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President's Ponderings: Isnít it time to do something about violence

By Ed Luttrell, National Grange President (President's Ponderings Blog 6/11/14)

  JUNE 12, 2014 --

Yesterday there was a school shooting at Reynolds High School in Oregon. One student was killed and a teacher was wounded. The shooter apparently then ended their own life.

The outpouring of sympathy and support for the victims and their families is real and is the appropriate response. Yet, within hours politicians, activists, and many citizens were once again blaming guns and calling for “gun control” for the protection of our “children.” We don’t even seem to need to have understanding to jump to conclusions any more.

What I want to know is why a tiny handful of our young people are engaging in such violent behavior. Is it that we are neglecting their mental health, is society teaching the wrong lessons through violent movies and games, are we creating these crimes through instant fame, or are our youth becoming more isolated.

Over the last 40 years, American society has shifted from institutionalism of those suffering from mental illness to letting those affected fend for themselves. When someone stops taking their medication, they may not be aware that their behavior has changed. This is a real and pressing issue, and I haven’t heard a serious debate on how to address this complex and serious problem. I’ll be the first to say I don’t have the answer, but that shouldn’t stop us from searching.

Is exposure to violent movies, games, and other entertainment causing real life violence? From what I’ve read, it would appear for most the answer is no. It is believable that someone without a firm grasp of reality might engage in violent acts, but that leads us back to the previous point.

Do the media and the internet encourage copycats by the instant fame, or infamy, that an evil or horrific act usually gets? Once again the answer is probably no, except for those affected with certain mental illnesses.

The transition from childhood to being an adult has never been easy. The teenage years are filled with angst, turmoil, and emotions for all of us. Teens can feel alone with new emotions when surrounded by others. Those teenage years can start before age 13 and continue beyond 20 for some.

All of us understand that being a teenager is dramatic time of change. Most of us who are older had parents and family who understood and gave us stability. I know that even while occasionally disagreeing with my father, he was always there and was a positive example for me. I wonder how much the disintegration of the family has impacted the youth of America?

In addition, I wonder if this younger generation is really more connected with cell phones, Facebook, email, text messages, Twitter, and more, than my generation. I’ll admit, they have far more information to sort through than my generation ever imagined. Is knowing that Sara is tired this afternoon, or what Jimmy had for lunch really building a valuable friendship? Is this connectivity through technology really more than just knowing trivia about more people?

Positive role models and friends got most of us through those turbulent teen years. I remember people who I wanted to emulate or to just be like in some way. They weren’t celebrities; they were farmers, business people, community-minded people, and family members. I had a lot of friends, some I was very close to and others I hung out with on occasion.

The lessons that my generation learned were sometimes painful. We learned that if we hurt others feelings, they might not talk to us or they might even chastise us. We learned to stand with our friends even when it was difficult. We learned to admit when we did something wrong. We learned how to be a part of society while not surrendering our individuality. Our generation was not that different from our parents or grandparents experience, though at the time we didn’t see it that way.

In the decades since my teenage years, I have also learned that we never stop growing, making mistakes, and learning. We can make new friends and will experience joy and sadness until the end of our lives.

Violence, especially by teenagers, needs to be addressed, but not by legislators with laws that make us feel good but actually do little. Our young people don’t need to hear excuses for evil or criminal acts, they want to know that we care about them by what we say and do.

Our Grange members, as well as the members of a multitude of other organizations, encourage education, perform community service, and offer their friendship in every community in America. We care about both individuals and our community as a whole. We understand that adults are not supposed to protect our teens from the world, we’re supposed to help them become the world.

Our social discourse needs to be focused on searching for practical solutions that help those afflicted with mental illness. Each member of our community needs to make it a priority to aid young people, especially teens, through those years of transition from being a child to being an adult. That transition is part of the human journey and who better to help than a caring person?

This is an answer to violence that makes sense to me. What do you think?

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