We Glorify Violence In History And Movies, But We Are "Surprised" By Massacres Such As Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech
Let's stop pretending that such killers parachute from Mars the day before they unleash their mass atrocities. Maybe one day, long after we're all gone, grown ups will start talking about the history of violence and the dangers of celebrating and glamorizing it.
When 12 people are killed in a massacre
while watching a movie in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, are we surprised
or do we pretend to be surprised?
We mouth our anger and outrage
because we feel the pain of the senseless loss of human lives. Yet do we also act
surprised because at the back of our minds we know we are avoiding a
serious national debate on the role and history of violence in these
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and the
availability of guns is only part of the problem. There seems to be a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.
No matter how strict
the nation's gun laws become, so long as the cavalier and even
celebratory attachment most Americans have towards guns and mass
violence is not addressed, from one generation to the next, we will continue to be "surprised."
This time it was in Aurora and the mass killer was
James Holmes. He had an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and a hand gun.
The AR-15 is purely for combat; a fast-firing army-style weapon. One
of Holmes' weapons reportedly jammed otherwise he might have shot and killed more; he shot 71 and 12 died.
We know there will be a next time. The names will be different, as may the arsenals and the
locations. It could be another theater; maybe a school; maybe a concert
arena; maybe a lobby where commuters are waiting to board a train, or
bus, or plane; maybe a park; maybe a crowded street; maybe a wedding;
maybe a house of worship; or, any such location where people have
amassed, not knowing their lives are about to be snuffed.
Yes, the NRA, the powerful pro-gun lobby and weapons ownership booster is a big problem. It's outrageous that Holmes could have acquired his weapons
legally. It's equally outrageous that national leaders, including most
politicians can't push for gun controls because they are afraid to confront the NRA and its millions of dollars in campaign spending.
Yet, Holmes --and others like him determined to commit massacres-- could probably acquire their arsenal through other means. What's
never addressed after such mass killings of innocent people by gunmen
is the role and place of mass violence on the nation's psyche.
is celebrated and glorified. The ace gunslinger as god.
Consider the history of violence even from the very creation of these United States. The
history is long: the conquest of Native Americans through massacres and
extermination are celebrated as heroic victory of "good" over
"evil"; violence against African descendants through lynching and
burnings; and, overseas warfare, killings, conquests, annihilations, all
involving mass deaths are never contextualized. "Taking out" people
is part of the national lexicon; and often the term "taking out" is used
in a macabre and celebratory manner even in tabloid newspapers.
Movies, DVDs and video games containing violence and aggression are celebrated. In some of the
most popular movies the "star" commits mass killings and either gets
away or go down in a hail of bullets while making a final stand.
Where does make-believe end and reality begin?
were are still somehow "surprised" when, at Virginia Tech, 32 students
are killed and 17 wounded by a student who was later ruled to have had a
mental disorder. We are still "surprised" when 13 students are killed
by two fellow students in Columbine.
Yes, the initial focus has to be on the killers
and their victims. But then we need to look at the culture and society that produces such mass killers.
People who are in position to start the
national conversation on violence, including in this particular case,
President Barack Obama and candidate Mitt Romney are still "surprised."
Let's stop pretending that such killers parachute from
Mars the day before they unleash their mass atrocities. Maybe one
day, long after we're all gone, grown ups will start talking
about the history of violence and the dangers of celebrating and
A conversation on violence will open up
Pandora's Box. To paraphrase the Jack Nicholson character in A Few Good
Men: "This nation can't handle the truth."
"Speaking Truth To Empower."
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