Failing Our Children – Again

We, as a society, have failed our children when they cannot safely go to school, concerts or about their daily lives. We have also failed them when we promote policies that increase their chances of  growing up in unstable households and being illiterate, unpracticed in logical thinking, unnecessarily drugged, addicted to violent video games, in a culture that devalues life, and without a moral compass. Compounding our failures is not a good idea.

My heart, like yours, goes out to those children who faced gunfire in Parkland, Florida and whose lives were lost or forever changed by that event. A massacre like that, just as previous mass shootings, should call us to re-evaluate and assess our nation. However, while emotions should prod us to action, just what those actions should be must be dictated only by facts and reality. Emotions, by their very definition are unstable and volatile. Justice and policy should not be.

I was barely an adolescent when the Twenty-sixth Amendment gave eighteen-year-olds the right to vote. The slogan I remember from that time in the thick of the Vietnam War was, “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” At the time, it made perfect sense to me. I am not so sure about it now.

In the real world, adults make life and death decisions that impact children all the time. And while I completely understand that young adults don’t want to be called children any more than I did at that age, society does need age limits for many activities. We set the age for obtaining a driver’s license, buying cigarettes or liquor, marrying or voting. When we sentence someone as a juvenile offender rather than as an adult or when we provide benefits to those below a certain age, we are making a decision as a society that there is a distinction between children and adults. Caring for children often means not allowing them to make their own decisions.

In the 1960s, adult educators abdicated their responsibilities and handed college campuses over to the students. Unwilling to accept the obligations of loco parentis, administrations responded to violence and destruction by handing the keys to the rioters. That weakness has now progressed to the point where students in colleges are truly treated as fragile children, incapable of being exposed to a view with which they disagree. Indoctrination has replaced imparting knowledge on too many campuses. Granted that mature thinking is absent among many who are in their twenties, thirties and beyond, but in retrospect lowering the voting age gave a right to vote while at the same time we were busy eroding the meaning of adulthood and diminishing civic obligations.

The Florida teenagers who are advocating for gun control and see the NRA as an enemy are acting in a manner consistent with their age. As adults, our role is to use the opportunity to broaden their horizons. Changing gun laws may perhaps be needed for a safer society. However, without honest analysis of many factors, there is no way to know whether or not that is true or what such changes should be. There might be other steps that can be taken that would have a greater effect at less of a cost. Emotional outbursts rarely lead to changes that do more good than harm.

Our veneration of feelings over facts is not a healthy one. As adults, we need to support young people who have been hurt. Part of that support is not feeding them myths about magic solutions, not letting them be pawns in the hands of manipulators, and helping them understand the trade-offs, potential unintended consequences and complexities of any legislation. Our society has many flaws; sacrificing one Constitutional right and scapegoating one issue can only bring more grief rather than less.

46 thoughts on “Failing Our Children – Again”

  1. Thank you, Rabbi. I do value yours and Susan’s knowledge and perspective. Are you saying anyone, including parents, who have lost a loved one, or even a child to gun violence in a school shooting or otherwise is not capable of valuable input in a gun debate? I’m not wishing to debate and only want to make sure I am understanding your message correctly. I appreciate your time.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Josephine–
      Regardless of cause, anybody in the grip of powerful emotions, say, grief or anger, should not make important decisions. While any person under the influence of emotion needs expression and needs to be heard, they should usually not be listened to. Until the emotion has subsided. The classmates of the murdered obviously need to grieve and maybe they needed to express their feelings. Adults who think their words should constitute national policy are idiots. Any parent who issues an ultimatum or makes an irrevocable decision while in the grip of fury is extremely unwise.

  2. I’m certainly not expecting a magic solution-there isn’t one for sure. And experiencing a tragedy doesn’t make one incapable of logic. However, it does allow one to better see both sides of the coin and become willing to work toward a logical, not one-sided, solution.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Josephine–
      I am sorry you had to experience someone close to you taking his own life. It can take a long time for the emotional intensity of that nearby tragedy to diminish. Have you ever seen how the mother of a proven vicious multiple murderer often speaks to the judge about her son in terms one would normally reserve for a particularly pure and cherubic choir boy? Her perfectly normal and natural emotional attachment to her son prevents her from seeing him the way he really is. This is a great example of how emotional intensity inevitably distorts the judgement of normal healthy humans. Only psychopaths can witness tragedy and emerge untouched. This is why I disagree with your contention that experiencing a tragedy allows one to “better see both sides of the coin…” It actually does exactly the opposite for normal healthy people.
      May we all be spared from tragedies in our lives.

  3. I do wonder if anyone in this thread has ever been personally affected by a school shooting or lost someone to gun violence. For those in this unfortunate category, the harsh reality of lives ended by simply pulling a trigger changes the way you view this subject. Having lost a loved one to suicide by gun, I no longer am pro gun, especially not automatic rifles. For me, the real question is how to help what seems like a growing number, or at least an awareness of the number, of mentally unstable people that are such a danger to others and themselves while in possession of a gun. And then there are those who view guns basically as toys to play with. I don’t think reasonable people should ever view a gun casually; they are designed for one thing: killing. And that is very serious indeed.

      In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
      In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
      Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
      China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
      Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
      Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
      Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
      56 million defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control.

      Government that governs least is good, Government that can govern not at all is best……
      And to the ‘Hunters’ out there, a dear friend back in Ark. would deer hunt with a .22 and get ‘Bambee’ with ONE SHOT EVERY TIME……and no meat waste(EYE SOCKET) and never a trophy in his home, and used every bit of the deer……
      NRA is a JOKE, look up ‘JEWS for the PRESERVATION of FIRE ARMS’, my fav. is the former Pres. a ‘Pistol Packing RABBI’….LV ALL yall(Yes, I am from the south….)
      PS, my friend was a Navy SEAL having done 2 tours in Viet Nam.

    2. Josephine, if you have personally been affected then I understand that this is a very emotional issue for you. I learned an important lesson years ago in Los Angeles. There was a well-known and influential radio personality who was very opposed to the death penalty. One night, a close friend of hers was raped and murdered. Her views on the death penalty changed instantly. All her reasoning went out the window.
      Emotional reactions of individuals are a terrible way to decide policies that affect hundreds of millions of people. There is no point in pitting a horrible story of someone who lost a loved one to gun violence in a situation against someone who also lost someone to gun violence and feels they could have saved that person if they hadn’t been forced to leave their own gun in their car. Both stories are tragic.
      Every – EVERY- solution will have flaws. We have to be able to rationally discuss and assess benefits, feasibility, consequences, costs and everything else. When we jump to one magic solution, we aren’t tackling any problem.

  4. Boy oh Boy Susan did you open a can of worms. I normally take it in and let things go but I do have to commit on this one.
    I have lived through the last 60 years of being an America. I have served in the military when I was 19. I went to school and learned of our history some what questionable in many cases.
    As of today or 60 years ago in any country depending on the conditions 14 verses 21 age maturity will be determined by war torn conditions to life as we have it today in America. This is why we have seen age limits change from 18 to 21 back and forth. These conditions in our lives changes our society and who we become.
    That apart from our current situation today as we have it, is too easy.
    We lose focus of who we are and what we need. As this same thing has happen for thousands of years over and over again and again. People refuse to learn from the past as we have it in the Torah and Bible and History. God gave us the word of how to raise a Godly family if and only if we chose to do that. It has always been their yet we chose not to follow Gods word. Satan owns this world God gave it to Him. God gave us the way to keep Satan out of our lives out of our children out of our schools out of our government. But sadly we chose not to follow Gods word. The consequences is and will always be in Satan’s favor. We choose Satan over God, the simple and undeniable fact or truth. Just as Israel history has been over taken by Satan the United States is no different. We will be taken over by Satan. Little by little because we have chosen to allow it. Hopefully not until Jesus has come for us which will be our only salvation. The only way to save yourselves and your children is Gods way. The only way to have a safe life for your children and ourselves is Gods way.
    It still appalls me to no end that we accept 100 people a day to die in vehicle accidents. That’s men women and CHILDREN. That does not include hurt or mangled victims. That makes vehicles more deadly than guns. Hello anybody out there.

  5. Thank you for your writing on this topic.

    In this morning’s newspaper, there were several articles regarding missed opportunities to curtail this tragic event. A guard on duty in the school, who chose not to respond to the shooter. Multiple contacts to various agencies about the accused shooter’s behavior.

    In today’s culture that is driven by endless “news”, the tragedy is our societal inability to refrain from emotional, knee-jerk, simplistic, responses to complex problems.

    It takes time to gather information. It takes experience and maturity to formulate a response.

    Will the banning of the gun eliminate the threat? What truly is the threat? It appears that a system already in place did not work. Maybe the system needs to be strengthened.

    As heart wrenching as this event is, it could allow us an opportunity to view multiple solutions and understand their consequences. And then proceed to action.

    1. Exactly, Marian. We need to have a serious discussion that might make many people of all stripes uncomfortable. Including me!

  6. I couldn’t agree more with what you said today! It also brought to mind a personal experience. I tried calling on my daughter’s hospital bill when she was a senior in high school and turned 18 during that school year. The hospital business office would not talk to me, her father, because they said she’s an adult and it would violate HIPPA. I said, “adult?” She is on my insurance, is a dependent, has no job, no money, lives at home and is a high school girl. What do you mean she’s an adult! They said, “we will need written consent.” I felt like saying, Good luck with this bill then!!! Haha.

    1. Kevin, we have had friends with similar instances with colleges. The parents are paying the tuition and all expenses, are concerned about their child’s health, and no one will talk to them.

      1. If I recall correctly, the Virginia Tech mass murderer was being treated by a campus psychology center. The so-called professionals all knew he was a psychological mess but were not legally able to contact his family who had NO idea how sick their son was. The rest of the story, of course, was that he was able to take his time, leisurely move from one room and building at a time with not a single person inside able to protect themselves in that “gun-free” location. Apparently, mass murderers and criminals don’t read and listen to the rules that delusional college administers institute that do nothing but protect the criminals and “evil-doers.” Let’s face it; the privacy laws around medicine were instituted to protect children who seek abortions. We have age laws that different for many activities. Why not keep parents in the loop if their kids are dependents? If the parents are “allowed” to pay for their healthcare, insurance, tuition, food, board, transportation, why can’t they be kept informed of their condition?

  7. I just want to point out that our inner city schools have kids with more access to guns than any other schools and yet? Has there been one mass shooting in an inner city school? What are they doing differently? Do they have a solution?

    1. Mary, that is an interesting point. Mass shooters have their own psychology and, in my opinion, we do many things that have been increasing these events by (inadvertently) catering to the psychology of those prone to think that way.

  8. Mrs. Lapin, thank you for addressing this extremely important matter of our societal failures which we have created ourselves which has resulted in these horrific school shootings that has become a constant threat to the lives of our precious children and our American way of life. As always, your insights are deep, thoughtful, intelligent, meaningful and articulate. Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront.

    It would be foolish of us as irresponsible citizens, as we have done so many times in the past in the aftermath of recent school killings, to continue to keep kicking this proverbial can down the road. We must find, implement and execute the hard core solutions to stem the tide of this constant devastating bloodshed.

    We as Americans are now facing this incredible problem with a sense of urgency among we the parents and public officials that we have not seen in a very long time. People are fed up. Children and teachers are petrified with fear. Every disingenuous politician and talking head is being scornfully repulsed and repudiated.

    Nevertheless, execution of real hard core solutions that are absolutely effective in reducing and ultimately preventing this bloodshed must be put in place immediately to bring our country back to a civilized state.

    Hard Core Facts About Mass Murderers Living In A Free Society:
    1) On average mass murderers are predatory thinkers with the intent to ravage and slaughter their victims.
    2) Predatory thinkers view their victims as sitting ducks just waiting to be slaughtered and devoured.
    3) Predators on average, however delusional they may be, want to survive to see the bloodshed and devastation they have caused.
    4) Predatory thinkers will seek to find first the weakest of victims, the defenseless, the most vulnerable, the unsuspecting and the easiest of targets. Thus, the element of surprise is always used to their advantage.
    5) When a predator attacks he will do so in a well planned out, decisive, premeditated, quick plan of action.

    Hard Core Facts About Free Civilized People Living In A Free Society:
    1) Free people, freedom loving people, are hated, abhorred, despised, scorned, denounced and held in contempt by many around the world and sadly, even those among us.
    2) We must fight this good fight of faith to protect, preserve and defend ourselves our children and our way of life by empowering, not weakening, ourselves. This means arming ourselves to kill those who wish to kill us.
    3) Revert to number 2… We must fight back, otherwise we as a free people are condemned, damned and doomed.

    1. Michael, you obviously put a lot of thoughts into your comments. Now if we could get a lot of people with a lot of information and ideas together and speak without being shouted down, we might get somewhere.

  9. While I can intellectually understand your point of view, I can also step back and perhaps view the present situation that America is facing a little more objectively, as I live in a society where guns are a reality, but gun control is very strict. I live in Israel, where our children’s security and safety is no less important to us. There are very strict laws governing the ownership of weapons for private citizens. Not even all citizens may own a weapon, and I am referring to handguns. No one except for Army personnel or in certain security capacity are allowed to legally carry assault weapons, and why should any private citizen even need one! In order to enter a shopping mall or store or hospital or many other places one must pass through a metal detector. To my knowledge most schools have guards or security patrols. Young adults are drafted at the age of 18, highly trained and supervised in the use of weapons and combat and required to keep their weapon with them at all times on leave it doubled locked at home. I can’t recall any mass shootings at schools except by terrorists. Yes, there have certainly been terrorist attacks, but not by civilians carrying guns legally obtained (if such a thing has occurred it is an anomaly). We have a responsibility to raise our children well, teach them right from wrong and respect for human life. As the very existence of this country demonstrates, and the ethical conduct of the vast majority of soldiers has shown,18 year olds can be trained and disciplined and taught ethics and values, and yes, we can teach our children to make mature decisions. Depriving them of that leads them to rebel and make bad decisions. We can’t afford to wait until their frontal lobes mature to teach them how to make decisions and take responsibility for their actions. By 25 it is too late. Perhaps America can learn something from Israel, a country that while not perfect, and surrounded by enemies and terror, has a pretty good score.

    1. Zahava, I actually responded to a previous comment saying that Israel and America are so different on this issue that I don’t think there is much to learn from the comparison. You’re suggesting the opposite but using the details that are the reasons I think we’re so different. Americans have a hard time understanding how gun control is so strict in Israel while, when you walk the streets, there are armed youngsters all around you. There is also an entirely different culture and heritage in America of guns being a part of life in many areas of the country. I agree that we can raise responsible eighteen-year-olds, though I think in America in general our system does it best to do the opposite, though of course individual families succeed.
      So, I actually agree with you but come to a different conclusion. Shabbat Shalom.

  10. Praise God for logic, rationale and the intelligence to address a situation that was predictable and in response offer a solution that will likely actually protect our school children. Israel is the perfect role model. Blessings!

    1. Actually, Kristin, I personally don’t think Israel is a good role model on this issue because the two societies are so different.

  11. I, too, agree completely, Susan.

    I loved the comment I saw on another web page:

    Quote of the day: “Just last week, Congress was calling on Tide to change the design of the Pods so teenagers would stop eating them. This week, teenagers should determine gun policy.”

  12. Dear Susan,
    You bring up so many great points it’s herd to know where to start in response. First I would agree that age and maturity don’t always coincide. So I’ll let that pass and go right to gun controls. When someone say he or she needs a fully automatic weapon to hunt with, my first thoughts are they’re either not a very good hunter or not a good marksman or both. I don’t know of any legitimate hunter who would want to be in the same woods with some fool with an AK47.
    On the other knowing our beurocratic systems tendency to regulate everything I wonder, if they get the automatics, how long until the come after the 30.06s and the 22s. As someone pointed out just recently the 2nd amendment was enacted to protect us from a repressive and monolithic government. I would cite the former USSR. N. Korea and China as examples. So as I say, it a conundrum for me while my heart goes out to all victims of violent crimes and can understand there first reaction to want more gun controll. I would have them remember no gun ever killed anyone on it own.
    Prayers and God peace to all victims and there families,

    1. Brian, just like abortion laws, any change to gun laws is seen as starting the slippery slope. There is truth to this. Pro-life leadership’s final goal isn’t a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and gun control leadership’s goal is not “common sense” laws. So the ability in both issues to make reasonable changes isn’t there.

    2. Please get it right. An AK-47 or AR-15 is a SEMI-automatic. A semi-auto means you have to pull the trigger for each shot. So in that respect an AK is the same as many revolvers. It’s also the same as a Ruger 10/22 rifle(which most talking heads consider harmless), except a different caliber. A fully automatic weapon can empty the magazine by pulling and holding down the trigger once. Anti-gun advocates love to blur those lines, as it tends to create more fear. Blame the man(or woman) pulling the trigger, not the inanimate tool that a murderer uses.
      I heard it put this way once – there are about 100 million gun owners in this country who own about 300 million guns. If guns really WERE the problem, I think you’d know it by now…

  13. Thank you for stating so clearly what I try to make sense in my mind. I appreciate all you had to say and it gives me comfort to hear a voice of calm reason.

    1. Ellen, I think one of the problems in our society is that we (as a group) insist that complex situations get dealt with in sound bites. Good for stirring up anger but not so good for dealing with serious issues.

  14. I admire your societal perspectives and I consider your wise husband “my Rabbi”, as apparently also many others do even if they are not Jewish.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Andrew–
      I joyfully accept the responsibility of being your rabbi because I believe that everyone needs a rabbi, regardless of faith. And those with no faith at all, need one more than ever.

  15. Yep. ‘Teenage’ nervous systems and brains do not reach physiological maturity until age 25. Couple this fact with the unfortunately protracted dependence of college kids on their parents, because college is rarely over until age 23, and often far beyond. Therefore kids, especially high school kids, have little real-world experience and are in no position to dictate or determine public policy. And gun control is just another sheep suit to cloak the real motivation of the socialist wolf: to confiscate all guns from the populace to render them incapable of self-defense and of arguing with their Government. And of course then only the all-powerful Government will have guns, but also the criminal element, who openly defy the law. Then, deprived of our protective Second Amendment, we will all be sitting ducks in the line of fire.

    The real culprit is not the gun, but the failure of parents to educate our children in the home with respect to right and wrong and to inspire them to respect all human beings as creations of God bearing a soul touched by the finger of God. Take away this basic Biblical respect and human life, as seen in Kim’s North Korea, no longer has any meaning.

    1. Too bad that even one “leader” didn’t counter the slogan used to lower the voting age you alluded to with, “OK, if they actually DO enlist they are old enough to vote even at 18. For others we raise the voting age to 25.” That would have answered the silly rhetoric and perhaps ameliorated the weak spots inherent to our culture and democracy in general.

      1. I was thinking the same thing, David, that maybe the voting age should be different for those who are in the military and those who aren’t. It seems that FDR lowered the draft age to 18 during WWII so it wasn’t always that age either.

        1. Or maybe, we should flat out raise the age of military enlistment. Babies shouldn’t be fighting our wars for us. Only those who are old enough to make rational, life-and-death decisions for themselves should be put in the position of being allowed to enlist.

          1. That might very well be. I think I saw that FDR lowered the age of the draft to 18. Not having an active draft in itself is one of the changes society underwent, with unexpected consequences. For many young men, of course, service in the military is what propels them into a better life. It’s all complex, isn’t it?

    2. James, I agree that respect for right and wrong is a major aspect, but I think there are so many other items that we need to address as well.

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