by David Reich –
It’s difficult to comprehend the atrocity that took place in Sandy Hook Elementary School last month. Most people I know are very disturbed by the fact that something like this could even happen. I wonder though if there has been a steady decline in our moral values here in our society that has contributed to the disturbing behavior we witness all too often in this country. People are the product of their environment above all else. If the image of today’s society seems pretty scary, then perhaps we ought to take a look at our own lives and determine whether or not we have contributed to the ongoing dilemma.
Most adults I know would agree at least in part with my belief that our country appears to be overly violent with people having an aggressive attitude towards almost anyone with a different ideology other than their own. But if our nation is really to question why its citizens have become enraged and act so poorly, then perhaps all of us should consider trying to do a little culture check themselves.
Our culture has now become inundated with violence and aggressive behaviors to the point in which we believe this is the norm. Television programs and today’s music continuously supply the validation of violent acts, low tolerance towards others, as well as a high level of disrespect toward anyone we may cross paths with. On television alone, research suggests that by the time a child reaches the age of thirteen, they will have witnessed over one hundred thousand acts of violence, including approximately eight thousand murders, eighty percent of which will go unpunished. Even in the most popular video games that are available in today’s market, individuals are encouraged to kill or maim simulated people to gain advantages or score points. Now there is no doubt that other forms of games exist, along with inspiring songs and positive programs in the media. But these are by far less popular than the aforementioned ones.
In addition to becoming desensitized by the new and violent forms of entertainment, our society is also constantly barraged with negative examples of its citizens’ conduct. There are continuous examples in the news of aggressive behavior being displayed by the people in our nation. Stories of unethical behavior are sensationalized in our media often leading the individuals displaying poor behavior to become famous with an even star like quality. Corporate thieves, crooked politicians and flawed heroes are constantly the norm in today’s headlines and grabbing the attention of our general public. Our country has shifted its value system from one of morality and education to an insatiable desire to become famous or compete and get ahead at all costs.
It should also be noted that the breakdown of the traditional family, along with the lack of appropriate role models, is contributing to the conflict that is witnessed in today’s culture. The family dynamic has changed significantly over the past few decades, and for the first time in American history there are more single parents than the traditional nuclear family. The desire to compete with the Jones has taken its toll on today’s society. People today surround themselves with more material items than what previous generations had before them. However, as a result, there is now a significant reduction in the amount of quality time spent between adults and their offspring. For many families, the desire to surround themselves with toys now supersedes any and all traditional family rituals. Even something as simple as having an uninterrupted meal together as a family, where conversations of humility, empathy and compassion take place, has become a thing of the past. As a result, a person’s connection to family has been lost in the shuffle. More importantly though, are the negative resources that our society is now looking at when seeking guidance to help them with the tough issues associated with the challenges that we face as adults.
Although the shock value of today’s culture has become all but nonexistent, the solution to some of our growing fears in this ever changing society can start right within ourselves and in our homes. Many would argue that it’s our nation’s drive, as well as its citizens’ determination, that has led this country to become the greatest society in the world. Bar none. However, how far will this ambition take us in the future if we have become a generation without core virtues such as respect, tolerance, and sympathy?
In our continuous struggle that we place on ourselves to meet the demands to get ahead and succeed in our lives, perhaps it’s a good idea to invest a small amount of time in our busy lives to revisit and reiterate some conversations about morality and decency as well. After all, it’s the character of our nation that will shape us for years to come.