Violence. It is inherent in any society. Whether it is in a struggle for power, a struggle for survival, or simply an unapologetic criminal impulse, violence is one of the unhappy calling cards of the human race and it has been at play since the beginning.
That is why we are largely, sadly, inured to the violence we see reported each day in the news. Bombings overseas, hell, bombings here at home. Gun violence, arson, stabbings, drunk driving, vengeful fired employees, unhinged outliers of society - we never know when violence will strike, we simply know it will.
These days it takes a particularly unique act of violence to turn our collective heads. 20 dead children in a school. A cinema full of innocent movie goers. Two 12 year olds stabbing another 12 year old 19 times...
If you have not yet seen the headline, yes, that last one is real.
Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, both 12, had a sleepover Friday night with another 12 year old friend from middle school. The next morning they went to the woods under the pretense of playing. Once secreted in the trees, Morgan and Anissa attacked their "friend", stabbing her 19 times all over, including hitting her heart, liver, pancreas, and stomach, and barely missing an artery that would have certainly ended the girl's life.
They left her in the woods to die.
The girl was able to crawl to a sidewalk where she was found by someone on a bicycle. Rushed into surgery, she is now in stable condition. At least physically. As for emotionally? Mentally? I daresay most adults would be having a very hard time processing being attacked by two friends and left for dead.
The two girls who did this were found and arrested. They were also very loquacious with authorities, answering their questions and supplying quite a bit of information.
They freely spoke of planning to kill her for months. Gave details of how they originally planned to do it - duct tape to the mouth, a knife to the throat.
And they went on and on about a website they frequent, Creepypasta.com, a story sharing site devoted to the scary, the outlandish. These are the first words that greet you at the black backgrounded site:
—Margaret White, Carrie (2013)
Proudly hosting 11,880 of your worst nightmares since 2010.
By its own definition, "a creepypasta is a short story posted on the Internet that is designed to unnerve and shock the reader."
Harmless enough. A Chicken Soup For The Soul - ghoulish edition, if you will.
Stories that titillate, alarm, frighten have been around forever. They are staples around the campfire, retold for generations at slumber parties, and Stephen King has made a pretty good living out of them. So I am loathe to point all the blame at a collection of stories on a pretty lamely built website.
The girls spoke about Slenderman, a presence at the website. A "god" of sorts to some. For the uneducated, Slenderman is a paranormal creation that walks around in a dark suit, and what could be construed as women's white panty hose over his face. His arms are long and he appears out of nowhere, presumably killing those he encounters yet no bodies are left behind.
I know about Slenderman because Carson shared a couple Youtube videos with me roughly a year ago of a bunch of drunken guys playing the Slenderman game. It was hilarious. As they navigated the woods and abandoned structures they would shriek, shit their pants, and hold one another when *poof* they turned a corner and there he was.
No harm, no foul. As Carson describes it, Slenderman is all about the jump scare.
Yet, these girls worshipped this fictional character to the point they felt they must kill someone in order to win his approval. One girl told the police she believes Slenderman watches her, and he can read your mind. She said she sees him in her dreams.
OK, cut. I call bull and shit. These 12 year olds were fully functioning students, not escaped psychopaths. Regardless of what they believed they were gaining, one thing is most glaringly missing: parental oversight.
Yes, I completely believe the reports that their parents are "devastated" - what average parent wouldn't be - but I must ask where were they in supervising their daughters online and real life presences? How much time did their girls spend on that website? Did they even know it existed?
My guess, and I stress this is just a guess, is no.
Most parents still have no idea the paths their children take online, the nooks, crannies, and dark alleys into which they wander in cyberspace. They may give a cursory glance at the apps installed on their kid's phone, or peek at their laptop Desktop, but most parents are clueless. And most parents would be shocked to find where their kids hang out, how many strangers they chat with, and the questionable apps they use, all the while leaving some very traceable breadcrumbs right to your house.
And this is something I don't understand. Technology is wonderful, I am a huge proponent of it. But technology is also very dangerous in the hands of young people who think they are invincible and that everybody is exactly how they present themselves online.
It may have frustrated my daughters through the years, but they have always known that their need for privacy stops where my need to properly parent begins.
When Carson sparked an interest in animes like Black Butler, Attack on Titan, Dangan Ronpa - things with which I was completely unfamiliar - I invested the time in learning, then watching with her, then actually liking the three series myself. I also understood where she was in her devotion to them. Yes, there is blood shed aplenty in all three, but she loves the storytelling, the illustrations, the artistry of the animations.
Hell, my own sister once questioned the "darkness" of some of Carson's own work, asking was I worried? I could confidently say, "NO." I know her, I invest in her, I monitor her, and I know the places from which she creates.
You cannot just give your child gadgets and unlimited time alone to do with them as they please. You have to be willing in actually invest your time in your child.
But I digress.
Technology and questionable parenting aside, my bigger question in all of this tragedy is how much of this type of violence owes to just being a bad seed - someone born with a bent for destruction; and how much owes to the world in which we are raising our kids.
Surely if we are fairly numb to the realities of violence around us, we cannot expect our children to be any different. They grow up in a world where blood is shed daily - not just in wars they cannot see, but in their schools, their malls, their neighborhoods. Violence just is.
The programming put forth caters to the crass, classless, and worthless who behave so badly yet are rewarded at every turn with cash and celebrity- Real Housewives, Jersey Shore sewage, Kardashians, Bad Girls. Entitlement is the air those people breathe and it is highly intoxicating to the young viewers who keep them in business.
Is it any wonder then when the two toxic components - entitlement and violence - collide?
This is 16 year old Vincent Parker. Cute kid appearing in a selfie like so many other cute kids daily.
On December 19th, he pepper sprayed then stabbed his mother in the eye and then beat her to death with a baseball bat and a crowbar before moving on to his father who he also killed.
Their offense? Did they beat him? Rape him? Neglect and abuse him?
They took his iPod away.
To quote one of my daughters, "What the what?"
Yes, he told police, "I just remember getting mad. It’s all from my dad. All this stuff like my dad taking away my iPod and stuff."
Sorry, Vincent, but no go. Getting your panties in a wad is one thing, bludgeoning your parents to death is another.
This was a honor student, never in trouble before, and yet this was what he considered appropriate in the face of not getting what he wanted when he wanted it?
Back in January, a 14 year old stabbed her 11 year old sister to death. Reason? She felt her little sister wasn't appreciating her.
Elliot Rodger stabs three and guns down three more because he wasn't getting the female love he felt her deserved.
What is happening that young people seem to think violence is the answer to their problems? Is this really how we are raising them?
Are we unintentionally taking good seeds and by watering and fertilizing them for years in a society in which violence is commonplace, bullshit is rewarded, and gratification must be instant, transforming them into kudzu that coils back through society choking off the good?
I don't think knives are the problem. I don't think guns are the problem. Knives and guns in the wrong hands, in the hands of people who view them as an acceptable answer are the problem.
They say you reap what you sow.
I say that when two twelve year olds try to murder a friend over a fictional character, and a 16 year old slays his parents over an iPod, it is time to rethink our gardening.