By Robert A. Vella

Can you solve this sociological equation?

A (easy access to guns) + B (a highly competitive society) = C

Multiple choice answers:

  1. Gun violence.
  2. Mass shootings.
  3. Death.
  4. Ruined lives.
  5. All of the above.

If you selected answer #5, you would be correct.

America is a highly competitive society where a winner-take-all philosophy has been ingrained into the culture.  If a person doesn’t achieve greatness is some regard – the most successful businessman, the most beautiful model, the most talented athlete, or the most charismatic politician – then, they are seen as lesser individuals… not particularly important… not worthy of admiration… the ordinary substance of humanity.  If a person should dare fail to achieve even the commonplace, they are labeled as losers… leaches… the wretched flotsam of mankind.  America want heroes, icons, legends, and godly figures to worship.  It is a land of grand illusions.

America is also infatuated with firearms, militarism, and a self-righteous need to placate fears through aggression.  Americans must defend their precious accumulated treasures, for the barbarians are swarming at the gates determined to steal them away.

These illusions and infatuations make a volatile mix.  When reality crashes down on the former, personal frustrations can erupt calamitously through the latter.  This was apparently the case yesterday in Marysville, Washington when an honored 14 year old high school football star went on a shooting spree after being rejected by his would-be girlfriend.

From The Christian Science MonitorWhat led Jaylen Fryberg to a violent end in a high school cafeteria? – Another school shooting has shocked a community – this one at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School north of Seattle. Freshman Jaylen Fryberg was a popular student who did not fit the typical portrait of a troubled loner.

Sophomore Shaylee Bass said Fryberg had recently gotten into a fight with another boy over a girl.

“He was very upset about that,” Ms. Bass told the Associated Press. Still, she said, “He was not a violent person.”

“His family is known all around town,” she added. “He was very well known. That’s what makes it so bizarre.”

According to police and school officials, Jaylen Fryberg entered the school cafeteria at about 10:45 Friday morning, walked to a table and shot five people, killing one girl and critically wounding two other girls and two boys – both of whom were his cousins.

The true hero who likely prevented Fryberg from killing or wounding even more people was not the National Rifle Association‘s illusion of a “good guy with a gun.”  From kirotvStudent: Marysville-Pilchuck teacher heroically stopped shooter:

Erick Cervantes is a student at the school who witnessed the shootings, from the events beforehand until the moment the gunman shot himself — after being confronted by a heroic woman, he told KIRO-TV.

Cervantes thought the woman was a “lunch lady” who worked at the school, but she was later identified as a first-year social studies teacher. Cevantes confirmed to Natasha Chen of KIRO-TV that teacher Megan Silberberger was the woman he saw in action.

“I believe she’s actually the real hero. She’s the one that intercepted him with the gun. He tried either reloading or tried aiming at her. She tried moving his hand away and he tried shooting and shot himself in the neck,” Cervantes said.

This senseless and tragic incident marks the 87th school shooting in the U.S. since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012.  Mathematically, that averages out to nearly 4 per month.  Statistically, it doesn’t mean that American children are in imminent danger of being shot at school;  however, it does represent the highest rate in the developed world.  That fact alone should be cause enough for concern.

As a nation, America is concerned but is not willing to take corrective action.  Americans love their delusional exceptionalism too dearly, and they love their guns even more.  Going forward, life in America will be one where its children worry more about getting shot than getting an education.  If you think that commentary overstates the problem, then you must be an American.

15 thoughts on “Life in America: where children worry more about getting shot than getting an education

  1. Shocking though! Robert, is it men/boys who shoot all of the time? Is it seen to be a symbol of masculinity to own guns?


      • other countries do, but I wonder about the concept of what it means to be a man with a gun? It’s not the answer, I know that. I like your explanation. But I’m wondering what guns mean (or signify) to the people who use them to shoot?

        Probably thinking about this because we’ve had a court trial in SA for Oscar Pistorius, who was trigger ready and who shot his partner four times through a closed toilet door, as well as nearly missed a friend in a restaurant.

        All you can think, as a person with no intention of picking up a gun, is Why?


        • Regarding the Pistorius case, I suspect it was an incident where the man reacted violently in a domestic dispute and – unfortunately for the woman – a gun was available. However, I’ll defer to your opinion since my perspective is rather remote (by several thousand miles).

          When there is easy access to firearms, bad things are going to happen. We humans are emotional creatures. We are prone to feelings of anger, hate, rage, and vengeance. In those moments of emotional instability, the last thing we need within our reach are deadly weapons. When we are in a peaceful state, we rarely think about harming other people.

          It is also true that testosterone heightens aggressive behavior. So too does certain environmental, societal, and cultural stimuli. Persons who are economically depressed, politically oppressed, or psychologically manipulated, are more inclined towards aggression.

          While there is no ethical remedy for the biological triggers of aggression (i.e. testosterone), there are a host of solutions for the external factors. We must educate our children and raise them in safe, healthy, productive, and positive environments. We must not subject them to bigotry and prejudice. We must teach them how to cope with adversity and negative emotions. We must not legitimize the use of guns.

          In America today, the opposite is happening. That is why the incidence of gun violence is higher here than in any other developed country. Guns are ubiquitous, and we are distributing them in a culture of fear, animosity, and hopelessness.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Robert,

          I think your opinion is shared by the majority, actually. It made me think a lot about law, guns, and what makes a person shoot at somebody else. This is why your drawing attention to school shooting is so important, and I find them so concerning too…

          Whatever it is about, there’s a part of me which cannot reconcile with it, or understand the urge to shoot another person, in a premeditated way, in cold blood, over rejection. I agree with you, something is really, really wrong with our society.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Elegantly argued connections between culture and gun violence, Robert. I remember working in an “institution” that housed people with disabilities. I witnessed so much staff violence toward residents. It occurred to me that these otherwise caring people had been socialized to respond to violence in a similar fashion. If someone hit them, they automatically hit back with out realizing that their job was to model other ways of dealing with frustration. Essays like yours are a crucial contribution to raising people’s awareness about unacknowledged and taken-for-granted cultural patterns that perpetuate violence.


  3. Robert I agree with your prescription to addressing the problem and think the causes are partially addressed in your article. I think our culture of violence in America has a lot of blame. We glorify violence too much, see it as entertainment, rather than the horrible thing it is. I realize other cultures do this with much less violence. However their culture attitudes don’t say responding to issues with violence is okay, our culture does in so many ways.

    It’s one of the reasons I am opposed to any physical punishment towards a child as it teaches them violence is okay besides the obvious fact of the abusive nature of it. I also am concerned with all the increasingly violent nature of media that kids are watching and interacting with on a daily basis. Finally the anger, stress, yelling too many kids are exposed on a daily basis I believe is harmful. Bullying is also a major problem. The fast paced world they experience daily. I think they trigger stress hormones in the body that can effect the brain detrimentally.

    We need to foster a more kind and slower paced world and one that has more positive social interaction. Too many kids experience very little kindness and positive social interaction in their daily lives and are too busy and distracted to develop their better selves. Families are so isolated from each other today, even in the same home. There is too many distractions. Too little love felt and expressed in the home. Too little kindness and compassion outside the home. Never before with cities have we lived closer together, yet never before have we been so far apart. We need more love and less hate in the world.


  4. Good report. I would think more along the lines that we still don’t know enough about the psychology of teenagers. Like, mature normal minds settle into a standard state of moral equilibrium. If I remember right from when I was a teenager (a normal child before and a normal adult after), I would go through very short phases of total amorality where rage would take over. The thought of going to school with teenagers in a culture where guns are common – yikes. I’d be scared. It’s like arming mental patients.


Comments are closed.