] Mona Charen
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Jewish World Review April 26, 1999 /10 Iyar, 5759

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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"Senseless tragedy"?

(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
WHAT HAPPENED IN LITTLETON, COLO., was not a "senseless tragedy." That term, which tends to get slapped on horrifying acts of violence like a Good Housekeeping seal, actually subtracts from our understanding.

So do the counselors, therapists and presidents of the United States who suggest that the problem is one of anger management. "We do know," President Clinton advised the nation on the day of the shootings, "that we must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons."

That approach may be appropriate for a kindergartner who throws a punch on the playground. For 17- and 18-year-old devotees of Nostradamus and Marilyn Manson who visit neo-Nazi Internet sites, we've moved a bit beyond anger management. We are in the realm of deep corruption of the human soul.

Every time one of these stories erupts, we are shocked by the violence. But within a few hours, the more shocking news dribbles out: just how much deviance is overlooked these days by parents, school authorities, teachers and society in general. According to The Washington Post, the Littleton gang that called itself the Trench Coat Mafia wore black every day -- black shirts, black pants, black boots and black trench coats -- even in class.

They also frequently wore dark sunglasses indoors. Why was that permitted?

The gang's fascination with Adolf Hitler was known, as was its interest in guns. Some members of the gang boasted of their latest gun acquisitions and even made a video of their gun collections in a school production class. What grade did they receive for that, one wonders.

One young man who knew one of the murderers slightly told CNN that the shooter (who giggled while killing) came from a "nice family." Let's pursue that for a moment. This young man by all accounts was dressing very strangely, listening to the music of Marilyn Manson and other Goth "musicians," and creating a web site dripping with violence, threats and gore.

The Internet web sites he was visiting can only be guessed at, but his tastes were probably similar to those of Michael Carneal, one of the previous school shooters, who was known to patronize violent and pornographic sites.

Do nice parents permit their sons to indulge in these corrupting entertainments? Can a parent who knows of such things and does nothing, or a parent who doesn't take the time to know, be considered "nice"?

In the cold aftermath of the Littleton shootings, we will plunge once again into a national discussion about what causes violence. The simple minded will blame guns. Some, like the president, will suggest that the matter is so deep a mystery that "we may never fully understand it."

And still others will blame Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

Hollywood types will obfuscate by pointing out that entertainments from "Oedipus Rex" to "Schindler's List" have contained violence. But there is a world of difference between presenting violence as tragedy and presenting it as pornography. The video games, movies and rock music peddled to kids now are designed to destroy the inhibitions necessary for civil society -- all for greed. One recent Hollywood film, "Basketball Diaries," depicted the very thing we saw acted out in horrifying reality -- a black trench coat-clad high schooler shooting his classmates in cold blood.

Why is it that a nation recently willing to spend billions to keep children from inhaling cigarette smoke can shrug its collective shoulders when kids ingest the likes of Marilyn Manson? The brain is a much more sensitive organ than the lung. How can parents allow teenagers who are obviously showing signs of unhappiness to go into their bedrooms, shut the door and dial up every kind of cultural pollution imaginable on their computer screens? Is it because that leaves the parents free to watch "NYPD Blue" in peace?

Sure, put locks on guns. Install metal detectors in schools. Send counselors in to talk to the kids about their feelings. All of that is harmless, and it may even help.

But until we confront and correct our moral agnosticism, until parents demand an end to cultural pollution, we will not see an end to the carnage.


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03/08/99: Monica's story: No morals
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10/07/98: Repeal Miranda
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9/28/98: Fear of choice
9/23/98: A fork in the road: Bubba's fate and ours
9/18/98: Christianity and the Holocaust
9/16/98: The national dirty joke
9/11/98: Are we in crisis?
9/09/98: Does Burton's sin let Clinton off the hook?
9/07/98: Liar's Poker
9/01/98: One, two, three
8/28/98: Fat and folly
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8/21/98: The unravelling
8/18/98: The wages of dishonesty
8/17/98: Sex, honor and the presidency
8/12/98: Pro-choice extremist
8/10/98: Switch illuminates biology's role
8/05/98: The presumption of innocence and the American way
8/03/98: An American hero
7/29/98: Lock up those who need psychiatric care
7/24/98: Making the military more like us
7/22/98: The 'Net sex hoax... and us
7/20/98: Disappointed by Cosbys
7/15/98: Feelings, not morality, rule
7/10/98: Guns as the solution?
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7/6/98: The China behind the headlines
7/1/98: What is the First Amendment for?
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6/9/98: These girls say no to sex, yes to excellence
6/5/98: Lewinsky's ex-lawyer would feel right at home as Springer guest
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5/29/98: The truth about women and work
5/27/98: Romance in the '90s
5/25/98:Taxing smokers for fun and profit
5/19/98: China's friend in the White House
5/15/98: Look out feminists: here comes the true backlash
5/12/98: The war process?
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5/5/98: The joys of boys
5/1/98: Republicans move on education reform
4/28/98: Reagan was right
4/24/98: The key to Pol Pot
4/21/98: The patriot's channel
4/19/98: Child-care day can't replace mom
4/15/98: Tax time
4/10/98: Armey states obvious, gets clobbered
4/7/98: A nation complacent?
4/1/98: Bill Clinton's African adventure
3/27/98: Understanding Arkansas
3/24/98: Jerry Springer's America
3/20/98: A small step for persecuted minorities
3/17/98: Skeletons in every closet?
3/13/98: Clinton's idea of a fine judge
3/10/98: Better than nothing?
3/6/98: Of fingernails and freedom
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2/27/98: Dumb and Dumber
2/24/98: Reagan reduced poverty more than Clinton
2/20/98: Rally Round the United Nations?
2/17/98: In Denial
2/13/98: Reconsidering Theism
2/10/98: Waiting for the facts?
2/8/98: Cat got the GOP's tongue?
2/2/98: Does America care about immorality?
1/30/98: How to judge Clinton's denials
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
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1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
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12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?

©1999, Creators Syndicate