Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Youth Violence: Where Does the Blame Really Lie?

An interesting article from about youth violence. This follows this post about female gangs. This follows this post about a gay high school. For a free magazine subscription or to get the books recommended for free click HERE! or call 1-888-886- 8632.
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Youth Violence

Where Does the Blame Really Lie?

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In the 1960s, Bill Roberts went from youthful innocence to the killing fields of Vietnam in months. Now, 30 years later, Bill has again felt an adrenaline rush like the deadly terror of guerrilla warfare he experienced long ago. This brush with death was not a war in Southeast Asia. It was in Portland, Oregon, a prosperous Northwest American city of one and a half million. And the enemy wasn’t Vietnamese guerrillas, but gun-toting gang members in a schoolyard.

Bill Roberts is now a school principal, caring for my children. He is still a soldier, but in a social crisis which has shed America’s innocence. His battleground runs throughout the underside of our culture. His war is the deadly explosion of youth violence that began some 20 years ago and is shouted in newspaper headlines around the country today.

Within the United States the prison population—which is comprised predominately of young men—is up to some 1,750,000, up from 750,000 in only 10 years. Youth violence now pulsates throughout American life. No one—rich or poor, white or minority, urban or rural—seems to be immune.

Easy targets for solutions are hard to come by because the American problem with youth violence is not primarily a trend fueled by desperation and poverty. It is mainly driven by a culture in which children treat human beings as if they are of no more value than the electronic video-game figures youngsters kill off by the hour for their self-amusement.

With the lines between fantasy and reality confused and blurred, some American youths have been sent the unmistakable message that it is entertaining to kill. The two teenage gunmen who killed and maimed 35 students and teachers at Colorado’s Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, were reported to have laughed at times as they roamed the classrooms and halls gunning down their victims.

Some have clearly begun to think that killing real people is no big deal. They have learned, after all, that the goal of life is self-amusement anyway.

Yet, strangely, many violent teens are possessed of a sense of invincibility. Not only do they have no fear of God, they have little fear or understanding that they could be killed as easily as the fictional characters on a video-game screen. Sadly, many will be.

Epidemic of violence

After a 15-year-old confessed to the May 1998 school shooting of 22 students and his parents in Springfield, Oregon, commentators pointed out that explosive violence had crept from the poor, inner-city communities in the 1980s and early ’90s onto the manicured lawns of suburbia and the rural settings idealized in the American dream. Not only is homicide now one of the greatest risks to our youngsters, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, it has progressively permeated the national landscape. The epidemic of gun violence began to peak among youth in the late 1980s, decimating a predominately poor minority generation of inner city residents, according to James Garbarino, director of the Family Life Development Center at Cornell University.

National Council on Crime and Delinquency President Barry Krisberg notes a difference in today’s profile of youth violence. Recent mass murder attempts and episodes “had nothing to do with drugs or guns,” he said. “Some were from affluent communities and intact families.”

In the last six years, 11 of 12 mass shootings with multiple victims happened in cities with populations under 80,000. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report nine of these were cities with less than a population of 52,000.

Initial studies indicate a shift in violent youth behavior from the low socioeconomic stereotype. Harvard School of Public Health professor Deborah Prothrow-Stith characterizes the movement of youth violence from poor urban communities to the rest of the population and regions as an effect similar to any other epidemic. “It’s the second wave,” she said. “First [it strikes] the most vulnerable community, and then it spreads.” There is also an explosion of copycat acts. In one study, 25 percent of young violent felons said they got the specific idea for their violent activity directly from television. “I can do that” is the remark attributed to the 15-year-old Oregon shooter in a conversation two months earlier to his school bus driver when he heard about the school massacre by two youths in Paducah, Kentucky.

Murders committed by teens age 14 to 17 tripled between 1976 and 1993 and then dropped somewhat, according to University of Oregon sociology department chairman Robert O’Brien. However, observers point out that upward trends in youth violence may be masked somewhat by imprisonment, aggressive policing and a dynamic national economy.

A childhood jungle

Youth violence is, at its core, an outgrowth of an American crisis of values. Successful parenting requires values flowing from a firm commitment to children—a commitment that requires time, attention and resources. In their absence, children grow up in a hostile jungle.

It doesn’t have to be so.

Consistent, nurturing guidance of children works. Demonstrating love works. These parental commitments help stop violence through prevention. They require a child-centered approach that touches the spirit of the child rather than a manipulation of material circumstances masquerading as attention. A central message of Jesus Christ regarding children is that they are to be loved because “of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16 Luke 18:16But Jesus called them to him, and said, Suffer little children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
). He showed that true love works. The explosion of youth violence is a clear warning that time is running out to begin practicing Christ’s approach.

Most youth violence comes from environments where violent adult behavior is modeled and acted out in what Barry Krisberg calls a widespread “nihilistic culture that does not promote community and social values.”

Not only are right values ignored, but wrong values are often celebrated. “Go to the movies and listen to the music,” says Krisberg. “It’s violent, it has misogynist content. There’s gross materialism and no ennobling values celebrated.”

A new battleground

The war of youth violence continues in many communities around the country. At Bill Roberts’ Portland school ground, a battle almost erupted because a 12-year-old student had grabbed a basketball away from a gang member.

A few days later, school was just letting out when the gang arrived with revolvers under coats and dozens of umbrellas tipped with blades. They were ready for the boy.

What surprised Roberts and led him to instinctively sense he might witness a murder was the bizarre readiness of this 12-year-old with no violent history to take on the gang single-handedly.

As the boy raced out the front door toward the gang, Roberts grabbed him, handing him to two assistants who restrained the youth in the principal’s office while Bill confronted the gang.

In schools across the nation, principals experience such potentially deadly conflicts daily. Although this situation passed without harm, Roberts is sure he will see similar problems again. And he fears America becoming another Vietnam.

The tentacles of youth violence have also traveled across the Atlantic and the Pacific into most other parts of the Western world. Take the United Kingdom as a case in point. In some British schools youth violence and disrespect for authority have clearly gotten out of control. One East Anglican instructor wrote an article entitled “How We Teachers Have Lost Control of the Classroom” (Sunday Telegraph). He said that there is only one target that matters: “reducing violence in schools.”

Need for spiritually motivated love Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose leadership helped the American military and its allies emerge victorious in 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, has said the problem of troubled youth is the greatest threat to the future of the United States.

Today’s youth violence has roots in a parental culture that has spiritually abandoned them. More money, expensive schools and government programs run by well-meaning bureaucrats cannot substitute for parental love. Western nations so often look to institutional programs for salvation from social crises, but this is one money can’t buy.

The 15 million children living in poverty are not alone in a landscape of emotional, interpersonal and spiritual impoverishment. Many children in the world’s more prosperous nations are growing up without enriching values conveyed by the intimacy of sacrificial parental love.

Many of them have no concept of the sanctity of life—even their own. “This is the way we want to go out,” read the suicide note from Columbine High School gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 13 others in a rampage of bullets and homemade bombs before they turned their guns on themselves.

Having had materialism substituted for love, many of today’s children possess no comprehension of an overriding purpose to life, no sense that life is about much more than today’s wants and needs. They have scarce knowledge of an Almighty God with endless love who holds out a special purpose and destiny for each person—man, woman and child alike. Regrettably, these devastating social trends affect almost all segments of society. Even professing Christians aren’t immune, with divorce and abuse characteristics often equal to the secular population. Too many political and religious leaders alike have largely abandoned belief in absolute standards such as those that flow from the immutable law of God that equally condemn abusive male authority and the sexual promiscuity that almost inevitably leads to single parenthood.

As a result, America’s children drink deeply of a chaotic jumble of relative values which mingles pleasure-seeking materialism with self-destructive and aggressive behavior.

Serious consequences

The Creator of all humankind said He would abandon the nation whose parents refuse to retain the spiritual knowledge flowing from the law of God and His authority to define right and wrong.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you… Because you have forgotten the law of our God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6 Hosea 4:6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, that you shall be no priest to me: seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added).

Youth violence is not a mystery. It is a mistake, a sin and a tragedy for all concerned. But the good news is that the spiritual principles that have always worked still continue to work. Families, communities, societies and nations don’t have to be destroyed if they will only seek the spiritual knowledge that shows us how to truly express love.

Societies and national cultures can change. In the case of America’s crisis of youth violence, the problem begins in the home. It is here that parents must first learn about and then begin to nurture a family culture based on biblical values. Love, if it’s genuine, always works.

The Spirit of Violence

To many of today’s secular prophets, the frightening trends of youth violence are a harbinger of a coming social crisis of biblical proportions if not reversed.

A spirit of violence and death pervades American media and entertainment. Dysfunctional, violent and aggressive lifestyles increasingly bring to mind the decay of earlier civilizations and societies and the warnings of the biblical prophets.

While our youth may experience violence of epic proportions as the next century unfolds, this is no new story. The Bible describes periods of pervasive violence. Ezekiel prophesied to a generation in Jerusalem that was later wiped out in one of the most violent periods of Old Testament history: “Violence has risen up into a rod of wickedness… The land is filled with crimes of blood, and the city is full of violence” (Ezekiel 7:11 Ezekiel 7:11Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness: none of them shall remain, nor of their multitude, nor of any of their’s: neither shall there be wailing for them.
American King James Version×
, 23-24).

The social crises underlying the violence then and now are the same. The American problem can be traced in large part to a breakdown of family structure and cohesion. The Bible pinpoints this breakdown as a fundamental cause of violence: “…The LORD was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did not one God make her? …And what does the one God desire? Godly offspring. So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth. For I hate divorce, says the LORD, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless” (Malachi 2:14-16 Malachi 2:14-16 14 Yet you say, Why? Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously: yet is she your companion, and the wife of your covenant. 15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And why one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. 16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, said that he hates putting away: for one covers violence with his garment, said the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that you deal not treacherously.
American King James Version×
, New Revised Standard Version).

A Generation of Abandonment

Some have described American children as “a generation of rage.” Surrounded with materialism, the typical child may look healthy materially—but so many are emotionally abandoned to somehow find meaning in things which destroy the mind, heart and spirit.

Parallel with children finding meaning in violent entertainment is a meltdown in fatherhood.

While the average American child watches 220 minutes of television each day, he spends only three to eight minutes interacting face-to-face with his father—if he lives with one. Some have made the point that in the absence of a father’s presence television is actually parenting many of our children.

Approximately one in four children grow up with a single mother; another quarter with a stepfather. But even those with natural fathers in the home are often profoundly alienated. Struggling with ignorance of child development and nurturing skills, many fathers are unknowingly laying the groundwork for a future national mental health crisis. Most people are unaware of the connection between deteriorating psychological health, the absence of strong nurturing fathers and youth violence.

An epidemic of childhood mental health problems leaves increasing numbers of children, especially boys, prone to violent behavior.

Kip Kinkle, the 15-year-old who admitted to gunning down 22 students in Oregon, was diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and learning disability (LD) when he was 11. New York developmental psychologist Myriam Miedzian noted Kinkle was “given easy access to guns but not to effective treatment.”

ADHD is six to nine times as prevalent among boys as among girls, mental retardation nearly twice as prevalent, and autism three times and conduct disorder four to 12 times as prevalent,” says Miedzian. “As a result, boys are at greater risk for violent behavior.”

From 1975 to 1990, the percentage of youths in the United States in need of professional mental health services nearly doubled, from 10 percent to 18 percent, said James Garbarino, Family Life Development Center director at Cornell University.

Some psychologists estimate 40 percent of the jail population and 30 percent of delinquent boys suffer from learning disabilities. “Not only do most high-risk children go untreated, they see more than 10,000 TV murders by the age 18,” says Miedzian.

Not all of these trends in deteriorating youth mental health are attributed to genetic factors. Many now believe that young children, when lied to and disappointed enough by caregivers, exhibit a kind of schizophrenia. In a process called “crazymaking,” children who are told they are loved by abusive or negligent parents learn to disassociate themselves from primary relationships. This can happen to children of wealth as well as children of poverty. Some experts see those youth obsessed with television exhibiting characteristics of attachment disorder, with “the tube” becoming their main reference in life.

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