December
17th 2012
Other links, other views on the Newtown, Conn. mass murder, plus a reconsideration of parenting.

Posted under: American history, class, Gender, race

Tenured RadicalTeachers are not soldiers, which recounts her own experience during a campus “lockdown” in May of 2009.

Chris at HistoricusReligion in Schools Wouldn’t Prevent Mass Shootings, in which he comments on Mike Huckabee’s inane analysis and offers a look at the real history of American civic and political life before institutionally-led prayer was banned in schools.  Two Buck Huck upped the ante over the weekend, BTW.  According to Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon,  “There you have it. It wasn’t a mentally ill lunatic with easy access to military grade weaponry that caused one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. It was “abortion pills,” iPhones, evolution and homosexuals.”

Joel Achenbach at the Washington Post, on the life of the murderer of Newtown, Conn:  “Slowly, amid rumor and misinformation, a picture of the killer is emerging, and it is dismayingly familiar. Adam Lanza was yet another young, withdrawn, middle-class male who for some unimaginable reason graduated from his adolescence as a mass murderer.”

Some readers have taken issue with my previous post, and I welcome your frank evaluations.  As a feminist blogger, I was reluctant to write about the questions I have about parenting, gender, and in particular the strangely enabling relationship I have seen among some mothers and their teenaged sons in the past 15 years or so (the course of my professional career) which seem to reflect some of the issues that may have been at work in the home of the Newtown, Conn. mass murder.  Of course, one major story line we’ll see is that the mother was to blame, just as mothers everywhere are blamed with pretty much everything.  But, of course, this may be true sometimes.  (It seems to be literally true in that the murderer’s mother was the legal owner of an enormous home arsenal, so it is true in that we know that her guns were used to kill her, 6 other women, 12 girls, and 8 boys.)

I admit that I have zero expertise in mental health or mental illness issues, behavioral psychology, or family counseling.  I admit that the post attempting to connect some of my observations about the differences I have observed about teenaged and young adult men and women on the one hand to the oddly isolated murderer and his mother was half-baked and perhaps better left unpublished.

However:  I will take a personal stand on one thing, and that is that I believe parenting matters in the lives of children and young adults.  It is not the only thing, but I think it is probably the most important thing, at least until young adults leave home.  This is based on my observation of a generation of college students as well as more recent intermittent experience with classrooms of younger children.  Admittedly, this is mostly a hunch.  Maybe it’s a comforting belief now, a falsely comforting one, because I can say with great assurance that I would never make the choices the mother of the mass murderer made, as can most of you, I am sure.  But I still believe that parenting matters, and that parents are responsible for the environment and the boundaries they draw while raising their children.  Maybe they don’t work in all cases–we’ve all read stories about children with attachment disorders and severe forms of mental illness that make their parents’ lives a heartache.  But I think that in most cases, parenting really matters.

 

29 Comments »

29 Responses to “Other links, other views on the Newtown, Conn. mass murder, plus a reconsideration of parenting.”

  1. Historiann on 17 Dec 2012 at 10:06 am #

    Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe endorses a multilateral approach that includes gun control.

  2. Historiann on 17 Dec 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Also, see Amy Davidson back on Friday afternoon at The New Yorker.

  3. Perpetua on 17 Dec 2012 at 11:31 am #

    I thought this was quite an interesting read, on cnn: http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/17/opinion/newman-school-shooters/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

    The idea that the killers are trying to gain social inclusion is fascinating, and circles back to your earlier posts about white masculinity. (And of course insights about parenting and familial relations since these kids and their signals are being ignored.) For me, it reinforces my belief that young white men engage in these types of atrocities because they see it *benefiting* themselves, even in death.

  4. Historiann on 17 Dec 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Thanks, Perpetua–that’s an informative article. The notion that the murderers are seeking social status and fame abs. resonates. A lot of these young men leave behind detailed journals bragging about how they’re going to go down in history with Klebold & Harris, etc.

    I suppose it DOESN’T quite back up my argument that parenting matters exactly, since it talks about the importance of peer opinion rather that parental opinion. Where are the parents of these kids when they’re being bullied? I mean, seriously: why don’t they suggest that the boys get involved in church groups, other activities, or some alternative peer outlet outside of the school context? If I saw a child of mine becoming isolated and angry, you’d better bet I’d be on that in 5 minutes.

    Speaking of parenting: Joe Scarborough was talking today on his show about taking violent video games off the market, because apparently parents of boy have absolutely no power or control over the media they consume. I agree that keeping children away from violent games (or actually, ALL games) is imperative, but that should be a parent’s first responsibility, not a censorship board’s job.

    Limiting children’s exposure to media is not hard, if you’re willing to limit your own exposure to media. But of course, few adults are willing to do that.

    Canada’s gun permitting process almost guarantees that completely withdrawn men won’t get their hands on guns, as it requires two people to vouch for the person seeking a gun. I mentioned that here a while ago–maybe last summer w/r/t the Aurora shootings, but the sad thing is that I can’t really remember b/c there have been so many mass murders since I started this blog. . .

  5. Knitting Clio on 17 Dec 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Thanks for the round-up, Historiann. Speaking of parenting and blogging, see this exchange:
    http://sarahkendzior.com/2012/12/16/a-brief-response-on-liza-long/

    For more on white masculinity, see http://wearerespectablenegroes.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-white-man-talking-to-all-of-us-post.html

  6. Historiann on 17 Dec 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    Thanks, KC. Wow–that whole blogwar seems pretty nutty! I suppose it just goes to show that we should be skeptical of what we read on the non-peer reviewed interwebz. A person’s portrayal of her family life is just that–a literary representation, not factual reportage.

    I will just point out: The whole fracas appears to be great evidence for why one should not play mommy on the intertubes! (Just sayin’.) I agree with Sarah Endzior’s thoughts about children and privacy, natch.

    And thanks for linking to Chauncy–he’s been on fire lately.

  7. Historiann on 17 Dec 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    And here’s a signal boost to a blog post linked to at We Are Respectable Negroes by Werner Hertzog’s Bear.

  8. Daniel S. Goldberg on 17 Dec 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Great roundup, Historiann. I was discussing this with my psychologist partner yesterday, and I think it’s perilous to infer simply from the extreme nature of this incident that the perpetrator was mentally ill.

    This assumes far too much both about the social construction of mental illness and about the ontological problem of evil, IMO. It is comforting to believe that the only reason someone could do something so unspeakable, so — well — evil is because they are mentally ill, but what does mentally ill even mean in this context? Is it an unconscious or at least reflexive invocation of the biological model of psychiatry, a model that is both deeply problematic and in many people’s opinion — mine included — has caused a very great deal more human suffering than it has ameliorated.

    If it is not neurobabble, then what would it mean to say that Adam Lanza was mentally ill? Aberrant? Abnormal? But of course these adjectives are themselves deeply problematic, and their usage in American history has contributed to centuries of discrimination and worse against disabled persons.

    I am not speaking here as an expert on mental illness, which I most assuredly am not. But I do think the problem of evil cannot be avoided, and sometimes assigning agency for evil to illness helps us avoid what I think are some of the most existentially frightening possibilities, that evil exists, that sane, mentally whole people seem to be able to do unspeakable things.

    This also gets into the whole area of Arendt Studies and the banality of evil material . . . how do we account for the fact that large numbers of people materially involved in the Third Reich went out during the day and committed unspeakable acts, after which they came home at night and played with their children, bathed them, and sang them bedtime songs? Were they mentally ill? Socially deranged? Both? Neither?

    I’m not offering any of the above as answers to anything at all, but I am not at all sure that we are justified in inferring mental illness to Lanza without much better and more specific evidence (although even this might not be enough given how frequently mental health experts diverge on diagnoses of identical patients).

    Daniel Lende has some nice perspectives on these questions here:

    http://blogs.plos.org/neuroanthropology/2012/12/17/newtown-and-violence-no-easy-answers/

  9. Daniel S. Goldberg on 17 Dec 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    erratum:

    “inferring mental illness” should read

    “attributing mental illness”

  10. Canuck Down South on 17 Dec 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    Regarding Historiann’s comment about guns in Canada above, it’s *actually* not that difficult to get a hold of a handgun in Canada, because of the huge black market cross-border traffic in them. You can’t legally buy a handgun in Canada, and if you’re as isolated as some of these shooters seem to be, it would be difficult to access that black market, as (presumably) it requires some social skills and contacts to negotiate it. But a large percentage of shootings in Canada are carried out with American-sourced handguns: the shooting in the downtown mall in Toronto this summer, for example, turned out to be a targeted, gang-related shooting. So it’s even though it’s better up north, American-style gun violence spills over the border quite regularly.

  11. Toonces on 17 Dec 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    If we called obsession/comfort/fascination with violence a mental illness, it would be relatively clear which mental illness they ALL have in common (as well as so many other kinds of perpetrators). But we call it normal, at least for boys and men. Once you are comfortable with violence, it becomes easier to see it as a way to solve problems, whether you have schizophrenia or just white middle-class male issues. People keep trying to find something else, but the experts are actually telling us exactly what it is, besides the guns, that cause these incidents.

    Sure, parents should have great, open relationships with their kids/teenagers and they should know what media is being consumed at all times, but when 9-year-olds have cell phones (and they basically have to) and they know more than their parents about how to crack them and disable monitoring software on the home computer or how to unlock computers at the library or when their friend has a laptop or every cable channel… I mean, you have to go back to the model of a full-time stay-at-home parent and children only allowed to go to church activities outside the home to make monitoring your children’s media possible, and even then, there’s going to be a lot missed. I don’t think people get how much violent media boys consume from the time they’re 10-12 years of age, from video games, to movies, to MMA fighting, to football, to music, to zillions of things on the internet, day in and day out and it becomes their escape, it becomes their world and they’re reinforced that this is “manly” because there is relatively little in the way of peaceful, respectful, non-aggressive masculinity modeled in the media (that’s gay!). Parents should be able to prevent their kids from becoming addicted to meth, too, but it’s not always possible or even practical, especially in places where being a meth-head is extremely common. Parents should be able to prevent their kids from eating junkfood and drinking soda, too, but just like violent media, it’s big business and they are deluged with ads. Parents should prevent their tweenz from dressing like strippers, parents should be able to prevent their kids from absorbing racism/sexism/homophobia, etc. etc. etc. but parents aren’t raising their kids in a vacuum.

  12. cgeye on 17 Dec 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Here’s a thoughtful comment via Parabasis, by 99 seats:

    “Here’s what I think: blue state governors and legislatures should be pushed to taking up the same level of restrictions on gun ownership and sales that red state governors do with abortion and women’s health. Mandate long waiting periods, widespread notification (your family, your local police department, the state police department, your place of employment), a full psychological test profile, as well as a viewing of Bowling for Columbine before someone can buy a gun.

    Gun sales should absolutely have to be recorded, in all instances, and gun salespeople should be registered, licensed and required to be, at the very least, auxiliary police officers in their local community. If they’re not, they shouldn’t be allowed to sell guns in the state. If you want to restrict access to a thing, we know what works. So let’s do that.

    The real larger issue here, though, is completely cultural. These mass events are terrible, but they’re not the ones we should be concerned about. More people died in Chicago this summer from gun deaths than in Afghanistan. A man killed his girlfriend and himself two weeks ago and people are rushing to explain it away. And yes, two disturbed individuals took multiple lives with guns this week and received bountiful attention for it. We have a culture that says if you have a problem, if you’re angry about something or upset, grab a gun and take care of it. That’s the larger problem. How do we confront that?”

    http://parabasis.typepad.com/blog/2012/12/some-thoughts-on-gun-control.html#comments

  13. Historiann on 17 Dec 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    cgeye: I like the idea of regulating gun ownership at least as aggressively as abortions. Awesome idea!

    Toonces: the world of childhood you describe is totally foreign to me. I must be living in la-la land, as must my nephews in Wisconsin and Maine (both aged 8.) But maybe this is the world that children grow up in if they’ve been left to their own devices, if they’re growing up with cable TV blaring at them all of the time, if they’re permitted unlimited access to TV and video games. But as I said: that’s a choice, not mandatory. Not having a TV in your living room, and not having a game console, and spending some time at home w/ children pretty much means 100% avoidance of that garbage!

    Maybe things are worse for most kids than I ever thought.

  14. Toonces on 17 Dec 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    Historiann, not having a TV and a videogame console, and now an iPad or smartphone would make kids the weirdos and more likely to be socially isolated. You have to be upper-middle-class with a lot of time outside of work and access to, as you say, a Montessori type school and a neighborhood with similar parental sensibilities to be able to control your kids media world today, and that’s not the average setup. A lot of parents play violent games with their kids, even very young ones, in fact.

    My experience is that the boy who grows up NOT in that culture is the exception, rather than the rule. I’ve personally known young men who play first-person shooter games and walk around talking about how they would like to shoot every person they have any minor problem with, from their boss to a customer to their neighbors, yet they don’t read as “off” to people, and they’re even quite socially adept and well-liked.

    I am not saying censorship is the answer, and I don’t even believe handguns should be legal (let alone concealed), but when we talk about this vague “mental illness” that no one can really define (psychosis? depression? mania? what?) and we don’t mention the interest in violence part, it’s very strange to me.

  15. Someone Not Willing to Put A Name to This Post on 17 Dec 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    Following the reaction to the shooting, and to the various posts about parents dealing with potentially violent children has troubled me a great deal. It’s taken me a long time to put my finger on it, and today I finally came up with the answer.

    When I was a teenager my mother tried repeatedly to convince school officials, and psychologists that I was disturbed and violent. That I was destructive and uncontrolable. Sometimes she presented as a reasonable rational person. She had an Ivy League PhD, and used it to gain authority in these situtations when she would never have otherwise pulled the credential.

    Fortunately for me, most of the time she came off as a raving lunatic. At the time she and I were at open warfare because yes, I was uncontrollable, but mostly because the amount of control she was trying to use was not rational. My siblings had trouble with her and were estranged, but I had a much more confrontational personality and as such I was the one she physically attacked.

    Yet I lived in terror that she was going to convince some authority figure that I was a danger. I lived in that terror because she tried. As an adult I wonder if she didn’t succeed because I was female and though socially isolated not causing problems in school.

    In a lot of the discussions of parenting of difficult children I have seen online have been assuming that parents are rational actors and their self reported problems with their children should be taken at face value.

    I had failure to launch problems in my early twenties mostly because I didn’t know how to live independently because being indepent was not something my parents were interested in teaching me.

    I think the point I’m trying to make is one of skeptism. It’s not that I don’t believe parents have difficult or troubled children, but that I’d wager more often than not, the situation is a lot less clear.

  16. Toonces on 17 Dec 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    I agree, Someone. I think parents often need mental health treatment as much as or more than their troubled kids, yet they are rewarded socially with automatic sympathy for being a long-suffering parent and having a “bad” child who causes all of their problems by acting out what’s going on at home, especially if the children are teenaged. It’s like a Munchausen by-proxy thing and I believe it happens more than we realize in ADHD/mental health treatment of these kids who are basically abused and then the parents are getting help in “controlling” them. I don’t know if it’s a common problem, but in this case, flags were raised for me because the mother seems to have isolated Adam to an extreme degree to “help” him…

    (Sorry for thread-hogging. Thanks for the space.)

  17. Historiann on 17 Dec 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    That’s really interesting about the Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy idea. I have a friend whose parents were truly psychotic (2 years after kicking her out of the house, they tried to get her kicked out of medical school b/c they claimed she was no longer a resident of the state in which she was enrolled), so I think I know what you’re talking about. Suspicion and paranoia about everyone else’s motives and actions usually equals a guilty conscience.

    I think I still disagree that having a home that’s unplugged is necessarily a sign of privilege. One saves a lot of money if one does’t have TV, an iPad/PC/tablet, or video games, and books from the public library are free. Who cares if your kid is a “freak,” given the destructive things that would make him fit in? I do take your point about the luxury of time, but I would argue that that, too, is a choice. (A lot of my neighbors are schoolteachers & so have somewhat more flexible hours, esp. in the summer, with their kids. They also don’t take vacations, and drive humble cars, because they’d rather have the time at home.)

    The kids in my neighborhood are still playing with boxes, tape, and scissors, building spaceships and elaborate condos for their dolls and stuffed animals. I’m grateful, as it seems a lot less dangerous and a lot more imaginative than being entertained by electronic media, let alone the exposure to violence.

  18. Historiann on 17 Dec 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    I take your point about freak kids, though I don’t think parents should care about that so much. I was trying to dial up a Radio Lab podcast for my nephew and another kid last summer, and I made a comment about how I didn’t know if it was a full episode or one of their “shorts” (a short podcast.) My nephew immediately said, “Shorts like Will Schortz?” (NPR’s puzzle guy), and the other kid asked “Shorts like Selected Shorts?”

    So maybe it ain’t normal for 8-year olds to be so familiar with the NPR and PRI schedules. We should consider dialing back on their radio consumption.

  19. koshembos on 17 Dec 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    The personal pain and threat lies heavily on us. We, spouse and I, have grandkids the age of the kids murdered in Newtown. How do the murderers break up? It isn’t only Adam Lanza. It’s also the aiding congress. The law sees the two parties equally responsible. There are more guilty parties.

    The interpretation of the 2nd amendment is a joke. It means that I can by a tank.

    Parenting still is a mystery to me. Doing my best is way short of sufficient for and with successful kids. I have seen awful failures. Somehow luck is very important.

  20. truffula on 18 Dec 2012 at 12:44 am #

    Limiting children’s exposure to media is not hard

    The day my children went of to preschool was the day I came to the startling realization that never again would I know everything that happened in their days. They would experience the points of view, values, and boundaries set by other children’s parents as well as my own. All you have to do is watch children at play at a public playground to realize that other families have values different from your own.

    I learned how to think about this by reading anti-racist parenting articles at racialicious and similar blogs. The world is full of racism, violence, pink kitchen play sets, and lady-shaped cartoon androids selling vodka. I can’t act as if it does not exist and I think I’d be doing my children a disservice if I did. What I can do is help my children learn to recognize it when they see it, think about how it affects both themselves and others, and put it in its place.

    My hope is for them to develop the skills to self regulate, to recognize violence and violent content and turn away from it. This works a lot of the time but they still have friends whose parents have different values and I’m not sure it would be helpful to just shut that down (even if I could). We also talk about not judging others for their values while also holding true to our own. I have started to talk about the idea of being an ally but this is a challenge with the grade school set (it tuns out to be hard with my aging peers as well).

  21. Perpetua on 18 Dec 2012 at 6:39 am #

    @Historiann and truffula on limiting media & parenting. I agree that limiting media isn’t hard in one’s own home. We don’t have a television. We have laptops and ipads, and I don’t think introducing kids to how these technologies work is the same as giving unlimited access to the internet. We are careful about their toys, books, and the videos they watch (and how much they watch). And yet, like truffula, when I got them to school I realized how little control I would have over what my child was exposed to. I should clarify here that I am the mother of two sons, so all of these issues are things I think about a *lot*. Anyway, he got obsessed with super heroes and play fighting, and now it’s gun fingers. The school has a no-violent-play policy, but they can’t monitor the children on the playground every second. Moreover, many of the parents don’t care about this rule and think it is silly. One of them rolled their eyes (with me, I think) and said: “You just can’t keep them away from superheroes!” I was pretty annoyed – my son is friends with her son, and her son taught him everything he knows about superheroes. My thought was, actually I put zero effort into keeping my kid away from superheroes before school. Now I see all kinds of proto-bullying behavior at the school, some of which my son was participating in, some of which was directed at him. He’s four. It’s scares the pants off me. I do blame other parents, I have to admit. It’s hard to put so much effort into creating a different paradigm only to confront mainstream society. They don’t question or problematize conventional masculinity, or they valorize that type of play. Now, I don’t think gun play = mass murderer. I played guns myself as a child and I’m a pacifist. But the other parents have to be on board with the program in order to create an anti-racist, gender-neutral, peaceful atmosphere. I guess schools can help by having really good programs in place, and I do my best with my kid (I was so delighted the other day he said to me, some kids say that nail polish is only for girls, but it’s really for girls AND boys. So at least for now he’s pushing back a bit).

  22. Historiann on 18 Dec 2012 at 8:34 am #

    Wow. I think I really do live in la-la land.

    I guess my original instincts were correct: parenting does matter, as it sounds like truffula and perpetua are struggling against other people’s parenting choices and other children’s media exposure mightily.

    I agree with truffula: all you can do is remind your children where they come from and what the rules are at your ranch. I think it’s worth fighting against normative boy culture, which strikes me as incredibly vapid and violent.

    I’m struck by the comment from the other parent in perpetua’s comment that “you just can’t keep them away from superheroes.” How stupid to see parenting as a herd activity when most people are led by the lowest common denominator. I think it’s a real mistake to think that she as a parent is so powerless.

  23. truffula on 18 Dec 2012 at 8:37 am #

    I hear ya’ Perpetua. My children are both boys too. When they first learned about “superheroes,” we were living overseas. They asked what that was about and I said superheroes are fiction, let’s talk about what makes a real hero instead. We then went on to talk about Rosa Parks, how she was part of a movement, trained in nonviolence, etc. we talked about living by your values and my idea that heroism is taking a risk you don’t have to take with the hope of helping somebody other than yourself.

    I am always thinking about how to subvert pop culture themes toward stuff I want to talk about with them. Sometimes that does mean comparative superhero analysis. Say, the differences between the Batman and Spiderman. I’m okay with that.

  24. Perpetua on 18 Dec 2012 at 9:15 am #

    @Truffula – a little OT, but do you know a good children’s book (for the under 6 crowd) that deals with real life heroes like Rosa Parks, but in conjunction with other non violent heroes? I have to be careful doing too much “talking to” my son about things – he’s hyper-sensitive to feeling lectured to. We find books work better than talks, except the very briefest of talks.

    @Historiann, I totally agree about this “powerless” parent. But I think at the end, she just doesn’t care/ see the problem. Then again, her kid bites and scratches and taunts my kid. And, just as a data point, my kids go to a Montessori school.

  25. Chris on 18 Dec 2012 at 10:31 am #

    So….

    I’m not in the age-range of the mass shooters of the past two decades (Nixon was still in his first term when I was born), so I have a bit of a different perspective on the issue of newness of the pervasiveness of violence in the media environment that children, especially boys, are exposed to than many of the commentators here. I also don’t yet have children (we’re pursuing adoption after I finish my PhD), which gives me a bit of a different focus. The thing is, I remember lots of violence in media growing up during the 1970s and 1980s. I watched the Loan Ranger ever day before going to kindergarden or elementary school, saw Star Wars with my Dad and the parish priest (though Bambi and Fantasia are the first movies I remember). We grew up playing with cap guns that looked like six-shooters and smelled of gunpowder when we used them, and I consumed loads of comic books, novels, TV shows, and cartoons that seem quite violent. And that was before GI Joe, the Transformers, and the A-Team showed up on television and made it look like you could shoot at people and blow them up without harming anyone. By the 1980s, the Teen-aged Mutant Ninja Turtles in the cartoon form had small kids practice faux martial arts moves in random places, and on random people.

    There was also a very permissive environment for acquiring guns, even those that were fully automatic. I received a rifle for Christmas when I was just ten (I still have it, partially disassembled, and it hasn’t been fired since around 1981. The thing is most useful as a club these days). At the same time, though, even with the violence of the drug trade during the 1980s, we didn’t experience the same rash of mass shootings that we have now. Something has clearly changed in our culture alongside the end of the Assault Weapons Ban in the middle of the last decade. I’m not sure that media is more violent now, but it is definitely more pervasive, and it seems unmonitored by parents (mine didn’t let us watch R-rated movies until we were 17, and they weren’t on before 8 pm in the pre-V chip era).

    I hadn’t noticed until this discussion, but we do seem to be missing masculine examples of solving problems in nonviolent ways – Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo, Father Mulcahey (and Hawkeye and Trapper John), Bill Cosby, and their ilk seem less likely to be successful in the modern media environment. The question to me in this regard, though, is whether media made that change for us, or we as a culture stopped responding to those types of characters as much.

  26. truffula on 18 Dec 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Perpetua: Our boys liked Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter andThe people who hugged the trees, and Indian folk tale adapted by Deborah Lee Rose. Both are about organized, nonviolent responses to environmental threats. I recall that we liked Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo but I don’t remember much about it other than the wonderful art. <I?Harvesting Hope, about Cesar Chavez, is good.

    Another book we love (and read a lot) is The Duck in the Gun by Joy Cowley. This New Zealand classic (fiction, picture book) is about subverting the war machine. It was first published in 1969. You might also be interested in Shaun Tan’s beautiful, beautiful books. In this context, The Rabbits is about the effects of colonization on the colonized.

    We also talk a lot about people we know who engage in nonviolent civil resistance, on the front line, doing jail support, leading trainings, the whole nine yards. I think it is important for them to know that heroes are best not thought of as famous people but people just like us and that means that they are complicated, just like us.

    We do a thing called metta practice, in which we reflect on the people we love, starting with ourselves, then circling out to include our family, our friends, the folks we recognize at the market, the birds and the bees and sycamore trees, and eventually also the people who make us very angry. When they were very young we didn’t call it that, we just had this conversation at the end of the day as they were drifting off to sleep. As they grow older I’ve made it a bit more formal.

  27. cgeye on 18 Dec 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    I think the focus of the violence kids see in the media has changed.

    Watching TV westerns of the 50s and early 60s on the weekends, I was surprised how much of the violence was directed by the loner toward another violent loner, a lot of the time against the wishes of the town supposedly wanting peace. Either the town’s authorities wanted to go all vigilante, or concede, but corporate power, in the aggregate, was either corrupt or cowardly, and in most cases not to be trusted.

    Was it any surprise that the youngfolk who watched those shows grew up to protest the war in Vietnam?

    Then, the turn: Dirty Harry, Death Wish and their ilk, that basically considered the entire concept of the city to be corrupt, with its townspeople being predated on by organized crime protected by a toothless police. Trust in policemen went away, save for those dashing undercover cops always yelled at by their (powerless, minority) boss. Those cops, if personable enough, stayed on the TV schedule, but soon pure vigilantes popped up – remember when the A-Team was considered the most violent show on the air? Innocent days….

    Crime-fighting power on TV was recentralized after 9/11, so our SWAT are the swattiest, our counter-terrorism troops the most destructive (how many times did the US get attacked on 24, due to one more sex partner or mole CTU trusted?), and our vigilantes, the most connected and thorough (Person of Interest’s full-bore surveillance, anyone?) And, if the whole rule of law is just boring, turn on The Walking Dead, which shows action (i.e. violence) that surpasses Night of the Living Dead’s original X rating. If there is an excuse to restore order, we will tolerate seeing (and paying for, either through cable subscriptions or ad revenues) the most violent actions possible. And, yet, we don’t see many frontally-naked men on TV, do we?

    That tells me that if we wanted to control what we consider important societally, we still could. It’s just male executives still draw the line at that.

    Once the Internet perfected streaming audio, the V-Chip became irrelevant. And, once smartphones could be understood better by children than adults, parental blocks became easily hackable. The fronts on which parents must fight to keep a standard of media hygiene for their kids have expanded so quickly that playground conversation does devolve to the lowest common denominator — but parents who care so little for what their kids see are even more enraged when another parent calls them on it.

  28. Chris on 18 Dec 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    A new item that if I had known, would have topped my list of pre-prayer ban atrocity in U.S. History – the most deadly school shooting in American history occurred back in 1927. Prayer in schools wasn’t banned until 1962/63.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2012/12/18/bath_school_bombing_remembering_the_deadliest_school_massacre_in_american.html

  29. Civilization and barbarism | Mictlantecuhtli on 19 Dec 2012 at 11:45 am #

    [...] than it would be merely to find a way to make sure no white mothers raise psychotic sons. Here is one of the comments on Historiann that I like, and another, and [...]