An ounce of prevention…

Published 7:06 pm Friday, June 3, 2022

By Howie Soucek

Recently, I submitted a Facebook post which made at least three references to our responsibility for the best interests of our children, to include their mental well-being.

Later, I saw a news article about a local shooting involving two of our adolescents here in Franklin. Following that, I saw a national news story about 19 elementary school children and two teachers who were killed in a Texas town by an adolescent armed with an assault rifle.

We are the only advanced nation in the world with this kind of problem. Now comes the question, “What will it take for us to stop this madness?” The answer is that “we lack the will to stop the problem.” But just who is “we”?

Many think that we need more comprehensive and restrictive gun laws. Many others instead think that (in supporting our “gun rights”) we should have more people in public places who are armed and trained to protect their fellow citizens. These two groups argue, and nothing gets done.

My first thought is that BOTH of these are needed. However, both of these (along with excellent law enforcement) are fundamentally REACTIVE, not preventive, and they should be seen as interim measures to be implemented ASAP, along with expanded law enforcement (including increased mental health training) at the street level.

To thus improve our reactive capabilities, however, would be grossly insufficient in our attempt to solve the hideous sickness that is plaguing our society, mass killings being only one example of its manifestation.

Here is the issue: What is desperately needed are PREVENTIVE actions that go to the SOURCE of our sickness. In my view, such actions would all deal with our children’s holistic education and mental health, UPON WHICH NO SERIOUS VALUE IS BEING PLACED BY THE ADULT COMMUNITY — with tragic consequences such as addictions, depression, suicides, withdrawal, hurtful and destructive behaviors, and insufficient life skills and knowledge for a happy, successful future. All of society is paying a significant price for this failure, and it’s getting worse.

The very introduction of our U.S. Constitution specifies its purpose, including  “…to insure domestic tranquility” and to “…promote the general welfare…” At every level, our government is failing to do this. Most members of government, in their selfish, divisive efforts to accrue and retain political power (along with other members, in their silent acquiescence) do little to promote the general welfare. This is not limited to distant politicians at the federal level.

At the community level, imagine a citizen offering a speech to his school board on the subject of children’s mental health… and then submitting numerous detailed ideas to its central office administration (ideas such as a collaboration with a university psychology department’s community outreach program… or ideas about coursework to protect our children against insidiously malicious content on social media that results in everything from depression leading to suicide — to indoctrination leading to murder) …ideas that are not even acknowledged, much less followed up on. There should be little wonder that many people say, “Why bother?” and  “Who cares?”… while others simply “smh.” Meanwhile, too many of our children continue to be undereducated and with a rudderless sense of direction for life.

In his later years, my dad used to say, “Our society is sick, … and I’m glad I lived when I did.”

Growing up in a community of homestead farms where conservative AND liberal values were BOTH needed for survival, people placed enormous value on a holistic education, on communication with the goal of mutual understanding, effective interpersonal relationships, perseverance in the face of hardship, compromise, cooperation and the acceptance of personal responsibility. In our time, we seem to be headed in the opposite direction.

Unless enough of us, both leaders and followers, focus on the well-being of our children — all of them — in a cooperative way, we doom ourselves… and them. It is time to stop with the “smh” and with the silence… and with the easy blaming, which accomplishes NOTHING (to blame “poor parenting” is but one example). Indeed, the problem is us… and so is the solution.

Howie Soucek is a resident of Franklin. Contact him at hownester@charter.net.