I don’t personally know Alex Hribal, the 16-year-old boy who recently decided to go on a stabbing spree in a Pennsylvania high school.
Those who do know him give the same profile of many of these other kids who have committed similar atrociously violent acts—saying that he is aloof, quiet, and has never caused trouble before.
But with premeditation, this boy walked into his school and began stabbing and slashing other students, as well as anyone else who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
What strikes me as even more crazy than Hribal’s seemingly irrational act, and all of the similar violence that has come before his, is the fact that authorities seem to be stymied about why and how this could occur.
Do they not have any idea of the kind of non-stop violence that kids are watching on TV these days? What about the movies our children pay good money to see, often money that parents give them—in good faith—to go and ‘have fun’? How many people choose to ignore the horrendously violent video games so many kids play, sometimes hour after hour after hour, day after day? Have you watched the news lately and seen the horrible aggression that occurs every day, somewhere in the world? Could it be that we, as a society, wonder where Hribal’s violence is coming from when we turn a blind eye to what so many of our children are really doing?
Okay, I can hear the naysayers already, some who will respond to this blog post, saying I’m overreacting or that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve gotten used to those kind of comments—and I know that they will likely be coming from the ones actually watching these vicious—and in my humble but strong opinion—completely unnecessarily violent TV shows and movies, and playing these insanely brutal video games, all chock full of gratuitous violence. Deep in our heart of hearts, as a collective society, how can we be surprised by this kind of over-the-top violent behavior from our kids when we allow them—our leaders of tomorrow—to be fed on this these ‘killing sprees’ in the various forms of media day in and day out?
Now I know there are many people who watch senseless violence without going out and committing acts of overt aggression. But I also know that covert acts of aggression can be damaging as well. Violence, it appears, begets violence—we see this with the issue of bullying all the time. And the aggression we’re all exposed to each day, even when we try to stay away from it, often creates emotional and mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression in many of us, often leading to excessive anger, hostility, and suicidal and homicidal ideation in people who aren’t emotionally and mentally healthy.
And, of course, it’s especially traumatic when it hits us where we happen to live.
Even with all those beautiful little children who were shot to death at Sandy Hook, the NRA still maintains its stance that everyone deserves and has the right to own a gun, and that no background checks need to be done in an attempt to weed out those who are not emotionally stable.
Even after that devastating shooting at the Aurora movie theatre where the guy dressed up as the Joker from a Batman movie, or the more recent Fort Hood shootings, we are still pleading ignorance—preferring instead to wring our collective hands and ask, “How could this happen?” We still, as a collective audience, slap down our 10 bucks to go see incredibly violent movies—thus enabling the filmmakers to continue to make them. We keep our TV’s tuned into shows like The Black List and NCIS and Hawaii 5-0, giving the Powers-That-Be in television land the idea that we condone this senseless violence. Why wouldn’t they think we’re asking them to give us more of the same?
Just as with widespread drug addiction, climate change, pipelines, and rampant sugar addiction leading to obesity, illness and premature death, we need to open our eyes to this issue too—and not keep telling ourselves the rational lies that enable this violence to continue.
If we don’t, it may be your child next time, either stabbed or shot—or actually doing the stabbing and shooting.
My questions would be: What if we stopped buying it? What if we stopped watching it? What if we encouraged our kids to stop glorifying this violence too, by spending more time with them doing other things? What if we voted with our wallets? What if, as in the great movie Network, we raised our united voices together and said “We’re fed up, and we’re not gonna take it anymore!”
And what if we began to do this before any more of our kids kill or get killed?