ISSUES IN FOCUS
Week of April 26, 1999
IDEAS THAT KILL
I was born in 1943 and grew up in the 40s and 50s. Anyone much younger than 45 will find it difficult to comprehend what a difference there is between today and then. The differences speak volumes about where America is today and where it is headedand the end of the road is not very pretty.
From the time I was old enough to go to the movies and until I was approximately 10 years old, I spent nearly every Saturday afternoon at our local movie theater watching Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and other heroes defeat the bad guys. There was killing all over the place: the good guys killed the bad ones.
The message in these black-and-white movies was black and white: the good guys were good and the bad guys were very bad. An explosion of cheers would erupt from youngsters, including myself, when the heroes came to the rescue of the innocent victims of the bad guys. Murder, robbery and mayhem were very bad. Being good was very good and becoming a person who lived by what is right was very right. All of us wanted to be like those heroes. We wanted to do what was right. And I wanted to make something of myself and achieve something important: it was a glorious, almost inexpressible vision of the future. I, and most of my generation, believed it was important to be good, to do what is right. This was the message I received from almost every source: movies, my teachers and virtually every adult I knewuntil I got to college.
We didnt have video games back then, but we all played equivalent games: cowboys and army. We shot, with cap guns, the imaginary bad guys and defended the good guys. In this make-believe world we acted out a moral absolute for the real world: instruments of force were only to be used in self-defense. The near-universal acceptance of this belief in America, in my childhood, kept crime very lowand juvenile crime was rare.
I grew up in a town that probably had more guns in town than people. Guns were all over the place and no one feared them. Virtually every adult owned one or more guns, including semiautomatic weapons. Lots of people carried them around openly, in their cars and on their persons, especially during hunting season. Guns were a lot more accessible to children than they are today. Not only did every kid in school know where his parents kept their guns, virtually every pre-teen boy owned, by the time he was 10 years or so old, a shotgun or rifle given to him by his parents. Yet not a single person felt threatened or was ever threatened. And there was not a single murder using a gun or any other weapon while I lived there.
There were no school counselors to undermine the authority of parents. When, on rare occasions, I got a whipping from my father for doing something wrong, there were no voices around yelling "child abuse." If I misbehaved at school, there was a price to pay, including the possibility of getting paddled by the teacher or principal. Most of us were grateful for such discipline.
When I went to college, in 1961, I made my first contact with one of the ideas that would become the destroyer of America, as I had known it: the idea that there are no absolutes. This notion was awash on our college campuses in the 60s. It was an idea that would undo, for many, everything they had learned as a youngster from their parents and teachers. It would create a generation of baby boomers that thought virtually nothing was absolute, that almost anything goes. It was an idea that gradually filtered down to high schools and grade schools. It was to later take many lives, as it has most recently done in Littleton, Colorado.
If a child accepts the idea that there are no absolutes, it will gradually destroy everything within his mind that sets a rational man apart from a savage. If there are no absolutes, then there is no such thing as: truth, knowledge, standards of right and wrongor reason. Such a child is not guided by his intellect, but by emotions generated from the terror of trying to live a life devoid of the only means of living: reason, the ability to think. Such a child grows to resent and hate those who can think and live successful lives. Unable to reason, he resorts to the only other tool available for dealing with others: force. And the example set by statiststhose purveyors of forceprovide him all the rationalization he needs to become a criminal.
The idea that there are no absolutes is a contradiction and, therefore, absolutely false. But as long as this idea remains the common currency of modern education, we will continue to see students, transformed into absolute monsters by the teachers of the non-absolute, kill others.
April 26, 1999
© Copyright 1999 Fulton Huxtable
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