The Fruit of the Culture


By Michael Quinn Sullivan
CNS Commentary

The pungent scent of gunpowder had scarcely dissipated in Santee, Calif., when the cultural apologists where scratching their heads and asking the obligatory "hows" and "whys." They were shocked that this boy could have done this.

After all, the universal response from those who knew the smallish, outcast kid was that Charles "Andy" Williams was a nice and gentle boy, picked-on by bullies because he was meek and mild. Sure he was "uncool," but- in the words of a teen friend - he was "not a troubled kid."

The only plausible explanation was that the boy snapped in a moment of teen-hormone-induced angst. He took readily accessible weapons from his father's home and went on a deadly rampage. Had those guns not been right there, he would not have been able to commit this heinous act. The fault is found in the devices, not the child, the family or the culture.

That nothing seemed out of the ordinary for Andy on that day or the days leading up to the crime should give us pause. According to published accounts, he was rather morose, telling a friend in Maryland via e-mail that he was depressed, maybe even suicidal. He had "joked" to others about exacting revenge on his tormenters; no one took the dork seriously.

But the varying images do not add up to a whole. This meek child certainly inspired more than his share of "bullying." According to the Washington Post, he and his father - mom apparently ditched the family, a source of great consternation to the killer-child - left Maryland partially because of excessive bullying. Those ruffians in Maryland broke into the Williams home and vandalized only Andy's things. Seems a bit excessive.

No one has dared to criticize it, but apparently Andy's family was a little off. In addition to an absent mom, he spent lots of time away from home - sleeping at friends' houses to the point of excess. He even returned to Maryland last summer for two months, sans pappy, and just flopped on friends' sofas.

While alone on the East Coast, he allegedly shot a friend in the head with a BB gun. No cause for concern, about this gentle, bullied child, right?

At his new home on the west coast, Andy hung out with a rough crowd. The Washington Post casually mentions, as if it is a normal teen experience, that "in Santee, teenagers often hang out in the woods behind the skateboarding park to use drugs... It's also a place for sexual experimentation..."

What was the harmless experimentation 15-year-old Andy was involved in? Kissing behind the old oak tree? No. Apparently, rape. Not a big deal, right? While another boy beat him up over the incident, oddly, no parent seemed to really care. A meek, mild, good-hearted kid, right?

Did I mention the girl was 12? And that she was drunk at the time? The Post reported this as if it were a casual incident of unwanted handholding; no discernable concern.

A lack of adult intervention in Andy's behavior and plans is a pattern that is equally disturbing. The weekend before the incident, Andy and two friends were walking to a party with "marijuana, a half-pack of cigarettes and two 40-ounce cans of beer in a backpack." No one seemed concerned. The boys later spent the night at one of the friend's home, staying up late with the 29-year-old boyfriend of one boy's mother. The 29-year-old now says that the kids told him Andy was planning a massacre at the high school.

What did this alleged adult say? "I hope you guys are joking around and stuff." Andy and the others assured him they were. This man was not bothered by the talk of kids planning a mass murder, as long as it was in jest.

But we cannot criticize. Where, again, was daddy and mommy? Ah, pursuing their lives. Mom had ditched the family. Dad was busy. No supervision, no direction, no moral compass. But we cannot criticize. They were fulfilling the American dream of "choice." Mom had her choices, and dad had his. We cannot criticize. There is surely no connection between all their choices and the boy's actions.

No reasonable person would have seen a warning flag here. It's not like the kid had been already been accused of shooting someone... Or raping a girl... Or doing drugs... Or boozing up... Or was away from home all the time... None would cause concern, given that other kids pronounced that he was "not troubled."

In Andy, and others like him, we are seeing the fruit of our permissive culture's free-for-all morality and worship at the altar of self-absorbed choice. Through at least the '60s, Americans were more heavily armed than today, with most boys in most parts of the country with guns in their bedrooms, or at least readily accessible; yes, even the boys who were bullied. Yet, they didn't shoot up high schools. What, then, has changed?

Most noticeable has been a culturally endorsed over-inflated sense of self-value with a near-absolute disregard for others. It should not surprise any observer that as the value of life has been reduced to a level of personal convenience, we have seen an increase in casual violence. There are other problems: Mothers and fathers more dedicated to professions rather than their kids, trusting that "someone else" will watch the child... Children never knowing childhood... Quick fixes with school-prescribed drugs... Adults afraid to be labeled "judgmental" or, worse, "uncool."

Young Andy Williams and his victims are just more statistics to add to the high cost of our increasingly morally bankrupt culture that has told them personal whims trump the value of life.

Andy is acting out only what this culture of convenience and death has taught him. His victims owe their ghastly demise as much to the evil in this boy's heart as to the culture that produced him, his parents and friends. And the culture that allows them to thrive.

Our amazement at these incidents, given the state of our culture, should be in realizing that it does not happen more often. It should give us pause, and cause us to tremble for our nation's future.

Michael Quinn Sullivan is director of communications for the Conservative Communications Center.


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