Americans are quick to respond with gestures of sympathy and condolences and praises for those who do heroic deeds during times of tragedy and chaos, as evidenced in the senseless massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But we are slow to do in-depth study to identify the roots of causation and then demand solutions.
One major reason for the lack of aggressive grassroots demand for reform lies in the fact that we sit back and let the 24-hour news agencies control the dialogue. They start out by interviewing friends, neighbors and anyone who will express grief and shock. The media controls the pace of the discussion. Then, they bring in usual suspects of pundits and experts who have been showing up with their interpretations and solutions for the past 30 years, while all the time these tragedies get worse.
It is time to take the conversation away from the television and into the communities where the only agenda is protecting our children. The media is an agent of sales and it has affiliations with various agencies and businesses that don't always approve of the message that might come from the analysis of cultural decay. Consequently politics and profits play a role in how we examine social issues. The standard method of kicking around political footballs and pundit re-runs is not gaining ground in our fight to protect our youth from violence.
Taking the debate into the community can broaden the spectrum of investigation and garner a more honest and relevant interpretation of the ills of society because community-based discussions will render solutions that don't take political and profit motives into the search for solutions.
When we are faced with the sadness and shock of these horrific tragedies, we seem to go back to what we have been told. We have been instructed by media and pundits that these scenarios beg for more gun control and better mental health treatment.
Gun control is one of those polarizing issues because of the Constitutional ramifications. The abuses of gun control laws are twofold, surrounding someone who can only acquire a gun illegally and those who profit by assisting in the illegal sale of a weapon. The people who meet the criteria of gun ownership are seldom the problem. So the only problem I see with the sale of a gun to a responsible qualified citizen is the safe handling, security and storage of that gun, which can be a concealed carry class with periodic refresher courses, trigger locks on all their weapons and some type lockbox or case. The guns that are usually involved in crimes are not registered to a bonifide purchaser who committed the crime. The debate over the gun performance and capacity won't stop a criminal from having an automatic weapon and will place him a notch above a homeowner who wishes to protect his family and property. Nevertheless there would be room for discussion in a community forum.
The next issue to always surface is mental health and the lack of diagnosis and treatment. This issue is always improperly addressed because it comes down to funding and the root causes of mental illness are not being discussed in depth. Parents may be more interested in figuring out the cultural impact on their child's mental capacity and less apt to just want to sedate their child into submission in order to quiet down classrooms and eliminate distractions. What is not discussed very often is the distance between the culture of the youth versus the norms of society as viewed by adults. When our children leave the house, they play by a different set of rules than we may or may not impose at home. In the schools and in the streets our children are answerable to peer pressure that for the most part is more instrumental in their survival amongst peers than anything we teach them at home.
Also, youth have a different picture of this nation and all the various factions involved in this country's overall performance. Young people feel betrayed because they are hearing their parents being accused of destroying the economy through massive debt and that the burden will be theirs, thus ensuring them of a lifetime of struggle and sacrifice. And they already realize that it is next to impossible now to find a job that can free them from mom and dads' house and checkbook. The future holds very little promise unless you are in line for a sizable inheritance.
Now let's add to this equation the diminished childhood that is soaked with a variety of violence, sex, drugs and stimuli, audio and visual. Young people who are at the threshold of adolescence and should be playing kick the can and relevio are instead involved in violent video games and are being exposed to graphic violence and sex and offered a variety of dangerous drugs in the streets. Young people are missing a vital piece of their developmental stages and they are being replaced by stimuli that is beyond their understanding and doesn't coincide with their coping skills.
Now, I want to discuss a piece of this puzzle that I don't see getting a lot of attention. We hear about the hazards of using street drugs and even to some degree the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs by young people and I think we have an awareness of the brain damage associated with these types of drug consumption. But what have we been told about the drugs, chemicals, hormones, steroids, pesticides and preservatives that are laced into our food chain? While I am certain that these poisonous cocktails are responsible for many of the sicknesses and diseases that are on the rise in this country, I have to assume with some valid research that the developmental stages of growth in our children are negatively impacted.
Many of the additives that are introduced in the growing, processing and preparation of our foods have been found to impair physical and mental health. I am going to give you the short list of damaging additives because I could do an entire article on the damage done to mental and physical health by the allowable poisons and compounds that the FDA approves for daily use in our food chain. Steroids and hormones are the last things that need to be introduced into the body of a young person who is already dealing with the hormones being naturally produced in their changing bodies.
Here are six different steroids and hormones approved by the FDA in the use in food production in our country. They are Estradiol, Progesterone, Testosterone, Zeranol, Trenbolone Acetate and Melengestrol Acetate. Do your own research into the severe damage done to the mental and physical development of children by these additives. Other food items such as hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are known as brain poisons. Aspertame was kept off the market due to negative lab results but was later accepted by the FDA at the urging of Donald Rumsfeld.
These not only damage the nervous system but play havoc on the cardiovascular system. Believe me I can elaborate on the lack of nutrition and the variety of poisons and hormones used to increase the profitability of food production, but I think that I have already given adequate grounds for developing a conversation about eliminating the causes of mental damage as opposed to downplaying the symptoms with more damaging drugs.
Haven't we allowed our children to be exposed to enough already? Isn't it time to take a stand? We have already allowed greed to sabotage their financial futures. Can't we mount a fight for their physical and mental health and attempt to put their lives back together? We at least owe them a fighting chance at repairing the damage done to our society and give them hope for their children.
Communities across this nation need to come alive with dialogue and subsequent action to save this culture for our children.
(Scalise, a resident of Steubenville, has a bachelor's degree in applied conflict management. He is the city's former director of public services and a former member of Steubenville and Jefferson County planning commisions, the Steubenville Fair Housing Commission and a current member of the Steubenville Community Re-investment Commission.)