A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Can we end school shootings?

Written June 10th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
Daylong coverage on Portland TV: Everybody paid attention.

Daylong coverage on Portland TV: Everybody paid attention.

School shootings like the one in Troutdale Tuesday will keep happening until  we learn to keep teenagers from developing murderous impulses and acting on them.

After the murder at Reynolds High School, we heard the usual calls for our elected officials to do something. Like what? Ban rifles and confiscatie all the ones citizens already own? No chance. Do a better job treating people with problems affecting their mental health? Certainly, assuming we know how to do that and can afford it.

But in a state of more than 4 million people, let alone in a country with more than 320 million or so, we can’t treat even a small fraction of all those who might be a little unbalanced. So shootings will remain a routine event unless we get to the cause, which probably is not mental illness but the culture in which many of our children grow up. It’s a culture that fails to reward impulse control, especially among entertainers, and often seems to reward villainous behavior.

Think back to when you were a boy. Whom did you hope you could be like? The good guys in the movies, that’s who, the characters played by the likes of Gary Cooper or Cary Grant or Steve McQueen. And who are the models for young louts today? Rappers with long rap sheets, more than likely. Or the virtual characters in games such as Grand Theft Auto and the like.

This stuff may be entertaining — though I don’t understand how it could be — but it comes with a cost. The cost is that some people, rudderless when it comes to learning how to behave as responsible men, find it possible to decide one day to act out their rage or criminal impulse by going to a school and shooting it up. They have learned from experience that when this happens, everybody stops and pays attention for a little while, on TV if nowhere else. So their piddling little selves may feel as though they amount to something.

They do not respect or honor life — their own or their fellow citizens’ — and they have not learned how good guys act. So they pick their target and plan their crime. It’s as simple — and as complicated — as that. (hh)

3 responses to “Can we end school shootings?”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Is popular culture the primary cause of school shootings?

    Highly unlikely. America’s pop culture exists in many other developed countries. Youth in these countries are exposed to virtually the same cultural influences as in the United States. These countries do not have a school shooting problem on the scale we do. Why?

    It can’t be their weapons laws. We have thousands of similar laws already on the books. It can’t be how they treat mental illness. We have ample resources and professionals to treat those who would harm themselves or others. And as I’ve highlighted above, it can’t be their pop culture because their culture is essentially our culture.

    The cause seems to be much more complicated, and certainly less simple, than what you have communicated here.

    I wish I had “the” answer that would stop the violence…..but I don’t. The best I can do is monitor, coach and safeguard the youth in my family in the same responsible manner that my parents and grandparents did for me.

  2. Jill Morgan says:

    Agree with you hh….. Especially like the part “…They have learned from experience that when this happens, everybody stops and pays attention for a little while, on TV if nowhere else.” I heard from other’s that this was played and replayed all day yesterday on TV. I haven’t watched TV for quite some time now because of this focus on negativity that the media plays to. I keep saying that if people will let TV stations, and businesses that sponsor them, know that they are not going to watch such sh*t that this will change. The simple answer to why this is happening is kids “copycat” others… the complicated part is our social values, and where we chose in this society to spend our resources. Unfortunately the majority of our funding goes for violence related costs..i.e. wars. So what message does that send our youth? I think it sends the message that fear is how one lives, that violence is how one deals with that fear, that might makes right. There are other ways to live….

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      You admittedly don’t watch TV, but you place primary blame on TV? Nonsense.

      The schoolhouse shooters are looking to hurt people. They don’t want a fight. When a shooter perceives a threat, they lose their motive and typically retreat into suicide.

      This kind of murderous action and suicidal tendency has less to do with pop culture and TV and more to do with an individual’s mental deficiency. The challenge is how do we recognize mentally deficient individuals? Those who are closest to the deficient personality are the key – the small circle of family and friends who know something is wrong with the young male. If those closest to the problem do not have the courage to confront the deficiency, then none of us is safe from the consequences.


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