Yesterday’s thoughts have stuck with me. I’m wondering why so few kids turn to violence. After thinking further about how it was bring a teenager in the 1990’s I have to ponder why there weren’t (aren’t) more mass shooting, why is it that kids with nearly identical statistics react so differently. All I can come up with is that the kids who don’t act out violently have (somehow) learned how to channel their anger and angst. They have a way out. Some of them turn to drugs, sex, video games, and other escapists routes. Some of them squash their feelings and wait for a mid life crisis to let it out. The lucky one’s know that there’s a better way:
What made the group I knew in highschool special was that 1) we had each other and 2) many of us had been exposed to other ways of expressing ourselves. We were actors, artists, writers, muscians. We knew we could write letters to the paper, post our thoughts online, join a protest. Several of us add aging hippie parents who exposed us to ideas like passive resistance and boycotting. We knew that we had another way out, we could express our rage and fears without hurting anyone.
Of all the things my parents did for me one of the best was my dad’s way of reading us books that wouldn’t normally be considered appropriate for children. There was swearing, sex, drug use. But there was also a knowledge that there are other ways to live than your own. We read about Ghandi and Martin Luther King Junior. We read The Under Ground Railroad and The Milagro Beanfield war. I think we read The Monkey Wrench Gang three times. I studied Abby Hoffman’s autobiography. We had dinner table conversations about racism, sexism, and poverty. My dad protested at Rocky Flats when I was a baby, he was proud to talk about it, to admit that he went to jail for chaining himself to a railroad tie and refusing to let the train through. We recycled/composted/reused all of our trash and talked about taking care of the planet.
I am lucky to have grown up always knowing that there is another way, that you can channel your anger into something productive. Kids need to know this, especially today’s kids. Look at the mess they’re inheriting: unthinkable debt, poor education, environmental devastation, all the problems associated with a society were a quarter of the population lives in poverty. They need to know that they have the power to stand up (or lie down in chains) to demand their rights, to demand that their leaders do the right thing.
I can’t wait till my kids are old enough to sit still for this kind of education. They need to know that not only is it OK to be angry, it’s also great to use that anger constructively rather than randomly or violently. Of course, the problem with this is that it makes for kids who know how to protest their parents authority, too. I’ll just have to do what’s right even if I know from watching my dad that it maybe quite uncomfortable for me when I serve something they don’t want to eat.