By Joseline Byakatonda
On 14th February 2018, the World awoke to yet another tragic shooting classified among the deadliest of school shootings reigniting a debate on whether gun laws in Florida and the whole of U.S.A should be overhauled. The attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland by a former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, using a semiautomatic assault rifle left 17 students dead at a twinkle of an eye. Sixteen others, including coaches and teachers, are since then recovering from a critical condition after narrowly escaping the grave. In a bid to revenge on the administration for expelling him for indiscipline, Nikolas harmed the innocent instead. The chances of returning to high school are very slim because of the indictment on 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder carrying a death or life imprisonment sentence once proved guilty.
Behind the scene, one wonders how a human being with a human heart, more so, a 19 year old with more years to explore life, could murder comrades he once played with, laughed with and shared memories with? Though the parents offered him for adoption to Lynda and Roger Cruz, Nikolas Cruz was born like any other child. The peers of Nikolas Cruz describe him as “a lonely, lost and violent boy” according to Sun Sentinel in Florida. He owned 17 guns. As the World was struggling to comprehend this tragedy, while at Church that very Sunday, a 10 year-old boy caught my attention, partly, because of the type of toy and ecstasy scream he made. The shout was after shooting on target with a toy pistol. Together with friends, they were practicing to master the art of shooting on target. With the tactics displayed, it was clear that they had a basketful to draw from. How foreign will a gun be to such a child in 5+ years? There is no doubt that what we feed our children physically or emotionally on will bear fruit at the opportune moment. The question is: what fruit? Frank Outlaw –the Late President of the Bi-Lo Stores- always echoed:
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your
One time in a homily, a priest said ‘you become what you eat, if you eat Christ you become like Him; if it’s pork then you become like a pig’. Giving children toys like pistols among others is to tell them they are not dangerous and if they can play with them, then familiarising with their use is not bad. Indirectly, parents are promoting the agenda of mass destruction by telling the minds of their children- it is okay to own a gun, it is okay to kill or harm for pleasure because that is what the toy is for- pleasure.
Should we not therefore be worried about the movies children are watching? Should we not be worried about some toys being sold? Before we even go into policy, should you not worry, as a parent, about regulating this consumption than nurturing it? Be sure to enjoy the fruits of either option! After playing with the toy, the next thing is to try it on a person and that person could be you. If only it could be you and not his innocent peers or passersby. The business community sells what is demanded for. More will be supplied if there is demand and no regulating policy.
It is scientifically proven for humans to remember 50% of what they see and hear as compared to 30% of what they only hear, and 20% of what they only see without hearing; children will memorise whatever we feed their minds on. The same applies to all age groups. For the same reason, you still remember either tragic or memorable moments of early childhood many years after the incidence. The human brain has the capacity to memorise everything that is in the world and still has space.
What are the current children and youth’s memories full of? Whatever it is, that, they will give back to society. What we give them is what they will return to us. Give them guns, they will give you dead bodies, teach them immorality, they will give you rape, teach them work and integrity, they will give you innovations. For whatever raw material, they will give you a product. Whatever seed you sow will germinate and turn fruit at the youthful stage. If the youth are more violent now than ever, check the raw material so as to understand the product. Probably, the raw material has been violence against children in our homes and communities.
On every television station now days, ‘action movies’, as they are called, is part of the line up. For some stations, it is what keeps customers glued on all day long. This is what the children and youth of this generation are feeding their minds on as passive parents exclaim, ‘it is the trend, what to do? But, even in the U.S.A, not all children are Nikolas Cruz. It may be easy to bear the pain if your child is a victim than the culprit. Whatever raw material you provide, you will receive a product and a by-product. Laziness, get-rich quick mentality manifested by youth now cannot be de-linked from what they watch. Differentiation between fantasy in movies and real life is only possible with mentorship. With this lacking, majority of them pursue fantasies instead. Gang stars in movies turn out to be the popular ones, prominent and rich which a human heart desires. It is not surprising that gangs groups and consumption of addictive substances is increasing.
Taking a child to Church after buying them a toy pistol may not change much because most of their life is lived at home hence what is taught at home is valued teaching. Whereas growing children in a faith setting instils in them faith based values, scientific studies on the brain show that a person can have multiple conflicting values that can only be exposed when faced with circumstances demanding tough choices. For example, telling the truth is a value yet if I hid a thief and lied to a mob- I am not for the sake of saving his life, yet this would be permissible. However, there is also lying to cover up for a mistake. To deny the brain option two of lying to cover up for a mistake, should not exist in the first place.
Therefore, telling children and youth ‘do not kill’ while exposing them to gangster videos and destructive toys is a contradiction in formation. As a society, we have already created exceptions and even provided training through videos and existing national programmes like ‘chakamuchaka’. It is only after Nikolas Cruz shot 33 on 4th February that the community awoke to warning signs like the cuttings on his arms on snap shot, Nazi sign on his book and bag among others. As usual, the first call will be for government to intervene but parents have a greater share of responsibility to control what the minds of their children feed on, before government can intervene which most likely will take longer because of the tax benefits. Nikolas Cruz- the criminal- was an innocent Nikolas Cruz in January.
Before we realise it as a country, the agenda of mass destruction will be here to stay. With the ongoing killings and abductions reported in the media, insecurity antennas are stretching. Before we know, there will be debates about relaxing procedures on acquiring fire arms. What is happening in the U.S is not far from the homesteads and the schools our children go to as the streets are flagged with massive videos whose content is unknown. When that time comes, let’s not forget as a society our contribution to the mess. Better however, will it be for your child to be a victim than a culprit.
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