More than a week after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, we are still in shock over the heinous act against innocent lives — 19 elementary school children and two teachers were slaughtered.
As the debate on gun control goes on — as it should — we are morally obligated to dig deeper into the state of our society. Many scoff at this and want to make it a one-issue solution. But plain facts highlight disturbing trends that place our great nation on a treacherous trajectory.
We know that mental illness is an ailment that does not get proper attention in our country and is on the rise. The National Institute of Mental Illness reports that there are 14.2 million adults living with severe mental illness in the U.S. with the biggest group being 18- to 25-year-olds. Many of those sufferers lack proper medical treatment.
We are also seeing an alarming breakdown in the nuclear family. According to the Census Bureau, only 18% of households have children under 18 living in a household with a married mother and father. That number stood at 40% in 1970.
The U.S. was founded on Christian beliefs. God is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and in the Pledge of Allegience, as well as on our currency. But those values have also eroded as our culture becomes increasingly godless. The Pew Research Center reported last year that secularization is on the rise. Three in 10 Americans (29%) are religiously unaffiliated. In 2007, 78% of Americans identified as Christians. In 2021, that number dropped to 63% and continues to fall.
The 21st century has given us the rise of social media — perhaps the biggest platform to exchange ideas and opinions. However, with that comes great responsibility. As we know too well, social media can be a toxic place where hatred and bullying reign supreme. A survey conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center showed that overall 27% of teens surveyed said they have been cyberbullied.
This doesn’t take into account the internet itself, which without proper monitoring can expose children to an enormous amount of inappropriate content.
There is also the rise and normalization of drug use. We have seen state after state legalize marijuana, signaling to our youth that it is OK to get high. After decades of campaigns to snuff out cigarettes, this almost seems counterintuitive. But what about illicit drug use? The opioid epidemic has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. and prescription drug abuse has exploded. The CDC indicates there were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2021, an increase of nearly 15% over the 2020 figure.
Children and teens are also exposed to volumes of violent images in our entertainment, which includes television, films, and realistic video games.
And while the list goes on, we will end with a disregard for the stranger. Attacking someone in public either physically or verbally is becoming acceptable, and in some cases, even celebrated — as we see daily in viral videos and the comments that follow. What has come of civility and common decency once drilled into us by family, teachers, and clergy?
Isn’t it time to look in the mirror, as a society, and ask if all of these factors can influence a vulnerable and troubled mind to act out in unthinkable ways?
These maladies must be addressed by the local community in order to pull these kids up and give them the positive energy or affection and care they need so they can be pulled out of the black hole before it is too late.