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Who Will Save Us From This Evil? We, the Parents

Photo courtesy of JD Hancock, via the Creative Commons license
Photo courtesy of JD Hancock, via the Creative Commons license

Another week, another mass shooting. California, Colorado, maybe even somewhere else by the time this column runs.

Everybody hates these shootings, on that much at least we can agree. It's a terrifying time to be a parent.

The news outlets are interviewing hand-wringers. Again.

Social media is providing a platform for finger pointers. Again.

We all know what the problem is, we say. It's that guy, over there, and his stupid ideas.

Doesn't matter who we are or who he is. We are all certain that if he (or she, or they) would just stop doing whatever it is he/she/they are doing, then we could all go back to minding our own business. Back to buying Kylie Jenner's lip gloss, tracking our fantasy league teams and hiding all the stuff we bought on Black Friday from our spouses.

We seem to think that if we could just fix that one thing that other guy is doing wrong, just make that one minor adjustment, that one degree tweak. A nip here. A tuck there. Snip, snip, you won't even notice ... that one little law, those few minds persuaded -- presto! -- instant peace.

But our news is filled with bad, and it's not just shootings. It's college presidents writing viral letters to adults who are acting like babies.

It's insisting that lives matter, no matter their skin color, because circumstances make us tweet the obvious 'til it's trending.

It's conjuring the name We Shall Not Speak of The Group We Can't Decide What To Call and summoning the concordant fears that come with not understanding why they hate everything and everyone so much.

It's school bullies, and road rage, and sex scandals, and wife beaters, and dog fighters, and corporate thieves, and abuse of power, and obesity, and debt crises, and environmental destruction, and drug lords, and gang violence, and trigger warnings, and -- hold on, I need to catch my breath ...

... It's bad parenting and bad shepherding, born of our lazy, indulgent, defensive culture.

These things? All of these horrible things happening right now in our world? They're not a coincidence -- they're connected. And that one-degree correction that we hope will fix the problem? It won't change a thing if we don't address the root.

We live in a culture that lionizes victims, criticizes heroes and heroicizes entertainers.

We cram thousands of hours of "entertainment" into our brains, starting before we're even old enough to walk, that glorifies hurting, killing, dismembering and destroying.

We tell our children from day one that they're special, that they must be protected, that no one is allowed to hurt their feelings or to scare them -- that it's always someone else's fault.

And then we send them out into the world -- the same world where we dismiss horrendous behavior as free speech so that the humans we raised believing themselves deserving of nonstop protection are ill-equipped to handle the culture we allowed to fester. A culture that constantly affirms how little value we place on human life.

And then we make it easy for them to get guns, and easy for them to learn to make bombs. We make it hard and costly for them to get the help that would crack their delusions. We keep telling them that it's the other guy's fault, that it's "unfair" -- that they're the "victims." And we only lionize victims, remember?

So these products of our culture see themselves as justified, as the righters of the wrongs. They find cheerleaders online, people like the jihadists who want to use them for their own purposes. Or people who simply feel so stripped of their own power that they spur the weak and angry on in their delusions.

And then some of those weak and angry souls decide to act, in exactly the way we trained them to, through those thousands of hours of video games, movies and songs. And, somehow, we all are shocked that this could have happened. Again. And again. And yet again.

We have to make it harder to get guns and easier to get help. We have to bring back personal responsibility. We have to hold up examples of real heroes -- heroes we admire because they stepped up and did something, not because something was done to them.

We have to hold the entertainment industry accountable for the movies, songs and video games that are grooming our disaffected to be destruction-bent avengers. Tsking isn't enough if we're still buying the products.

We -- the parents -- we have to start the change. We can't count on money-corrupted politicians and money-hungry corporations to do it. We have to demand a better world for our children, and we have to create that world through little everyday actions and epic big ones.

We have to teach our children to answer for their own mistakes. We do that by answering for our own mistakes and by allowing our children to suffer the consequences of theirs.

We have to use the power of our wallets to cut off funding for the diversions that are training our children to be psychopaths. We cannot sit in one room bemoaning the state of the world to our friends on Facebook while our children sit in another, gaming headsets on, fully immersed in the killing of their 17th person of the day.

We have to use our voices, votes and dollars to force our elected officials to help the disaffected -- and to make it harder for those bent on destruction to act on their twisted fantasies.

We have to show our children examples of real heroes who are worthy of imitation.

We have to be those heroes.

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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