In the wake of Littleton we have a National Conference on Youth Violence - a strategy session on children, violence and responsibility, which may or may not produce useful results! But results or not, we cannot ignore the pernicious culture of violence that youths face, nor on top of that, the humiliation and alienation some face from peers.
There can be no surprise that untold hours spent engrossed in shoot-em-up computer fantasy mayhem, or "vegging" in front of mindless movies or TV shows could produce less than desirable ramifications on youth. Add to that alienated youths, easy access to guns, and the combination can be explosive.
While our cultural and familial fabric is fraying at the edges, politicians can talk about the culture of violence for the next 100 years, but attitudes cannot be uprooted by simple talk and a hiatus of inaction threatens to drag us deeper down this troubling path.
But one thing is clear, a sure way to cut the penchant for violent fantasies, TV or otherwise and curb the hate that can grow out of alienation, is for us to do something about it ourselves. After all, the very culture we are trying to protect our children from is our culture, tantalizingly mass-marketed and pushed back in our faces. Let's face it, it feeds an impressive chunk of economy, so those with a vested interest in the outcome of this debate cannot be counted on to point the finger of blame where it belongs.
We cannot count on the wealthy and powerful Hollywood industry nor its marketers; or the Stallones, Schwartzeneggers or the Keanu Reeves; nor the networks or the NRA, for that matter, or the politicians that these interests bankroll; or the Internet executives or software companies including the likes of Mircosoft. They are all responsible mainly to the bottom line. To expect otherwise will require too many Littletons, which is what we can least afford.
We will have to make a difference. Unless we present viable constructive alternatives at the local level, we are never going to temper it. We need to emphasize things that promote family and school. We need more inter-and extra-curricular programs and activities. More programs and clubs sponsored by communities and libraries. And, of course, as every parent who shuffles his or her own child halfway across town to one over-utilized dust bowl ball field to another knows, town hall doesn't plan nearly enough family friendly ball fields.
Yet, at this moment, building plans are approved that increase overall density, without any relief in sight. This is both symptomatic and short-sighted. The ramifications of increased development is another thing that we will have to answer for later on.
This brings up the Lockheed Martin's sprawling 96 acre development in New Hyde Park and Lake Success and Lockheed's intransigence to preserve Long Island's historical United Nations building. This is yet another thing that tears at our cultural fabric. So, too, does the company's unwillingness to negotiate any public fields or green space. These are blatant irresponsible acts that threaten to drag us down and inflict more long-term damage on our already short-sighted public policy. You see...it is all related!
Right now we need to develop basic objectives and try to achieve them. We need to promote an ethic that understands how to live in the 21st Century in spite of the Lockheeds, the NRA, mass marketing and Hollywood!
However, we can't produce that transformation unless people first get involved. Believe me, we need more than a Youth Conference! We cannot rely on town hall, or politicians to look out for our best interests, that responsibility must begin at home.
I promise you, if we do not succeed, or even come close, politicians will have no choice but to make our decisions in the board room at town hall.
Stephen Cipot, Hillside Library Trustee
Project Manager, United States
Environmental Protection Agency