Yesterday I received this email that Coach Smith sent out to his players on Monday. Like most people across this country, the events that played out in Newtown, Conn. are a nightmare that came to life in a community that could be anywhere in this great nation. The murder of children and their educators has rocked us all. Evil. Cruel. Disgusting. Those words hardly do justice in what was taken away by a sick and twisted young man this past Friday.
This event has sparked debate across our nation on what this country needs to do to prevent these random shooting murders that seem to be happening with more frequency. Along with that debate, I think that many people have taken a step back to reevaluate their own lives and what we can do better to effect those around us in a positive and uplifting manner.
Coach Smith is no different.
While he's our head football coach, he's also a son, a husband, a father, and a McMinnville community member. He's been rocked by this just as much as any of us from the outside looking in on this shattered community.
Coach often communicates to his players about goal settings, program business, etc. However, what he wrote this Monday to the young men in his charge addressed what he feels what we can all do better to change this culture of aimless and destructive violence. Coach Smith didn't write this with the intention of me publishing this on the blog but I felt so compelled by his message that I insisted that I republish this call to action. He's brave enough to allow me to put this out there and I greatly appreciate it.
Coach Smith's letter isn't an indictment on any one aspect of our culture or placing blame in any one area. Coach's letter is a call for his young men to think about the choices they make in their daily lives and how those choices will shape them as men and as leaders in their future households, places of employment, and their communities. If more people took Coach Smith's words to heart we would be one step closer in making our country what we all want it to be. -11
I write to you today with a heavy heart. I feel I would be remiss as your coach if I did not address this as a team, and give you whatever grain of wisdom and perspective I can. Forgive me if I am not well spoken in this, this really has impacted so many of us. I am not saying I have all the answers by any means, but this is just my honest opinion to you because I care so deeply about this Country, this State, and this Program. I believe we can do something about this. I know it is long, but I ask you sit somewhere quiet and please think on this deeply.
What happened twice last week in America was shocking. This is not the Middle East, or war torn Eastern Europe, but rather our own countrymen killing you and I, our sisters, our mothers, our children. A line was crossed on Friday in Connecticut that I never dreamed someone or something could cross; the purposeful execution of 1st graders.
Why did this happen? How could this happen?
How do we fix it? Our President says “this must not happen again”. How do we bring that about? Somehow as a people we must find a way.
If we do not understand the cause, we cannot prevent it. Band aids will not cure the infection.
What is the cause? The bottom hard fact is that we have many messed up young men in this world. You can call them mentally ill, or whatever label you want. But the facts are that we as a society are failing the young men and women your age in this country. We as adults have allowed our youth to grow up in a culture that ill prepares them for the world they encounter when they leave the home. We as adults in America have flat failed our children. Why? Because we are lazy. We take the easy way, the easy road well worn by blind masses that do things and allow things without stopping to think what the long term affects could be.
INPUT equals OUTPUT. Never has that been more accurate.
We do not allow smoking confined areas because science has shown 2nd hand smoke can lead to cancer. Well, that same science has proven beyond ANY shadow of a doubt that violent movies, pornographic material, and violent video games DIRECTLY lead to increase violence toward women and others. It is a fact.
How can this evil act occur in our country you ask? I say it is because we allowed it to grow.
What is the answer for prevention? Is it Gun Control? Is it more mental health workers for teens?
I say they are Band Aids, and will not fix the problem. Look at China and the knife attack that just occurred there in cutting 22 children. The problem is our Culture. We don’t like the output, so the problem is the input.
The fabric of our Society is crumbling before our very eyes. You may not see it, as you know nothing different. Talk to your grandparents who have seen 3-4 generations pass. Look at the sadness in their eyes. They know better.
I say we have a problem when I go to pre-game meeting in Graf 101 and see 25 teammates sitting down against a wall having their own virtual conversations on their phones! I say we have a problem when you walk across campus and no one looks you in the eye, rather they look at their phone. For some it is their only friend in the world. You know what speaks to my children at home for discipline? Take their phone away.
I worry that young men of your age do not know the difference between a virtual relationship or a virtual experience and reality. In fact, for most young men their video game experience is much more intriguing and interesting than their real life. If left to themselves, why would they not spend more time in a cool virtual environment than a lonely boring real one? You see the movie Wall-E?
The adult male brain is not fully developed for most until around 20 years of age, so why would we fill it with so much adult information so early? There is no question we allow our children to grow up too fast with information they are not developmentally ready for. We have a 21 year age minimum for alcohol consumption for the same reason. We know it is not healthy for you, as you can’t physically process it. My wife has fought the virtual war in our household tooth and nail with our children. She has been made by them to seem outdated, ill informed, uncaring etc… You know what? She has been right on. There is no question in my mind.
Even as an adult, the extent of the trash we fill our minds with is staggering. Why would we willingly fill our minds with poison? Do you really believe you are immune to its affects? I believe you are just as vulnerable as I.
Besides the isolation we have created in our society, and growing our kids up too fast, I believe fathers have flat dropped the ball with their children. Any man that is not actively involved parenting his own children is not a man in my eyes. He is a selfish individual that is leaving his heavy lifting for others to do. Period. Parenting takes two parents; it is way too hard to do the job by yourself. Most likely the kids would have won that virtual world power struggle in our household if there was only one parent there. No parent can meet all of child’s needs by his or herself, and sad fact is too many women are shouldering this heavy burden alone in our country. Where are our men? Every evil young man that committed an act such as this; had a Dad that dropped the ball. These dads were not directly involved shaping their sons’ lives, making sure they had the tools the needed to be successful in life. Their selfish decisions, (I don’t care what the reason was, they were not there) lead to other’s lives being lost. We can sugar coat it any way we choose, but that is a fact.
So, politicians are going to point to the band aids, but I want each of you to examine the society you belong to, and find ways to make a difference in those around you. “To whom much is given, much is expected” that means you and me. Put your phone down a little more, turn off that screen more often, and engage those around you. Create meaningful relationships and give of yourself a little more. Try watching uplifting shows more often, or reading material that is positive and possibly inspiring. When you become a father someday, do not take the easy path of putting job and convenience above what is best for your children. They are your responsibility, and they do not know what is good for them, yet. You are the parent, they are the child. If you can’t make that kind of commitment, then don’t have kids. Get a dog.
You are the future leaders of our society and your generation will shape our country sooner rather than later.
My heart breaks for the families burying their children today. My heart aches for the parents who have presents under a tree for children who will never open those presents. I can’t begin to understand the grief they are experiencing. Tears ran freely down my face when I read of principal Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlack giving their lives in the attempt to prevent the killer from murdering the students in their charge. And then you read about 1st grade teacher Vicki Soto. A young woman who in one terrible moment faced pure evil eye to eye and chose to literally shield her young students from the bullets with her own body, allowing some to escape and live. What heroes those women are to me.
These acts of bravery are what I want to remember.
All of us will be weighed and measured when we are called upon to act in many differing levels of extreme adversity our lifetimes.
Dr. King said, “The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moment of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of crisis and adversity”.
Phillip Brooks said “character may be manifested in moments of greatness, but it is made in the small ones.”
I believe they are both right.
Every day, every minute we are building our character. The moments of crisis in our lives will allow others to see the man inside us, but that man is being built every day by the choices we make and how we spend our time and energy, and the input we allow into minds.
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.”
It is time for my generation, and the one before me, to step up and start doing something about this. It is time for your generation to take notice of our mistake, and take steps to not repeat it.