Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Other Big Story

The Other Big Story going on in the US today - i.e. not the Terry Schiavo case - is the one about this troubled and hostile young man:

Minnesota Rampage Leaves 10 Dead

Red Lake in shock after shooting by teen 'Angel of Death'
'Grieving parents and friends gathered outside a Red Lake school after a rampage by a self-styled teenage "Angel of Death" who killed nine people before shooting himself.


Witnesses and officials named the gunman as Jeff Weise, 15, a loner who had expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and had used the names "Todesengel" -- German for "Angel of Death" -- and "NativeNazi" when signing on to extreme right-wing Internet sites'
Click the links to read up on the background if you haven't heard the details. Not surprising, since the TV news has been all-Terry all-the-time the last few days. It's more or less understandable since it's a) a continuingly developing story, and b) important to see where our rights are headed with regard to the Federal government.

But the more important story, to me, is the Minnesota one.
'Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Michael Pabman told reporters Weise killed his grandfather, a local police sergeant, with a .22-caliber weapon. He also killed his grandfather's female companion.

"Then, we believe, he took the police bulletproof vest and gun belt of his grandfather, donned those, got into the police vehicle his grandfather had, and drove to the school, driving up right to the door."'
Weiss went on to kill an unarmend security guard at the school, a teacher, several students and ultimately took his own life.

The Red Lake Indian reservation is not exactly a mirror image of the Colorado community that also experienced a similar event recently:

School gun massacre
'Unlike Columbine High School, in the prosperous middle class suburb of Littleton, the region is one of the most deprived in America. Drug and alcohol abuse is rife, with nearly four out of 10 families living below the official poverty level and outsiders are regarded with suspicion.'
So I wondered, it was well documented that the parents of the two Columbine killers were practically clueless as to their sons' closed-door activities. What was this boy's family life like? Was it similar?

Apparently different as night and day.
'Relatives said that his father committed suicide four years ago and that his mother was in a nursing home because of brain injuries following an auto accident.'
Tragic. He's been fatherless since he was 11 and motherless for an unspecified amount of time.

So where and with who did he live? Who was supposed to be taking care of this boy? Who are these "relatives"? The articles don't specify, and that may be due to privacy concerns. However, judging by this quote:
'The gunman was a quiet loner who was often teased and who had a disturbed background.

"I guess I've always carried a natural admiration for Hitler and his ideals, and his courage to take on larger nations," Weise wrote last year in an online forum frequented by neo-Nazis. He wore a dark trench coat to school every day.'
It seems logical to assume that the home he came back to every day after school wasn't full of love and warmth, communication and hope, support and attention. Plus, kids don't learn about racial "purity" and other principles espoused by the neo-Nazis by themselves - it seems wherever he was living may have but those ideas in his head.

Now...not that I'm sure there aren't plenty of neo-nazi, trenchcoat-wearing loners populating other schools across the country who are perfect gentlemen and will grow up to be productive members of society. Just don't bet your life on it.

But does the home life excuse his actions? Not in the least. He was 15, and perfectly capable of making the right choices - the choices that could have been, "As angry as I am at the hand life's dealt me, as disturbed as I am about the unfairness of fate and all the people I blame for where I am and what I've become....I'm not going to kill. Today. I'm not going to do it, because there are other ways out."

He could have made that choice, but didn't. And a lot of people suffered. Again.

But we see it again and again - children growing up in America by themselves. Parents and guardians who are indifferent (Littleton, CO) or absent or misguided (Red Lake, MN) or just inexperienced.

What's the answer? There is obviously not an easy catch-all answer - except maybe this. Love your kids. Love your relatives's kids. Love your neighbors' kids. Pay attention to them. Help them. Encourage them. Watch them. Train them. Set examples that are productive and helpful. Don't talk down to them, don't ignore their questions, don't take them for granted. Help them gain a sense of spirituality, of wonder, of awe. Show them that there is more beyond their bedroom, their street, their reservation, their subdivision, their state, country and even world.

Raising children is the single most important responsibility that human beings have. There is no other task as vital as the one that parenthood thrusts upon us - not only are we raising our own kids, we're raising the future. We're ensuring the existence of their children, and the children of their future spouses who may not have even been born yet. Caring and nurturing your children and always giving them a grounded sense of home and family goes forever in preparing them for an adult life of happiness, prosperity, success and love.

If you glossed over it before, take a closer look:
Careful the things you say,
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do,
Children will see.
And learn.

Children may not obey,
But children will listen.
Children will look to you
For which way to turn,
To learn what to be.

Careful before you say,
"Listen to me."
Children will listen.

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