Sticks
and
Stones

Sticks and Stones: The Littleton, Colorado Shooting


The front page of the April 21, 1999, San Francisco Chronicle read "Killing Rampage at School: Suicide attack blamed on 2 students." Just two students? Or is it a wake-up call for all of us?

We can blame it on the availability of guns, or movies, television or war toys as innocent as GI Joe. We can even point, in this case, at Goth. But in doing that, I suggest we look where our other three fingers are pointing and take responsibility for the part we played in this scenario. Yes, all of us. For, you see, I think the problem goes much deeper that what the newspapers or "expert" psychologist are saying. The problem lies within virtually every home in America. While the solution may be more difficult, I think problem is very simple.

Name calling. Feeling insecure in our selves, or developing a dislike or even hate of people who are different from us (race, religion, sexual preference, and the hate list goes on), we start by passing on jokes that malign others, then name calling behind someone's back, then finally to their face. Names beyond the many raciest names we all know.

These killers in Littleton, Colorado weren't athletes, or pep squad leaders, or the popular kids at school. The "killers" at the previous school killings weren't either. But those are the people they targeted. And, I think, they just got tired of being called weirdo's, nerds, geeks, freaks, stupid, slobs, or whatever words the in-crowd uses to attack someone's self-esteem. After a while, these young men can't deal with it anymore and return the attack in the only way they can see that will stop the abuse.

The message they are sending is "Stop calling me names" and no one is listening. So, the name-calling and ridicule continue. And the communities involved start focusing on an action plan and gun control and fences around the schools and more security checks, more shakedowns, and the list goes on. While short-term those may be necessary, they are only short-term solutions.

We all must get actively involved with this problem. Really look at all the ways each of us becomes a perpetrator. Then, start teaching our children about the dangers of name calling and the importance of developing respect for everyone, especially those who are different in some way than we are. Outside the home by standing up and saying "Stop calling him (or her) names" or "I don't think that joke is funny" or "Stop sending me those emails." In school, send the name callers to the principles office.

As an adult, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." But as a kid who doesn't "fit in," or look the part, or isn't as popular as "Joe cool," names not only hurt, they kill.

Possible Solutions

It can get frustrating as a parent or non-parent knowing what to do. And, while there are a number of good books and how to work to reduce teen violence, cultural violence and the shadow violence that lurks without each of us, many of us won't go to the effort of getting one of these books to start the work now.

In the meantime, the following are some steps you can take to stop violence among young children, from Parenting for Peace & Justice:

Speak out to your family, friends, and co-workers to develop an awareness of the "accepted" violence among teens and children, including name calling, insults, pushing, shoving and kicking.

Support conflict-resolution programs in your home, school and community to help children (and adults) learn now to solve problems without resorting to violence (hitting, kicking, throwing something, slamming doors, phones, pencils, etc.).

Volunteer in parent education classes or as a "resource parent" for young teen and first-time parents to help participants parent without resorting to violence. Volunteer for the teen crisis line, if you really want to get a reality check about what's happening to the youth in your community! If you're man enough, that is.

Help your children select nonviolent toys, television programs and movies. DON'T BUY WAR TOYS!!! Read books to your children that promote peaceful conflict resolution.

Speak out against movies and television programs that glamorize violence or make it funny. TV Violence

Lead by example. Children learn more from our actions than our words. (Don't Laugh at Me.)

www.menstuff.org has compiled information, books and resources on the issue of violence and solutions to violence. See "Books" on anger, violence-domestic, violence-rape, violence-sexual, "Issues" on Violence-General, TV Violence and Domestic Violence plus a Q&A Slide Guide on Gangs and Safe Dating, and "Resources" for Alternatives to Violence programs nationwide.

Gordon Clay

Source: Photograph © 2004 by Dale Hudjik, a photographer, father and guardian of the little boy . See www.spunwithtears.com/040706.html

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