By Irving Leemon, Contributing Columnist
The recent spate of shootings in schools seems to have a couple of things in common. They appear to be associated with relatively small towns and townships. Most of the shooters are teenage students that are loners, are the victims of harassment, usually on the Internet, and they get their guns from their houses or close friends or relatives. That pattern is disturbing and the press and public discussions are not addressing it. As we know, teenagers hunger for association with, and acceptance by, their peers. Students are not being taught in the schools or by examples of, and discussions with, their parents, sensitivity towards others who are “different”.
People have always tended to reject other people who are “different”. This stems from a fear of any difference in looks, behavior, religious belief systems, or economic status. Today, most people will not admit that they are afraid, but will say that they don’t want to associate with others just because they are “different”. The irony is that the “normal” people have a large range of many of these differences. Body sizes and shapes vary dramatically; eye shapes vary, eye and hair colors come in many shades; skin color (even in “whites”) varies dramatically. As children we tend to be afraid of anyone who is mentally not “normal.” It’s only recently that our society has accepted that some people who are different can really add to our technological and scientific society. This is not being properly taught to our students. Religious belief systems also vary.
There are a myriad of different beliefs in Christianity, from the Roman Catholics to the Greek Orthodox, and the numerous Protestant sects. And there are the various Jewish sects, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc., etc. Then there are those who do not believe in the same way as the Jews and Christians; Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Hinduism, Atheism, Jainism, Vodun, Islam, etc., etc., etc. The irony is that most of these teach the same golden rule, “treat others as you would be treated by them,” and they also believe in a deity that is the one god. We tend to group our living quarters by ethnic and economic sameness. We want to associate, and have our children associate only with people who are “like us”. We talk about “those people” who do not have as much as us as if they are completely inferior to us.
We are jealous of, and talk about those who have more then us as if they are all crooks and thieves. Yet, we all aspire to have more, bigger and “better” then we have now. Our children hear and see this and tend to believe that any one who is different is to be shunned. I believe that if we are to survive as a society we have to start teaching our children tolerance and acceptance of people who are “different” both by example, teaching in our schools, and the type of entertainment that they see. Agree? Disagree? Email me at email@example.com.