On March 17th 2013 two high school athletes were tried and found guilty of taking part in the rape of another high school student. If you are unfamiliar with the trail that I am referring to, simply Google the word “Steubenville” and you will find all that you need in order to understand the chain of events that have led to what has eventually become a media circus. The lives of that young woman, the accused and an entire community has been changed forever and although the trial is “over”, this event has been catapulted to the world stage, forcing all of us to take a hard look in the mirror and ask some serious questions about the “rape culture” we have perpetuated.
As a parent, my heart immediately went out to the victim. The assault in itself is bad enough but in addition, this case had garnered so much attention, I can only imagine the embarrassment and shame she must be feeling. My wish for her is that she gets the help she needs in order to find peace, so that she may continue to grow and reach her fullest potential.
My thoughts then move to the attackers. There have been polarizing debates about whether or not they were been punished enough or if the additional students who were present and/or participated should be prosecuted as well.
Many look at this as an event that came out of nowhere and are completely confused as to why or how this could have occurred in such a typical, Anywhere, USA suburb and by kids no less. But if take a look at our culture and peel back the onion a bit, it seems to me there a systematic lack of empathy from our young people towards their fellow man that is unsettling as it is tragic. Don’t believe me? You don’t have to take my word for it. Check any reputable news outlet and I guarantee you will find a multitude of heinous and violent acts done by people over the last decade so young it will break your heart.
The cause of this missing empathy is up for debate: Many will blame the culture of athlete worship that encourages secrets and discourages whistle blowing. Perhaps some will accuse the popularity of shooting games for desensitizing our young people human suffering. Or maybe, people will place culpability on music, specifically the hip hop culture of objectifying and over sexualizing women.
Each of these potential “causes” may or may not be a factor and I am certain each will be thoroughly dissected by someone, somewhere in the media. Because families all over are so affected by this tragedy that they will searching for answers and looking to their favorite pundit for guidance.
I however won’t be doing that because frankly, I don’t think the solution is very complicated.
My son, who is a toddler, is currently shielded from the horrors and absurdities of this world. But someday, he will slowly lose the eyes of a sweet little boy and begin to notice that there is more to life than Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and popsicles. Children tend to be deceptively observant of the words and actions of their parents. They are taking inventory of everything that we do in order to build the archetype of the adult that they will be in the future.
Therefore, the key to combat this empathy deficiency is quite simple: Take responsibility for our children’s actions by first taking responsibility of ourselves. Think about it this way: You ever tell your kids that they should behave well because they are an extension of you? Well, that principle also works the other way in the sense that WE are the direct source of THEIR morality. As such, we must all increase our resolve to not just preach to our kids about how they should live their lives, but rather be that example through our daily words and actions. This means treating everyone with respect and dignity, including those who you don’t particularly like and complete strangers. It also means never letting a day go by without letting the ones you love the most (especially your children) how much you care for them. It means doing things for the benefit of others, such as performing random acts of kindness and volunteering your time to worthwhile causes. It also means not being afraid to speak up for what you believe is right, even if it may not be the most popular view mongst your peers. It means doing all of these things, then encouraging your child to do the same.
…and the list goes on.
It is only though love that we can combat those negative influences and instill the proper values that we wish to see in our future generations.