Sunday, December 16, 2012

Music, Murder, and Modern Parenting

I love music.  I'm not a particularly skilled musician (used to play a little guitar a long time ago), but I have a wickedly good ear and a special skill for keeping on key, vocally, and knowing (via an odd buzzing sensation at the base of my skull) when someone else isn't on key. 

My real talent?

Linking specific music to specific memories or events in my life.  When I hear, say, Bad Company or Billy Squier, I'm transported back to my teenage boulevard days.  When I hear John Denver, I'm lying in the grass next to a bubbling spring in the Wasatch Range, bees trundling lazily about, a horse snuffling my neck while I giggle.  Beatles?  I'm flat on my back on the living room floor, headphones on, listening to my Dad's LPs.

Don't ask me where I am when John Mayer, Avril Lavigne, or certain Maroon 5 songs play.  Just know it's a bad, sad, devastating place to be.  Made worse because I always assume that others have this same "talent."  So when John Mayer or Avril are meandering through the speakers, I assume everyone else is taking a stroll down memory lane, too.  And it tears my heart out.

This past two weeks I've been listening to a lot of My Chemical Romance.  Specifically, "The Black Parade."  One song in particular has been on me for these two weeks--it's called "Teenagers," and it strikes me as a cautionary/Columbine-type song.  It definitely strikes a chord with me, with its chorus:

They say that
Teenagers scare the living shit out of me
They could care less, so long as someone'll bleed
So darken your clothes
Or strike a violent pose
Maybe they'll leave you alone, but not me

The second verse, already dark in its Columbine-esque tone, hit me especially hard yesterday.  I was sitting in the car outside our boy's Hapkido studio, watching the Mockingbirds school the Blue Jays in the towering oak near the fence, when it came on the stereo:

The boys and girls in the clique
The awful names that they stick
You're never gonna fit in much, kid
But if you're troubled and hurt
What you got under your shirt
Will make them pay for the things that they did

We're probably not ever going to know what was going on in Adam Lanza's whirling, screwed-up head.  And no, he wasn't, officially, a teenager any more, but close enough.  Maybe he wasn't bullied or ostracized.  Maybe he didn't feel abused or outside the crowd. 


But that doesn't change just how screwed up our kids are today. Not individually--no, as individuals, they seem about as well-or-maladjusted as ever.  But in groups?


I've been thinking a lot about this.  What happened?  What changed, aside from the pervasive, astounding violence thrown at kids from all angles and packaged as good, American fun?

I think we did.  The parents.

See, somehow, in some pretty important ways, we failed to grow up.  Instead of being the gatekeepers and authority figures, we've become the playmates, the competition.  Instead of punishing rudeness, we're encouraging it, laughing at it, even giving lessons on how to better deliver it.  Parents used to step in and discipline when their child was mean, rude, or destructive.  Now they step in and defend their child's actions and level their anger at the victims or accusers.  I remember when I was a kid, I dreaded bringing home a bad grade because I knew my father would look at ME and ask what the hell was wrong with ME.  Now?  Now the parent marches into the classroom, corners the TEACHER, and wags a righteous finger in her face, demanding to know what the hell is wrong with HER.  I remember always knowing that, if I screwed up, my parents didn't HAVE to see it happen--ANY adult in the neighborhood would step in, stop me, then drag me home to my parents.  Who would dare do that now?  Who wouldn't fear being met at the door by an angry, potentially violent parent? 

Obviously, I'm speaking in generalities--we're not ALL like this, but I believe enough of us are that we've created a childhood culture where rudeness, mob action, and even gun violence are valued.  If not always valued by adults, these things are definitely held in high esteem by other kids as often as not. 

I don't have a solution.  Ditching my entire generation AND the children we've produced and starting again from scratch isn't possible.  Apparently, intelligent, reasoned gun laws that reflect the realities of 2012 (rather than 1789) are also impossible.  Obviously--how else to explain  61 mass murders perpetrated with firearms since 1982 and THIRTY-ONE school shootings since Columbine, yet our gun laws remain stubbornly unchanged? 

I'm not sure where I'm going with this.  It's a sort of blue-skying, wandering journey.  A free-association fest.  Did I mention that the parents of one of those poor, beautiful children in Sandy Hook went to my high school?  That their older siblings and cousins were my classmates?  That their sweetheart was born in the town we just moved from?  That, in fact, they, too just recently moved to the east coast? 

Something has GOT to change.  We have GOT to get some sort of grip and stop letting the gun lobby subvert our political process with mega-cash and BS claims.  I'm not talking about banning guns--rarely is anyone saying that.  I'm talking about better, more thorough background checks, meaningful, in-depth sharing of information about psychiatric ailments (not just hospitals, but individual practitioners sharing pertinent information with state agencies), more attention paid to others living in the home of gun owners, and periodic re-registration of firearms with new background/psych checks.  And people can squeal that, no, it's not the guns, it's the mental illness, but that's a tub of garbage.  Mental illness can't take me out at 50 feet.  Mental illness can't perch on a clock tower and pick off terrified students.  Mental illness can't speed down a residential street killing innocent children in a burst of gang-related vengeance.  Mental illness can't storm through the halls of an elementary school and end 20 perfect hearts (and their brave defenders). 

Not without a firearm, anyway. 

We live in a country where it is easier to buy ammunition than it is to buy decongestants.  Don't believe me?  Head over to Walmart and buy a box of ammo for a .22.  And then buy five bottles of Robitussin.  See which one presents a greater challenge. 

And today?  Today Santa came through the neighborhood, tossing candy from atop a wailing fire engine.  And the rats across the street and the creepy child of drug addicts behind us ran along, scooping up all the candy before the other, younger neighborhood kids had a chance.  They did this as the rat children's mother looked on. 

And I didn't do a damned thing.  I didn't, the woman next door didn't, the folks who live next door to the rats didn't.  We just shook our heads, looked on in disgust.  And that, my friends, makes me and my neighbors part of the problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment