The Character Movement

Rome is Burning

According to legend, the emperor Nero played his fiddle as the city of Rome burned. Nero’s infamous behavior made his name synonymous with uncaring apathy. We need look no further than the news to recognize that we are watching as Rome burns. Violence in our schools is a sobering reminder that our children’s safety is at risk even in places that are supposed to be safe. And yet, hearing the news of another school shooting is becoming far too commonplace.

This week, as the Marysville community mourns and tries to pick up the pieces, the rest of the nation engages in political battles where the only way to win is to make the other side lose. No wonder we are unable to find mutual solutions to the challenges facing our nation. As we look to external causes for these tragedies, the words of Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar ring out: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…” We have created a society where we put profits from the sale of violent video games ahead of the emotional well being of our children. We emphasize the need for better grades in math but show little effort to build the character of our teenagers. We indulge our children with the purchase of material goods but see a generation struggling to find meaning around deeper things.

We have created this environment. As a community, it is our job to uncreate it. As parents, we need to invest in our role as the protector, disciplinarian and moral compass that teaches right from wrong. We need to fill their hearts and minds with values and lessons that will help them become the kinds of adults our world needs. It starts with little things like ignoring your phone during family dinners and refusing to let your child play “M” rated video games.

As a community, we need to come alongside one another and step in when we see others struggling. We need to support our schools and the educators that are working so hard every day to create a safe and nurturing environment for our kids. We need to support school efforts to build character and re-establish teachers as a moral authority in our communities and schools. We need to be more vigilant in modeling character ourselves.

We have failed in recent times to teach the values of respect, compassion and integrity, and thus we have created a generation of too many children with holes in their consciences – focused only on the self. If we do not model and distill in young people these important values, how can we wail “Why?” when a student is to blame for another school tragedy? We are not an uncaring, apathetic nation, so it is time to put down our collective fiddles and begin the difficult task of saving Rome.

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