If I could revert to my 16-year-old self living in my hometown outside Boston — I would have championed the March for Our Lives movement.
My enthusiasm even might have prompted me to offer to drive the bus to Washington. Like every other cause-oriented teen, I would have been ready to tackle any public fight — especially one that was guaranteed to garner national television coverage.
And that’s the problem with the March for Our Lives campaign. Children are taking the stage. I applaud those who want to address issues and solve problems. But that’s not what’s happening with the March for Our Lives campaign — problems are not being solved. Impressionable teens are being manipulated to channel their energy into a “solution” that isn’t one.
The problem of school shootings is complex at best, and simply shouting for Congress to get its butt in gear won’t do a lick of good. Millions of people have gone before these kids and tried. They didn’t get anywhere, because what these youngsters don’t yet realize is that laws and politicians cannot change who people are.
Sadly, amid the cacophony, many very serious issues went and are still going unnoticed. And because of this, more shootings will inevitably occur. It is even tragically possible that a future school shooter may well have been marching among these kids this past Saturday in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere.
Here’s what these well-intentioned kids weren’t or haven’t been told by the people and groups funding them, organizing them, and supporting them:
1.) Violence in media changes the psyche of a young man. There is no paucity of research citing the dramatic effects of violent video games and media on the psyche of teen boys. Every school shooter was male and spent hundreds if not thousands of hours in a room alone playing violent games in which they or their characters shot, maimed, raped and pillaged via the screen.
We in the medical and social sciences communities know that these games train players to kill easily in the virtual realm — and that if you tainted those minds with the slightest mental illness, it can easily transition into real-life killing. Why weren’t these kids who marched told to protest violent games and media?
2.) Men who grow up without fathers are at higher risk for mental illness — and mental illness is always an issue in men who shoot children in schools. America has embraced the breakdown of the nuclear family to the point at which kids now believe that having a mother and father in their lives is not only unique, it is superfluous.
What we collectively fail to see (because we don’t want to) is that boys who grow up without a father figure or a father in their lives live with tremendous pain. They feel it. They know it. But no one will validate their experience because the answer — encouraging fathers to stay married and be more involved with their kids — is traditional. And traditional has come to be scorned. Sorry, young men.
So teenage boys vent their anger elsewhere. But it doesn’t work. Why weren’t these kids told that it is OK to need and want fathers?
3.) Depression is on the rise in teens and there is treatment available — but it doesn’t come from Congress. We in medicine have seen an enormous rise in depression in teens. But don’t be misled. The reason for depression in teens isn’t because there are too few laws in the cities. Depression arises when the self turns against itself.
A teen feels that he simply can’t stand himself any longer and the pain of living is too much to bear. So he acts out against himself (notice that most school shooters harm themselves, too) — and takes others with him. There are teens among our families, our communities, our neighborhoods who are in serious psychological anguish. I see them.
Any medical practitioner reading this knows this. These kids need serious help, and sometimes that means being hospitalized for weeks or months to get adequate treatment. If Nicolas Cruz had been put in a long-term treatment facility for his mental illness, who knows what would have transpired? Why weren’t the kids told to rally for better mental health treatment for their peers?
4.) Evil exists in the world, and we do know how to counter it — but the solution isn’t found in Congress, either. For centuries, great thinkers, philosophers, and the religious have wrestled with the problem of evil. They were influential because they lived in a culture that admitted the possible existence of God. We in America have systematically branded those who believe in God — and God Himself — unpalatable.
And if we no longer believe in God — as many of the children marching in Washington are encouraged to do — we cannot admit that evil exists, let alone discuss a solution to it. Admitting evil exists is far too terrifying if we cannot admit that a more powerful good God exists to counter it.
These kids need serious help, and sometimes that means being hospitalized for weeks or months to get adequate treatment.
But let’s be honest. Every person alive knows that evil exists in the heart of any boy or man who slaughters children. What can we do about this?
Take away his assault weapons if you want — but evil in him will prevail. Only God and prayer can counter evil. It is a spiritual problem and can only be dealt with in a spiritual manner. Why weren’t the kids told how to deal with evil?
5.) When a society lives without a moral framework, it falls. When secularists pushed God out of everyday life, the moral framework we had in the ’60s and ’70s, as feeble as it may have been, vanished. Why? Because if man cannot claim that God makes rules of decency and indecency, we are left with two choices: Each individual makes his own or a collective body of a society makes the rules.
The former is our default because the latter exists in a communist society and we disclaim that. What we have, then, is a world the marchers know, where all teens and adults do what they see fit. All opinion, whether based in reality or not, goes.
Consider the sad irony of the young girl holding a sign protesting that NRA that read: “Narcissictic/Rude/A*%# holes.” If she was being anything it was these three things. But — her feelings matter, and they determine what is right and true for her. Why aren’t kids being told that collective morality in a society matters?
The real sadness in the March for Our Lives movement thus far isn’t that nothing will change because of this march and this effort — but that very real and serious issues were and are still ignored.
Issues can be helped and resolved. We can crack down on violent games and help teen boys get off them. We can help our men be better fathers, but we need to start encouraging them and teaching them first. We do have a solution for broken families, lonely kids and a broken moral framework. These are found in churches and synagogues across America — but we are turning our children against them. And the problem of evil will linger long after the kids marching in Washington are gone.
The real question before us today is: In the meantime, will we who know the real answers sit idly by and complain? Or will we have the conviction to address real issues head on?
I hope we prove ourselves to be courageous people.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the book “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need” (Regnery Publishing, May 2017), along with a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.
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