Kids Killing Kids
ⓒ christina starr
Xtra! May 5, 1999
                                                                                                christinastarr.ca
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How do some kids end up so nasty they load up on guns and explosives and kill other people's kids? How do grown adults in responsible positions end up so nasty they load up on guns and laser guided missiles and send other peoples children out to kill?
          I
ve got a few theories. Mostly, they come down to love. Not enough love and not enough courage.
          That may sound like a tired anti-Vietnam slogan, but it
s worth considering. Its worth considering how we introduce people to the world and how that affects what they do when they grow up.
          Children are born completely self-confident, uninhibited, curious and open. I don
t know if they are born peaceful, but I think they learn that from being peacefully and respectfully treated. But mostly they arent treated that way. Mostly theyre punished or scolded for the positive traits theyre born with.
          They
re not allowed to touch, not allowed to run, not allowed to get in the way, to make too much noise or ask certain questions. Theyre not allowed to make their own decisions, talk out of turn, make a mess or cry until they get all their tears out (as my daughter says). What other group of people is it still okay to hit if they dont do what we want? How did we get so arrogant to think that a little free life is ours to control?
          Of course, children need guidance on how to get along in the world and things would be pretty chaotic if we all ran around grabbing and biting like two year olds. But there
s a difference between curbing harmful or unsafe behaviour, and repressing every independent urge.
          It
s a vicious circle. We may have fought and rebelled against our own parents attempts to control us but rarely do we have the courage to allow our own children the freedom we wanted.
          It
s like coming out and being out. Before you get there you cant imagine drawing that much attention to yourself. As a young woman in a trim skirt and designer eyebrows, I would have been horrified to imagine myself looking like the tough women-men lesbians Id seen. I didnt think of them as strong for being so different. I thought they were unfortunate misfits who couldnt help how they looked.
          Now, here I am, misfit myself, and it
s great. I dont feel like someone who cant help the way she looks. I feel like someone who knows how to use a hammer, fix a bicycle, change the oil in my car or re-wire a flickering lamp. Im proud of that. What it took to get here was courage and a bit of defiance.
          It takes courage and defiance to parent differently, especially if you
re not someone who ever wanted to be different. Children are noisy, unrestrained and completely unconcerned about what other people think. Thats a hard spotlight to be thrown into. Imagine going from shy, quiet, unnoticeable young boy to flaming queen, overnight.
          Most new parents go from being the quiet, respectable people next door to suddenly being the constant companion of somebody who screams when they
re hurt, bawls when they want to, talks to themselves and anybody else within range, sings loudly and asks questions even louder, doesnt respect private property or the meaning of the word no. Would you date someone like that?
          It might look fun in a Hollywood movie but in a crowded bank line-up with someone who wants to tear up the deposit slips, it
s hardly romantic. Its unnerving.
          Time and again the overriding response is to want the child to conform, to wait silently and stupidly like the rest of us, as if that
s a reasonable thing to be doing with our time. I dont mean we should allow kids to do whatever they want, but sometimes it just takes a bit of courage to allow them to do what nobody else would.
          I don
t think children, or anybody, learns cooperation and mutual respect from years of being constantly reprimanded, especially for things as trivial as little slips of bank paper. I dont think they feel anything different from what adults feel when someone tries too hard to tell us what to do or to control our behaviour. We feel pissed off and rebellious.
          Obviously, it takes a particular sicko to do what was done in Colorado and Alberta. But we also have an international war going on with a lot more people dying than did at those two high schools. Does that mean those guys in government are the same kind of sickos, or is something else wrong?
          I don
t have any idea whether Bill Clinton or the rest of the NATO gang were ever allowed to tear up bank stationery, though its likely their families owned the bank and everything in it. What Im complaining about is a culture that sets up a system of reward and punishment, acceptance and rejection, love vs freedom, from the very beginning of a fresh new life.
          Depending how strictly it
s enforced, that little person is going to carry a load of guilt or a load of grudge into their adult life, or both. And heaven help us for the ones that get their hands on a loaded gun. 
          Not that violence in society would end if everybody parented with love and courage as their guideposts instead of conformity and control. Our social ills are a lot more complicated than that. 
          But I bet a whole stack of deposit slips that tensions would ease up a lot if from the very beginning we
re treated with dignity and respect. I bet thered be a lot more emphasis on treating others that way instead of on blowing their brains out – in a video game, in a high school hallway or across the ocean in someone else's country. 

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It's worth considering how we introduce people to the world and how that affects what they do when they grow up.