Grownups, Get a Grip
By Mike Males
c Youth Today, June 1999

In the wake of the shooting at Columbine High School, the media dragged out its school-horror map: Pearl, Miss., West Paducah, Ky., Jonesboro, Ark., Springfield, Ore., and now Littleton, Colo. I pondered a deadlier list: Ojai, Simi Valley, Huntington Beach, Inglewood, Orange, South Bay, Santa Clarita, Anaheim.

The latter are peaceful suburbs ripped by murderous middle-aged adults. Neighbors gunned down in front of a victim's screaming toddler. Bus workers blasted in assault-rifle carnage. Four children slain, house torched to the hide crime. Six slaughtered in the worst mass murder in county history.

The toll from these crazed rampages by midlife adults ages 35 to 51, just in Southern California in the last two years: 32 dead, including 13 children.

No CNN cameras. No grim "experts" dispensing pop-theories. No tear-choked reporters whimpering, "Why? Why? Why?" No presidential summits to confront middle-aged rage.

No, today's fear profiteers have no use for dead youngsters who don't serve their agendas. The media roadshow after Columbine was grotesque, an orgy of pet notions and pat remedies floated on the lie that school shooters are typical teens suffering too-common adolescent angst.

Does President Clinton identify his graying peers with the scores of middle-aged ragers who gun down co-workers and butcher hundreds of children every year? By what right, then, do Clinton -- and the media and shrinks -- force collective guilt on 25 million teens for the acts of a few deranged shooters?

Grownup gunners kill more kids in a week than students kill in a year. Yet Clinton, invoking standard crowd-pleasers about the evils of pop culture, violent video games, kids and guns, and mean teens defying parents' "values," called another summit on school violence. This is same president who can't get exercised about 15,000 children and youths murdered by adults in household mayhem during his six years in office -- no political mileage in that.

The president, reporters and "experts" endlessly wailed that "if it happened in Littleton, it could happen anywhere" — an idiotic cliché with racist overtones, as if mass gunnings should happen in inner-city schools (where almost none occur).

What poisoned American adults to mass-condemn a good generation of kids as demon spawn? A legion of fear profiteers, from top Clintonites to the Carnegie Corporation to News at 11, share much shame.

Among the worst anti-youth inflamers is James Alan Fox, the media-beloved Department of Justice quotee. Crowning his history of flat-wrong predictions blaming crime on demographic scapegoats and false claims that adult violence is declining, Fox is famous for incendiary "teenage crime storm" one-liners branding modern youths as "the young and the ruthless" and "temporary sociopaths." But he can't tell basic truths: that rates of serious crime among middle-agers have exploded in the last two decades, serious crime has not risen among teenagers, and the temporary surge in young-male homicide in the 1980s was a socioeconomic, not a teenage, phenomenon.

Among the mostly white middle-class kids now being vilified, murder rates have declined in recent decades. As a generation, teens today are no more criminal than 20 to 25 years ago. Murder rose only among poor minority youths trapped in jobless inner cities torn by gangs warring over marketing drugs -- whose consumers often are white, suburban middle-agers.

Kids of violent, drug-addicted parents do not enjoy the luxury of Fox, Clinton and elitists to shrug off the "middle-aged crime storm" that is far more menacing than the crime wave predicted for teens. In 1975, 350,000 adults ages 30-49 were arrested for violent, property, or drug offenses. In 1997, the figure was 1.4 million -- a quadrupling in numbers, doubling in rate, and quantum leap in family chaos.

Who cares? The aftermath of the Littleton tragedy exposed the appalling lack of integrity among political leaders and politicized scholars, the media's obsequious viciousness, and Americans' raw, exploitative hatred toward young people. It was a national disgrace. And it was happening here.

Mike Males homepage