What you are about to read are my beliefs. You don't have to agree and you can argue against them. Just know that my beliefs are based on my experiences and are shaped by how I see the world. I will readily admit that my beliefs about school culture are shaped by my political beliefs (conservative, not necessarily "Republican") and by my religious beliefs (Christian, in particular Roman Catholic).
If you believe, like I do, that school culture is a microcosm of the culture at large, then you might want to stop and think about the larger culture that surrounds the school. Acknowledge that your political and religious beliefs will probably influence how you perceive school culture and you'll be armed with a better understanding of how and why you see things as you do.
I firmly believe that we live in a culture that "celebrates" death over life. Abortion is legal and fought over as if it is a fundamental human right to abort (kill) a human inside a mother's womb. The very fact that we accept abortion as a society means that human life is devalued. Period. The culture of death that we live in also teaches that "doctor-assisted suicide" should be considered as a viable option for those suffering from a long-term illness. These two issues alone have so perverted our culture that we have come to accept these issues as just part of the world we live in. In my mind, that's a pretty sad state of affairs.
As a direct result of those two issues, we have seen the glorification of death creep into all aspects of our society. Gangs have risen from the already depressed and troubled parts of our society. Why? Because instead of being loving and compassionate people who want to help others live, we view the poor and outcast as dispensable "beings". Their suffering and poverty makes us all cringe and then we turn to cold "logical arguments" like: "They are lazy." "They don't want a better life." "They choose to live this way." and the list goes on. We've allowed ourselves to justify ignoring these humans in dire need. As a result, they've adjusted and adapted to the lack of empathy and concern and have become self-reliant in their own way.
When you live in a society that doesn't value life, you will quickly see the decline of "civilized" behavior in areas where hard times have come.
If you ever watch "Gangland" or any of the documentary shows on gangs in America you'll begin to pick up the recurring theme of "no one cares about me except this gang". You'll hear the gang members talk about the expectation of dying young. You'll hear them repeat that death is expected. You'll see and hear them talk about how little they value their lives and the lives of others.
By now, you're probably saying that this doesn't explain the recent school shooting. I'd argue that it does. Let's leave the poor and destitute and focus on the middle class for a bit.
We, the middle class, have enough disposable income that we can go to the movies, rent movies, download music, and buy or rent video games.
The Top 5 video Games of 2012 according to Forbes magazine all revolve around hunting down and killing others. All five.
Of the Top 10 Video Games of 2012 according to the Video Game Awards, nine (9) are warfare and killing games.
Of the Top 10 Movies of 2012 according to US Magazine, four are movies that glorify killing others.
In a spirit of honesty, I'll tell you that I've played some of the video games. I'll also tell you that I'm capable of separating fantasy from reality and that I'm grounded enough to know when enough is enough. I was raised in a home that valued life. Even when I played cowboys and indians or cops and robbers as a child, I knew it was fantasy and, at the end of the game, I went around and offered a hand to help someone up off the ground. I wasn't raised in a world that saw death as "nothing".
This culture of death in which we live and in which my children have been raised has come to maturity. The devaluation of human life is so pervasive and so ingrained that it has become acceptable to watch gruesome killings on television nightly. The more gory, the better the drama it seems. We simply shake our heads and offer platitudes when we read that the murder rate in Chicago is now over 470 people. That's 470 human lives that have been lost to murder in one city. Detroit isn't much better.
I know what some of you are thinking: this last shooting was at a quiet little town that doesn't have a climbing murder rate. Most of the mass murder events that have happened have taken place in towns that were relatively quiet and had low crime rates.
I understand the argument. For me, that makes things all the more serious. This idea that death is "nothing" and that human life has no value has crept into our quiet little towns and is exploding in front of our very eyes.
My point is simply this, school shootings and all seemingly random acts of violence will continue until we reverse this culture of death.
(My next post will be about my perception of issues with the mental health system in the United States.)