Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Pennsylvania Amish, School Murder and Why

The recent murders of elementary children in Colorado and Pennsylvania have sickened the hearts of Americans. We can’t help but worry about our own children and consider the fact that if a one-room school house in rural Pennsylvania isn’t safe, perhaps our children aren't safe anywhere.

Why is this happening? What happens to men who turn a psychological corner and decide, for it’s a conscious decision, to go on killing rampages?

I’m sure many variables are going to be discussed by bloggers out there, primarily physical and sexual child abuse.

When I returned to graduate school in 1996 I wasn’t a kid and neither was one of my colleagues, Sylvia Margolin. I wanted to teach, become an academic, just be TherapyDoc on the side.

Sylvia wanted to study something called Peer Rejection.
I, of course, was interested in Internet Sex, chat room sex, and was laughed out of the water by a research chair at the University of Illinois. How ridiculous, hot chat. Who does that? No sour grapes here. All fences mended. Move on.

Anyway, I never forgot that Sylvia wanted to know what happens to kids who are rejected by other kids. A library search turned up her dissertation on "social support and activity involvement that reduces isolated youths' internalized difficulties," not exactly on the variables that make people kill kids. But there were 210 hits on peer rejection.

I did a little studying and wrote the story posted on this blog, Bullies, Guns, and a T.D. Bedtime Story. It's in the August archives.

Now’s a good time to quote from that post, just a little. The story is about a boy who was scape-goated. He was the one kid in the class that most of the others made fun of, teasing him mercilessly for everything and anything he did, anything he was. This went on for years and years.

At the age of seventeen the following happened:

. . .Thinking about his classmates, who happened to be good kids in the eyes of their parents and teachers, by the way, did have an effect upon him. It made him very angry, very, very angry. The more he thought about them, the more he wanted them to disappear.

The next day, when one of the kids called him clutz and all the other guys laughed, he shot back, “Maybe it would make me happy if I came to school with a gun and killed everyone of you—you, and you, and you.”

The boys were taken aback but then one of them said, “Sure, like you could even handle a gun, you weakling.”

But he kept repeating it every time they said something mean, which was often enough that day.

“Maybe it would make me happy if I came to school with a gun and killed everyone of you. It’s been done before. Hmm… now there’s an idea. Take you out, one by one, bullet by bullet.” Well. . .


See, I think that this fantasy, taking them out BULLET BY BULLET is exactly the fantasy that is seeded in peer rejection, and I’ll bet Sylvia’s dissertation bears me out. It’s a seed that takes root, probably between the ages of eight and ten and it grows, and grows, and grows.

Compound peer rejection with other forms of abuse, i.e., violent parenting, sexual molestation or rape, and voila', you have murder in Colorado, murder in Pennsylvania, murder. . .where else?

Should parents talk to their children about this? Well, yeah. They should ask their kids, WHO ARE THE LEAST POPULAR KIDS IN THE CLASS? WHO DON’T THE KIDS LIKE AND WHY NOT? ARE THERE ANY KIDS IN YOUR CLASS WHO ARE CRYING THEMSELVES TO SLEEP AT NIGHT? Shouldn’t we invite those kids to our home and get to know them?

Hard not to pontificate, hard not to preach. Social conscience? I'm thinking it better become the next new fad.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Therapy Doc said...

Boy, I wish I knew the composition/music to this. Thank G-d there's Google.

Holly said...

Great concept and visual to a very real problem. I think too often we discount the emotional scars from these daily experiences. It was bad when I was kid, but it's definitely worse now. A healthy self-image goes a long way.

Hugs,
Holly
Holly's Corner

Shannan Anderson said...

I've been reading your blog for a while but this post hit home for me and I had to comment for the first time.
I have an 8 year old nephew who is severely bipolar and his rages are so terrible that I fear that one day he will be one of those people who acts out violently. My sister has him in therapy with a counselor and a psychiatrist and has him medicated, yet it seems that he's "destined" to end up on the wrong side of the law. He's threatened harm to others, even his little brother.
I'm so terrified that we will be "that" family on the 11 o'clock news someday. Any advice?

Therapy Doc said...

Holly, your hugs go a long way, thanks.

Therapy Doc said...

Shannan, I don't think kids are destined in any which way. Childhood bi-polar is actually a relatively new diagnosis. They used to consider kids like your nephew "oppositional". The drugs keep getting better and better,and obviously his doc should be paying very close attention to him. Your sister (and hopefully the boy's father) probably need some good behavioral strategies to deal with the rages. He's getting bigger and it feels impossible, I'm sure, but he's ONLY 8! They should get as much help as money can buy and ALWAYS have to be on top of his potential to hurt himself and others. Best of luck and thanks for stopping by, Linda

Margo said...

I loved your point here, that parents can take a little action to help matters by encouraging their own kids to be more inclusive. Having that conversation with your kids also makes them more aware people, teaches them to look around and guess what's going on with those around them, which doesn't just come naturally to little ones.