually-oriented life, in which sharing with others and developing a relationship with G-d is one of their primary goals?
The choice is yours, dear parents. Your kids are counting on you to pick the right one.