Meanwhile, the rest of us are left searching for answers-again. How could this shooting take place? In the 15 years of Kinkel's life, what could have brought him to such a point? And why the earlier killings in Paducah, Ky. and Jonesboro, Ark., involving children as young as 11? What is leading kids to commit such crimes?
The knee-jerk reaction is to simply ban all guns. But guns merely allow these kids to act upon their inner rage, their use is just a symptom of a deeper underlying spiritual disease. Is this just the beginning? Is our society on the verge of plunging into anarchy?
To find the answer, we needn't look far away.
Capitalism harnesses self-interest, the desire to profit, to produce goods and services which communities need. Problems arise, however, when certain products are designed to destroy communities from within. And some companies are especially at fault.
The next time you have a chance, study the lyrics of some popular music groups. Marilyn Manson, a self-avowed anti-Christian satanist, is one such "artist" with a rabid following among suburban teenagers. In his album "Portrait of an American Family," you'll find a song entitled "Lunchbox," which portrays a schoolyard shooting:
Wanna go out, gotta get out
to the playground, gonna throw down at the playground.
I wanna go out
next motherf--- gonna get my metal
pow, pow, pow.
Harmless words? That's what many maintain. Unfortunately, these supposedly harmless words are being converted into violent action with increasing frequency. The lyrics of rappers promote the use of guns and murder as the solution to problems, and some companies are making short-term profits as a result. But if society starts to collapse from this short-sighted activity, we will all suffer from the lack of corporate morality.
No one is immune from the effects of this appalling lack of discretion. The chairman of Time Warner, Gerald Levin, recently lost his son Jonathan to violence. A gifted teacher in New York, the younger Levin was gunned down by one of his students. It was an especially bitter irony that Time Warner had been involved in distributing the album "Cop Killer," which suggested blowing away police officers as a method for solving one's problems. The company eventually divested the division which produced this trash, but only after heavy pressure from police, the black community and anti-violence crusader Bill Bennett.
The real question, though, is this: Why did these executives get involved in these illicit products in the first place? Are we forever doomed to letting potential profits blind us to our moral responsibilities for the larger communities in which we live?
I think companies ought to be held responsible for the messages they convey. They shouldn't be permitted to hide behind the curtain of free speech even as they help destroy the society in which we all live. We should be outraged at the irresponsible manner in which profits are earned at the expense of all of us. Why wait until we hear about our child or nephew killed in a senseless act of violence? Why not, instead, act now to head off tragedy?
In our schools, children should be taught a code of moral standards, a benchmark-such as the Ten Commandments-for their conduct.
The important thing is to replace in our kids' lives the ceaseless rant of popular culture with the splendor of truths built on firmer foundations. After all, it's only in an orderly and morally centered world that business will flourish and grow.
Fred Koury is CEO of Small Business News Inc. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.