Archive for Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Where are we going … and why?

April 25, 2001

Just weeks ago I photographed city workers filling potholes. Understandably, with the weather extremes of the spring season coupled with the customary heavy flow of traffic, within weeks, and in some instances, days, the original potholes returned.

What's more, each year the holes seem to crop up in the same places.

I wonder, what is it that makes this happen? These areas seem to have no more traffic than the rest of the roadway. Is there a seepage of water from a spring or a leak somewhere that continually gnaws away at the pavement above? Is there a flaw with the original roadway's surface? Is there a movement, some fluidity, of the earth in that particular spot, that generates instability?

Like so much in the world, to most of us the answer is a mystery.

Oddly enough, on my drive to work one day last week, as I dodged potholes, I pondered these things, and these questions led to a more serious one.

That morning I had read a newspaper account of a study in which researchers concluded that the more time a child spends during preschool years in the care of a daycare provider, a nanny, even a grandparent, the more apt the child is to exhibit signs of violence by the age of 6 years.

This theory threatens to pull the rug out from under my previous belief that the bulk of the blame for youth and teen violence could be targeted at television and violent video games.

In my years as a parent, I have often met other parents who would not allow their children to play with toy guns. I've further observed that commonly, children who do not own toy guns will pick up a stick, point it at someone and pretend to be shooting a gun.

Where does this knowledge and urge come from? Who are these children mimicking? A child who truly did not know about guns wouldn't do that. So I can surmise this stems from television. Even most of the most "family" of family shows has been known to depict guns and weapons sometimes in a jesting manner, but shown all the same.

We all could go off on a tirade about video games in which the winner is the player who annihilates the most victims.

Last week a young Kansas City driver was convicted of manslaughter, having become impatient in a Sandstone traffic jam.

Driving more than 60 mph on the road's shoulder, he took off on top of the other cars and in doing so, crushed a car's roof, killing a passenger inside.

In Tonganoxie, a sixth-grade student has been expelled for threatening to kill a teacher and principal.

A generation ago, an angry student might have talked back but it's doubtful that threats of death or violence would have been made.

In McLouth on Easter Sunday, youths broke into the school and vandalized the building, even attempting to start a fire in a hallway.

So often today when a child or teen is angry or frustrated, they react in violence.

Where did these young minds get the idea that violence, or threats of violence is the way to salve frustrations?

Is it from the media displays of violence, which almost add a heroic touch to the offender's life? Is it from television shows and movies that depict violence, gunshots and wild car rides as commonplace? Is it from video games?

Or is it from society in general a society in which mothers work, and, yes, many children are essentially raised during working hours by someone else.

Does this total up into an underlying crevasse in which society, both knowingly and unknowingly, is falling into hopelessly deeper all the time?

And, given the apparently increasing propensity toward violence, what will happen when these youths who tend to be violent today reach middle age and perhaps find themselves disgruntled with an employer, or with government, or with society?

Even one more Timothy McVeigh would be too many.

In every life, there will be rough spots, just as on every street there will be potholes. Some of these we may traverse gracefully, and in some we will most likely hit in the middle.

Who will keep on going and who will have a blowout?

The big question isn't what is the cause of violence when violence erupts. It's not even who is doing the violence.

The underlying question is: What are the conditions that have broken the surface in the first place, leaving visible signs that something, perhaps something far from what the eye can see, and a world away from what the heart can know, has crumbled?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.