Recently, I was in beautiful Phoenix, Arizona, one of the real gems of the American Southwest.
I went to Phoenix to participate in a town discussion on violence with our CBS affiliated television station KPHO, and radio station KFYI.
In Phoenix, as in so many other places around the country, people are concerned about violence and young people. "Rising violence" it's usually called, whether or not the facts and figures can be found to support that claim.
Many experts say that violence among young people is actually holding about steady in our society, but others say there is more violence, bloodier and more deadly, than before.
Bewildered by a flurry of statistics and opposing viewpoints, many American citizens have given up trying to decide whether violence is rising among our young people.
Whatever the amount, they say, it's too much. They point to such incidents as the recent shootings at Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Pearl, Mississippi to incidents of violence at schools around the country.
Nobody can remember such incidents from our grandfather's time, Americans say. But even if the violence isn't statistically worse than it used to be, it's bad enough.
How to explain this violence? Why haven't we as a society learned to do better?
Some people blame the weapons, some people blame the schools. Not surprisingly, many people blame television. They point to statistics that show the high number of murders depicted on television in a single year, to say nothing of a child's lifetime, disproportionate to the real number of murders actually committed.
Defenders of television say those murders are handled responsibly and with taste, they say violence has always been a part of news and entertainment, but the criticism endures, and so does the violence.
Professional sports are getting more and more of the blame. It is said that the sports culture rewards aggression and anti-social behavior. Not incidentally, those rewards are handsome, big salaries, fancy educations, big cars, beautiful women. What kind of message does that send to young people?
Finally, parents take a lot of the blame for American violence. Parents take a lot of blame for just about everything but El Nino these days. And, the blame begs the more important question-instead of blaming parents, how could we be helping?
The city of Phoenix is hoping this discussion will come up with a few answers.
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