Boston-area parents, like others around the country, are in a state of shock over the movie theater massacre in Colorado. How can they protect their own children from similar experiences? It's all too tempting to be a back-seat critic, coming up with ideas from the safety and comfort of one's easy chair. But remaining silent on the issues is just as bad as spouting cliched advice and half-baked, knee-jerk reactions.
Credit should be given to organizations like the national PTA, who have tried to offer a sensitive, compassionate response in the wake of the Aurora shootings. (See their helpful message at www.pta.org/topic_discussing_hate_and_violence_with_your_children.asp) But many more people weighing in on the subject are also desperately needed, in order to spur a national discussion of what can be done to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
Even more importantly, we can't let the extremists on either end of the spectrum drown out the voices of reason and moderation, which have been conspicuously absent at times like this. All too often, it's the loudest, rudest, most callous and irresponsible media hogs who have gotten all the headlines. And ironically, perhaps that may be one of the root causes behind the Dark Knight deaths.
So here's a list of ten things we can all do to turn the nation around and stop this murderous madness:
1. Boycott all entertainment that glorifies and perpetuates violence, crime, hatred, and revenge. We've had far too many movies, TV shows, books, songs, video games, and other media that lift up the kind of crazy behavior that we see in Aurora, Columbine, Tucson, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, and other such events. The more tickets purchased for such exploitational, negativistic entertainment, the more that Hollywood keeps cranking it out. If box office demand drops, there will be a clear signal to them that such “entertainment” doesn't sell.
2. Speak out, don't stay silent on the problems in your own neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, etc. If there are reports of a student in your child's school carrying a gun or exhibiting other unusual behavior, bring it to the attention of authorities, IMMEDIATELY. Don't leave it to some other parent to do. It's your child's safety at risk!
3. Be informed. Read up on social and cultural trends that are leading us as a nation to become more violent, more conflicted, and more self-centered. Discuss the issues with your family, other concerned parents, and residents in your town.
4. Be more active and engaged in your own children's activities. Just dropping off kids at the mall or movie theater, without any thought as to what they're planning to do, where they're going, who they're meeting, or even what their ideas, anxieties, or concerns are, is a recipe for trouble. That doesn't mean acting like Gestapo, conducting an interrogation, but getting some basic information, at the least, to stay informed on what they're doing.
5. Consider a “check-in” of some sort, whether it's asking them to call home by cell phone at a certain time, or being available for a call from Mom or Dad, or insisting that they call to let you know of any changes in plans or destination.
6. Don't take it for granted that any particular place or activity is guaranteed “safe.” Drive-by incidents can occur at any time, any location. That doesn't mean you never leave home, out of fear, but it does mean being aware of potential risks or dangers. It's not that different from setting out on a car trip and driving defensively—you never know when an unexpected hazard might pop up, and you have to act quickly to prevent an accident. Talk about what you might do, in such a situation.
7. Know who your children's friends are (and perhaps even something about their parents). This could sound like common sense, but it's amazing how many parents don't take the time to check out who their kids are hanging out with. It's also a good idea to get phone numbers, in case you need to reach the other kids or their parents in an emergency. Find out who's driving, whose home they may be at, how many other youngsters will be there, what adults may be present, and whether there's a cut-off time or curfew in the picture.
8. When it comes to “fame” or publicity at any price, think about making your opinions known to local newspaper editors, radio or TV station owners. Let them know of your opposition to their decisions to give newspaper space or air time to messages or stories promoting oddball, anti-social, belligerent, or inflammatory individuals whose main interest seems to be seeking headlines, rather than working for the good of society.
9. Recognize and show appreciation for people or organizations that do try to work for non-violence, social justice, peace, cooperation, and positive progress. They're the ones who should really be getting media attention, not the individuals seeking to hurt or divide us. For example, Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” fame came out very strongly against the uncontrolled proliferation of military-style assault weapons. See the story at news.yahoo.com/seinfeld-star-jumps-assault-weapon-debate-152458549--abc-news-politics.html#
10. Work to re-open discussion on stricter gun control initiatives. As a society, we've suffered far too often and too deeply as the result of gun violence, from assassinations (Kennedy, Lincoln, Reagan, and others) to shootings like those in Aurora, Columbine, and elsewhere. (Not to mention the daily urban violence in metropolitan areas like New York, Detroit, etc.) Call, write, text, or email your local elected representatives and make sure they understand the seriousness of this issue. Don't let them get away with fence-sitting or watered-down laws that just perpetuate the problem further.
Finally, in light of the unspeakable horror of the Colorado shootings--no words can ever suffice to explain, express sympathy, or make up for the lives lost--it can easily be said that these "10 ways" are simplistic, superficial, band-aid solutions that cannot truly address the real underlying problem. With that said, the best thing we can all do at this point is to work for serious, top-to-bottom change in our society. A country that continues to allow this kind of senseless violence needs a complete overhaul--politically, economically, socially, and spiritually--or it will surely happen again.