We Live In A Culture Of Violence

Gary Gerard, Managing Editor

If ever you needed evidence that we live in a culture of violence, you have to look no further than an elementary school in Mount Morris Township, Mich., south of Flint.

That’s where 6-year-old Kayla Rolland died after being shot in the neck by a 6-year-old classmate.

The classmate, a boy, brought a loaded .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol to school after getting into a playground scuffle with the girl the day before.

He fired one shot while children from his class were waiting in line. He then walked into a bathroom and tossed the gun into a trash can.

The shooter told police it was an accident.

At age 6.

It is inconceivable to me that a 6-year-old would be capable of something like that.

I remember my kids at age 6. They were concerned about candy, toys and recess.

But murder?

Granted, this 6-year-old in Michigan is an extreme exception. The vast majority of 6-year-olds are scared to death of guns and wouldn’t know how to operate one.

But not this kid.

As details of the kid’s family life emerge we find that he basically had no family life.

Associated Press reported that the boy lived in a ramshackle house with tattered, stained curtains and “fluttering plastic garbage bags taped over broken windows.”

He was surrounded by strangers, drugs and guns.

The boy and his 8-year-old brother had been staying at the home for about two weeks with their mother’s brother after she was evicted from her home, AP reported. It was unclear where the boys’ 5-year-old sister had been staying.

It’s not clear how many people lived in the house, but police have arrested the boy’s uncle, Simarcus B. Winfrey, on an outstanding felony warrant.

Another man who police think once owned the gun used in the shooting was jailed on outstanding warrants and “miscellaneous charges.”

The boy’s father, Dedrick Owens, was brought from jail into court.

He apologized for the shooting. “I feel bad for the other family. I wish it would’ve never have happened,” he was quoted as saying.

The father also said his son had been suspended from school before for fighting and stabbing a girl with a pencil.

Owens also told police his son liked violent movies and television shows. Owens said when he asked his son why he fought with other children, the boy, “told me that he hated them.”

Owens said people at the home traded crack cocaine for guns.

Police found a stolen 12-gauge shotgun and drugs in the home.

The boy found the .32 in a bedroom and took it to school.

This really boggles my mind. Even with the advantage and crystal clarity of hindsight, I can’t see how in the world this could have been prevented.

And that really scares me.

Because if it couldn’t have been prevented, it can happen again.

What are we to do, put metal detectors in all our elementaries?

Are we going to have to run security akin to that at airports in our schools?

If we must, we must.

That may have been the only way to avert the tragedy in Michigan.

How do you make sure kids don’t fall through the cracks and wind up in a situation like the 6-year-old shooter, surrounded by shiftless adults who play with drugs and guns?

The kid probably had little or no supervision outside of his teachers at school. He most likely was emotionally or physically abused.

He probably spent a good deal of time watching violent movies and television shows.

He was not hugged very often, to be sure.

He – as well as the people he lived with – grew up in a culture that glamorizes violence.

All manner of media put forth violence as a way to solve problems.

One genre of music popular among today’s youth – rap – promotes violence straight up. If you’re a rap artist, you can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.

You have to engage in a little violent behavior once in a while for your work to gain credibility.

There is a long list of rap artists or their proteges who have been involved in shootings, stabbings, murder, weapons violations and various other acts of mayhem.

A couple of rap stars were murdered themselves.

The boy in Michigan grew up in a culture that embraces situational ethics and moral relativism.

There is a lack of moral absolutes, and if you suggest that may be a problem, you are labeled an intolerant, incompassionate, ultra right-wing religious zealot.

I got an e-mail from a guy who went to high school in the late ’50s in northern Indiana.

He noted that on any given spring day in the parking lot at his school there would be dozens of pickup trucks.

They were all unlocked and a large percentage of them had loaded shotguns hanging in the back windows.

Nobody ever got shot.

It almost makes me laugh (I would laugh if it weren’t so tragic) to hear politicians blather on about how we need to control guns.

It’s the culture we need to control. It’s the people we need to control. If you eliminated every gun from our society today in one fell swoop, the stabbing rate would rise in a week. Then if you eliminated the knives the bombing rate would rise the following week.

We are not killing each other because of the availability of guns. We are killing each other – at the tender age of 6, by the way – because of a lack of spirituality.

The belief that there is no final judgment. The belief that there is no power higher than government or the cops. The belief that we can lay blame for our actions on someone else. The belief that places self above all else. The belief that government can care for you from cradle to grave. The belief that you can’t urge people to be moral or spiritual. The belief that anything goes. The belief that there should be no limits.

Now, the proponents of those beliefs stand back in awe, staring in disbelief at the culture they helped create. How could a 6-year-old commit murder, they ask? The more relevant question is, “How could he not?”

And despite the overwhelming, incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, many still refuse to accept the notion that morality and spirituality matter. To them, common decency, honor and character are outdated concepts embraced by the unenlightened.

My pastor has a great analogy he uses to describe our culture. He says it’s like boiling a frog. If you toss a frog into a pot of boiling water, he’ll jump out. But if you toss a frog into a pot of cool water and slowly bring it to a boil, he’ll be cooked before he knows what hit him.

Apparently we aren’t smart enough to realize we’re slowly being cooked.



Times-Union Homepage

©2000 by Times-Union. All rights reserved