If we sit back and take a good look at our environment, what we see and hear and breathe every day, we can come to no other conclusion than we are surrounded by, deluged by, smothered by violence, in our movies, in our books, in our video games that we buy for our children, in our sports, in our politics, in our religions (there can be no doubt that the Old Testament is one of the most violent texts ever written), and in our books. One only has to look to see it everywhere.
I recently wrote a story about a young boy who was very sensitive to the chaos and violence around him, and in the story I gave him some strategies to deal with it. I believe, in the wonderful tradition of Fred Rogers, that there are many children who shy away from violence. I also believe that it is the responsibility of those of us who write for children to show them that there is another way. We do not have to bully, to fight, to win that football game at all costs, to see bad behind every bush. Children need to understand that listening to other points of view - not only listening, but hearing - will help them to deal with differences of opinion and culture, and to ultimately, as adults, find other ways to solve problems besides killing and hating.
Every new television program I see being forced down our throats has some aspect of violence and hatred attached to its plots. Why? Are we being programmed to accept this as natural? I, for one, believe it is not natural. Recently, I watched a program where veterans of WWII were interviewed. They cried when they spoke of the violence they saw and experienced. Has our society changed so much in 70 years? Do we now believe this violence we see and hear every day is normal?
I hope that those of us who write for children will take into account our ultimate goal. Is it to sell books? Or is it to have children reach inside themselves to see what they can be? Is our goal as writers to help children think about the consequences of their actions, and perhaps to see the world in a larger perspective than the outcome of a sports game? I hope so.