Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 7, 2013

Forum: Emphasis must be on 'we' society

BY EMMY LOU CHOLAK

---- — A forum on gun violence was held Oct. 7. Please watch it on Up North TV http://www.upnorthmedia.org/watchupnorthtv.asp?sdbfid=5969#vid until Nov. 14.

Panelists mentioned violent video games and movies as a cause for increased violence. In my opinion as a retired pediatrician, and adolescent and family psychiatrist, one result of the obsession with violent video games by todays’ young people is loss of ability to talk and resolve problems. Because of a preponderance of split homes and two working parents, the kids do not see the usual discussion of differences that takes place in the family and the usual resolution by talking and compromising. Young people want the immediate gratification that a shoot-them-up video game gives and have not developed the necessary patience and skills to effect mutually beneficial resolution to a conflict. Without this experience of resolving even the smallest differences, it is easy to jump to the videogame answer — just shoot the opposition. This inability to talk and resolve, the lack of developing the patience to obtain that resolution, can make young people ill at ease, anxious, frustrated. They are unaware of their feelings, since they have not heard examples of expressing feelings as a part of resolving conflicts. This discomfort can lead to release through violence.

Schools add to the child’s problems due to the slashing of funds, the increasing numbers of students in a classroom, teachers not able to have time to talk with and help a student. I am surprised to even learn that some junior and senior high school students get grades on their papers that have been submitted electronically and graded the same way. There are no red ink corrections. There is no teacher/ student discussion, no time, too many kids in a class. Where, when is a student to learn how to talk, to express his ideas, his feelings, to interact with a guiding adult?

There are many aspects to this problem: Our whole society has become a “me-me” one as opposed to a “we” society. (Look at the Apple “i” products.) Michael Moore interviewed kids in Canada in his movie “Bowling for Columbine.” He found young people were not afraid of each other, not quick to lock their doors. Canadians have more guns in households than we have in the US, but are free of fear, have much less gun violence! Why? Maybe it is a societal attitude. “We” are here together, they imply. Are “we” here together in the U.S. (us)? Is Congress an example of resolving conflicts? A few weeks ago, I heard of a brawl that broke out in a courtroom because the people did not like the verdict. Is that the message we give our youth?

The forum on gun violence and the showing of Columbine, raised many questions. It is the hope of the organizers to raise awareness, stimulate conversation, begin a movement toward the changes so badly needed in our nation. Meanwhile, converse with youth.

About the author: Emmy Lou Cholak of Traverse City is a retired pediatrician, adolescent and family psychiatrist.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.