Just recently, a 15-year-old Albuquerque boy armed with multiple weapons, including an assault rifle, killed his mom and three of his siblings, and then waited five hours before killing his father when he arrived home from work. Then he reloaded his guns and went to hang out with his 12-year-old girlfriend for the day.
Now a lot of these stories upset me, and reporting on them day after day certainly gets under one’s skin. But this one got to me more than most. Is it because I’m now a mom? Is it because it comes on the heels of another school massacre of 20 people, including 16 kids my son’s age? Then, having to listen to the national discussion on gun control – the suggestion of the most minor of regulations to try TRY! to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people – is sheer insanity. Not only is this country avoiding an obvious chance to promote public health, but through its arguments, the gun lobby only adds to the glorification of ignorance that this country so proudly exemplifies. Day after day I shake my head and say, “What is WRONG with these people?” Why are we embracing this double headed hydra of violence and ignorance? How have we let it get this far?
But back to this case: Police say the boy had no signs of drug or alcohol abuse, but in a shocking display of bad investigation admitted that they hadn’t even done a urine test. Oh my. They did say that his only visible signs of excitement during the interrogation occurred when he spoke of the violent video games he constantly played, including Grand Theft Auto and Modern Warfare. Then the sheriff said that the boy was “shocked” that he had been arrested for his crimes. I guess people aren’t arrested in video games?
So there’s the political. And there’s also the personal. The family of the slain victims sent journalists a series of childhood photos of the accused. He was playing drums, dressed up for a family wedding, a young boy sitting in his father’s lap. Family members wrote that they were frustrated with the media representation of the boy as “a monster” following the shootings. The statement made me smirk a bit but I could understand their confusion. Here was a beautiful young boy. A musician. He helped at his church and with the family’s animals. The statement made it sound as if he might have had struggles like any teenage boy but that the weekend’s violent rampage had no reason, made no sense at all. How did this happen?!
It’s too easy to blame it on the fact that the parents had loaded and unlocked rifles and assault weapons in the closet at the ready. That was surely a big part of it. But what makes a frustrated boy take his anger out by killing? And how can we be sure that our young sons won’t feel compelled to do the same? I say video games change the brain patterns of young people. I see it, at least temporarily, every time my son plays a video game. He is dulled, desensitized and angers easily. He often ends up crying and frustrated, which is rare for Aiden. Something happens to him in these moments. Despite these retains I haven’t denied all access – so many of his friends and family members play daily and I never wanted to give it too much cache. But after this case I’m reconsidering. None of Aiden’s games have killing involved, but Angry Birds isn’t exactly peaceful, now is it? Plus, I see how easily advertisements climb onto the screen, offering, for a small price, something a bit more “challenging”.
In this crazy world where advocates are saying teachers need to be armed and bulletproof backpacks are the perfect school choice, I simply want to escape. Isn’t there a place where life is more valued? Where children and education are honored, and environment – earth, air, water and food — warrants its own rights and protections? A place where humans are treated equally and with respect? And where women are appreciated and paid appropriately for their work? I know this is utopian, but I don’t care. I want to think this place exists. So tell me where it is because I want to go there.