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Adam Lanza was the kind of disturbed loner that you don’t want in control of any kind of weapon. He was also a tech geek, which means that he grew up with a healthy dose of incredibly violent and realistic video games, like Grand Theft Auto, which allow you to carry a machine gun and kill everyone in the street for no good reason at all. This week, the nation was shocked to see Lanza go into Sandy Hook Elementary School and murder 20 children and six adults in cold blood. I wasn’t surprised at all.
Lanza shot his victims with precision, ruthlessness and efficiency. This type of skill comes from knowing how to point, aim and reload when necessary. It also comes from knowing how to hit the body point blank, multiple times, to ensure that the victim is dead. I’m a 41-year old man, and I still don’t know how to do that.
Adam gained much of his killing ability from his mother, Nancy. Nancy took Adam to the gun range when he was a child and showed him how to hit his target. She continued to take him to target practice as he approached adulthood. Nancy collected guns, all of them legally purchased, and kept them because they made her feel safe. She probably died having no idea that her little chicken would come home to roost in such a brutal and violent way.
After surprising his mother with her own homicide, Adam then got into her car, took her guns and went to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he committed one of the most heinous crimes in modern American history. As his mother taught him over many years, Adam rarely missed his target.
My daughter ran across another version of Adam Lanza in “the hood.” He was about the same age as Lanza, with the same degree of ruthlessness. His aim was not as good, since he’d never been taught how to fire. Also, his mother didn’t give him the gun he used to shoot a three-year old boy in the head, he probably got it on the black market. Unfortunately for this young man and the little boy who now lives in heaven, they both grew up in a neighborhood where it’s easier for a black man to get a gun than it is for him to get an education. Guns don’t kill people – irresponsible and neglectful social policies kill people.
When I created the “Building Outstanding Men and Boys” family empowerment series, I thought about the many potential Adam Lanzas that exist in communities all throughout our country. I thought about how our children are merely products of what we feed them from the time they are born. Like machines off an assembly line, they enter the world with the psychological and spiritual programming they are given both inside the home and in our society. We as a country CHOOSE to create young men who are willing to do horrible things to the rest of us, and the way we raise our children has a ripple effect on everyone they interact with throughout their lives. Additionally, our children are shaped by the policies we implement to determine the environment within which our kids are going to exist.
Shortly after the tragedies that occurred on September 11, 2001, Congress moved to quickly implement the Patriot Act: A set of sweeping laws that dramatically changed the way the FBI, CIA and other federal agencies do business. They were granted virtually unlimited resources to make our nation safer in response to a horrific set of events. The president didn’t simply sit back and contemplate how this tragedy (like the last one and the one before that) suddenly “puts it all into perspective.” Congress gave him the support he needed to respond and act immediately in response to the factors that threaten our nation, and he also made the decision to demand that support.
When it comes to gun violence, the time to act is NOW. We must respond on both aggregate and the individual levels. Nationally, we should consider the advice of Father Michael Pfleger (who has seen the results of gun violence in his own back yard) and react to these tragedies with decisive action that will make our children safe. In the words of Pfleger:
“Now is the time to Demand a REAL conversation about Guns! About Banning Assault Weapons, Closing the loopholes on purchasing guns (private sale, lost or stolen, mental illness) And TITLING GUNS LIKE Cars. We cannot simply talk about the tragedy in Connecticut or the streets of Chicago and refuse to take steps to STOP it from repeating itself again. If we don’t our sympathy is shallow…….”
Individually, we must realize that our children are going to become products of whatever we choose to feed them. The Adam Lanzas of the world are Made in America, and if we feed them nothing but hate, they will grow up to hate other people. If we teach them violence, they will grow up to ultimately learn to kill. While the white Adam Lanza learned how to kill from his mother, the black Adam Lanzas are often taught to kill by reciting the chorus of violent hip-hop lyrics that tell them that “If a n*gga makes you mad, then shoot that m*therfucker in the face.” It is hard to disconnect this programming from the fact that African American males are the leading victims of handgun violence in the United States: Hip-hop is not the sole cause of all of these problems, but the subliminal impact of consistently repeating violent nursery-rhyme mantras over a smooth and compelling beat can certainly bring out the very worst in us. Our psychological makeup plays a critical role in how we respond to pressure.
It’s time to stop tap dancing around our collective reality. We must seek and destroy the careers of politicians who are being bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association and other gun lobbies who value profit over people. It’s time to start confronting record labels who give lucrative contracts to artists who encourage black men to murder one another. It’s time to elevate the compassion of the young Adam Lanzas of the world, so they can grow up protecting children instead of terrorizing them.
Make no mistake about it, this is going to happen again soon. Right now, there’s some child, somewhere, being fed hate, anger and violence on a regular basis. His mind is being poisoned, like a rotting piece of meat, injected with the virus of self-destruction and disdain for his fellow man. Once he is adequately infected, his anger will lash out onto the world, devastating the rest of us with relentless shockwaves of unadulterated evil. It’ll be too late to teach him compassion, because those neural circuits were adequately altered by extreme poverty, a horrible educational system, police brutality, child abandonment and the latest release from Interscope Records. His desire to kill the rest of us will be fueled by the fact that his soul has already been aborted.
If we want to stop creating the Adam Lanzas of the world, we must reclaim the village and raise these children as our own. There’s no way to escape our own personal and collective responsibility. We must also get around the nonsense of the gun control debate and do what is right for the American people. Period.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Commercialized Hip-Hop: The Gospel of Self-Destruction.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.