“Only a lad (You really can’t blame him)
Only a lad (Society made him)
Only a lad (He’s our responsibility)
Only a lad (He really couldn’t help it)
Only a lad (He didn’t want to do it)
Only a lad (He’s underprivileged and abused,
Perhaps a little bit confused…)”
(Oingo Boingo, “Only a Lad” c1981 A&M Records)
I’m writing this article as a follow-up to the last one, only because I can’t believe that we’re still having this discussion. It’s been over 30 years since Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo broached the subject in their 1981 release, “Only a Lad”. At around the same time, then president Ronald Reagan opined that as Americans, we needed to “reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker.” It seems as though we (as a nation) are not unlike that dysfunctional family down the street, the one that has absolutely no solid communication skills. I mean, if we haven’t settled this argument in the past three decades, we haven’t been communicating in a meaningful way about it, have we?
So, who is to blame when things like last Friday’s shooting take place? Do we place the onus squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, or do we expand the recriminations to encompass vast sectors, political groups and ideologies within our society? I guess it all depends on who you ask. As evinced by the previous post, the religious right will tell you that the decline of morals in society, or that “taking God out of our schools” is to blame. On the other hand, my first instinct is to lay the blame on the individual, as suggested by Reagan.
You know, the fundies may however, have a valid point as well. It does seem like we are witnessing, and have been since at least the 60’s if not before then, an overall decline in…shall we say, the “scruples” of society at large. I can’t recall that criminals were as willing back in the decades preceding the 90’s, to commit crimes such as robbery and murder in churches, as they are these days. Indeed, there seems to be an overall lack of respect for boundaries that were once held as sacrosanct, even by the lowest of the low. Might that be a part of society’s responsibility in these instances of violent crime?
Violent crime targeting schools is nothing new, my fine young readers. As early as 1764 in fact, there has been violence claiming the lives of children and teachers during school hours and on school premises in America. Even so, that doesn’t lessen the impact every time it happens, and immediately following each instance the grief often gives way to recrimination. Lines get drawn, policy gets debated, and tempers flare. Once the dust settles, we’re no better off than we were before the incident occurred, I’m afraid.
Within the context of societal responsibility, we’re already witnessing increased debate over gun control in America. Some on the right are even suggesting turning our schools into heavily armed bastions of security, in order to deter any would-be shooter. On the opposite side of the debate, some are calling for a complete ban on firearms, citing instances where other countries have done so, and experienced a drastic decrease in gun-related crimes. Somewhere in between these diametrically opposed viewpoints, lies the vast majority of citizens who are either apathetic to the entire situation, or are leaving it up to the government to solve the problem…which unfortunately may never happen.
Who do we blame? Do we blame ourselves as a society for allowing prison time to lose its sting, and become more like an “all expenses paid vacation getaway”? Do we blame our government for not taking definitive action with regard to gun control? Do we blame certain political factions within our nation for weakening and / or inhibiting stiffer gun control laws? Do we blame parents, for not raising their children properly? Do we blame the health care industry, for not having better mental health programs in place? Do we blame the perpetrator? One thing is for damned sure…there always seems to be entirely too much finger pointing, and too many people with fingers to point, and not nearly enough rational discourse going on.
I’ll leave you all with this little “fill-a-bit” of wisdom; be careful when you point the finger at someone, because there are three fingers on that same hand, pointing back at you.