Suburban, middle-class parents 
must start asking tough questions

I don’t know what is going on anymore. I don’t like what we have become.

This one was bad, worse than all the others. And the others were breathtaking, unspeakable, incomprehensible, awful.

A theatre. A mall during Christmas. A high school. A man shoved in front of a subway. A 10-year-old girl kidnapped, raped and dismembered by some strung-out-on-violent-video-game, white, teenage punk.

Dear God, what is becoming of us?

It could never be worse than Century 16 in Aurora, we thought. James Holmes — that freak, that monster — he was as low as we could ever go. Surely it could never get worse than Jessica Ridgeway — barbarism beyond understanding.

But then, this. 

It was what we couldn’t imagine: It was worse.

Those precious little boys and girls in Newtown, Conn.  — so many of them, lost. 

An entire class of first-graders. All of them. Gone.

Those teachers, some of them barely adults themselves, confronted with unthinkable horror in their last moments on Earth. So brave, but with no reward. 

What has happened to us? What have we become?

Many have questioned how Islam can call itself a peaceful religion when near-daily acts of mass murder are committed around the world in the religion’s name. Peaceful? If Islam is so peaceful, why is it nearly always a Muslim who is the one blowing up innocent women and children?

Now, it’s past time for us to pose a variation of that same question to ourselves.

Pay attention white suburbanites — yeah you, the one with the developmentally above-average son who gets mostly As even though he spends the bulk of his life perched on his flank steak playing violent video games.  I am asking you.

How can our progressive, suburban society call itself civilized when acts of depraved barbarity have become a fixture of our lives?

Civilized? OK, then answer me this: Why is it usually the suburban, middle-class white kid who expresses his “mental illness” by killing a classroom full of kids — or by kidnapping a little girl and cutting her to pieces? 

What is it about our society that seems to create young boys who do this?

Don’t give me this garbage about Holmes and Lanza and the Ridgeway murderer being social outliers.  Twenty-something outliers didn’t dismember little girls before. 

Besides, these aren’t outliers. Outliers outlie. This sort of degenerate trash commits a crime almost every week. 

It isn’t just Muslims who need to do some soul-searching about what’s wrong in their social order.

Hey, suburban whitey with the adolescent son, we do, too.

It’s like clockwork after one of these events. Our collective dialogue focuses on big public policy question.

I saw that Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to make it easier to place menacing types with mental health issues into mandatory psychiatric care. OK, let’s try that.

In Douglas County, they may put plainclothes officers in schools. Think air marshals, only for schools. If we’re deteriorating into a society of animals, it would make sense to hire more zoo-keepers. So, let’s try it.

The call for more gun laws is a canard, but it’s a free country, so the gun-control types can propose away.  When they do, they should do us a favor: Don’t lie to us. Don’t tell us any lives will be saved by an assault weapons ban. Denver has an assault weapons ban and has for 23 years. Google “Denver homicide” for a quick tutorial on how well that’s working out.

These proposals may or may not be helpful, but parents — especially we suburban, white, middle-class types who profilers would suggest are the most likely to be raising a mass murderer — would do well not to bank on big social change from Washington or Denver turning this barbarous tide. 

Maybe we should just control what we can. Throw the violent video game in the trash, or at least grab our sons by the arm and tell them the next time they turn them on that life is precious. Don’t turn away from me, son, I am talking to you.

And if your son is already lashing out, maybe you should exercise some personal gun control, and not leave your machine gun lying around.

I am not that smart. I don’t have many answers. Social decline is everywhere. It’s hard to fathom what we’ve become. I guess I’ll just control what I can.

Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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Of course assault weapon bans don’t work when you can get around them with a 20 minute drive.

Wow, really? Muslims are the problem? Why did Penry even bring this up? His column is part of the problem - making statements like that, Killing women & children. Did you know that our servicemen are committing suicide of more than one a day? And the main reason why is because they saw one of their own buddy’s or innocent women & children blown up. Yeah our drones over there are killing many many civilians. Their family’s are just as important as our’s are here in the U.S. We are in their country killing for oil for a war that started over weapons of mass destruction which we all found out later were lies. Until we are all more loving & kind to each other, and quit throwing out terrible mean statements like Penry did,our country will grow more of our own weapons of mass destruction like the young man who murdered those children & adults at that school. S.A.

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