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Columns

December 24, 2012

Columbine, Newtown and the culture of death

Blame it on the guns. No, blame the judges who banned God-talk in schools, along with most lessons about right and wrong. No, our lousy national mental health care system caused this hellish bloodbath. No, the problem is the decay of American families, with workaholic parents chained to their desks while their children grow up in suburban cocoons with too much time on their hands. No, it's Hollywood's fault. How can children tell the difference between fantasy and reality when they've been baptized in violent movies, television and single-shooter videogames? Why not blame God?

These were the questions in 1999 when two teenage gunmen at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killed 13 people and themselves in the massacre that set the standard for soul-searching media frenzies in postmodern America.

All the questions asked about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are now being asked about Adam Lanza after he gunned down 20 first-graders and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., before taking his life.

He began his rampage by killing his mother in the suburban home they shared after the 2008 divorce that split their family.

After Columbine, Denver's archbishop wrote an agonizing reflection that looked toward a future after all of the headlines and endless cable-news coverage

Last week, the staff of Archbishop Charles Chaput, now leader of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, circulated those words once again. What has changed? "The media are already filled with sound bites of shock and disbelief; psychologists, sociologists, grief counselors and law enforcement officers -- all with their theories and plans," he wrote. "God bless them for it. We certainly need help. Violence is now pervasive in American society -- in our homes, our schools, on our streets, in our cars as we drive home from work, in the news media, in the rhythms and lyrics of our music, in our novels, films and video games.

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