I am so sorry to read and hear about the recent shootings in Isla Vista. I’ve lived in Australia for many years, but I lived in I.V. for four or five years back in the ’80s and graduated from UCSB, as did my brother and my sister. My heart goes out to the victims’ families, the family of this disturbed young man, and to anyone who has been affected by this traumatic event.

It is perhaps too early to try to find meaning in such violence, and yet, if we are witness to such an event, it is incumbent upon us to try. It seems all too easy to blame gun laws or the NRA. And, here, guns are not the main story; “sharp implements” were used, too. Likewise, we want to blame health professionals: “How could they not have done something to stop this man sooner?” But this also seems misplaced as this young man intentionally hid his plans from authorities and did not want to be discovered.

Changes do need to occur with guns (I would love for police to go around with postal bags and collect everyone’s guns and bury them somewhere!) as well as lessons to be learnt for mental health professionals and police from these events. My question is even more basic: How do we send our young people at age 17 or 18 far from home with money, BMWs, and so much freedom and almost completely abdicate our responsibility to guide them, parent them, and make them into productive members of our community and nation? How do we even know what they are learning, let alone doing?

In Israel, most young people that age are either in the military or in Yeshivah. You will see soldiers all over Israel with rifles, and yet you will read about very little, if any, gun violence there. Do we really want our young people out in the streets with drugs, alcohol, money, cars, sex — with little responsibility other than to go to class and party?

I know many who describe the American university experience as a “rite of passage.” What kind of rite involves so few elders and ends with $50,000-$100,000 or more of debt? When I look back at my and my friends’ university days, we are lucky to be alive. Many of us went to jail, did drugs, drank endless amounts of alcohol, had unprotected sex. We even had college-sponsored “educators” teaching us how to have sex! We were 17, 18 years old. Crazy.

My brother started gambling when his UCSB professor took his first bet; the econ professor turned out to be a bookie. My brother went on to have a major gambling problem that haunts him even now, 20 years later. My sister dated guys with drug problems and other criminal issues. She once showed up with a guy selling crack and stealing purses from old women. And we were basically good kids! We all have careers now and families and are productive members of society. But that university experience was crazy.

Where are the leaders in our community? Are we all too busy to just be good parents and good neighbors and good citizens? How do we let our precious children go so far from home before they are old enough to drink a beer with such little structure and guidance? What are we going to do about this?


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