Our sick culture of violence

People are saying it’s different this time, that the slaughter of innocents in Newtown will not so quickly recede into the collective American unconscious as most every other gun-assisted atrocity always has. This time “something snapped,” this time we’ll take “meaningful action” to address and begin to cure our sick culture of violence. Even a few Republicans with high NRA scores are saying so.

It’s important to realize that it is a cultural problem, exacerbated but not created by our disgusting bloated arsenal of killing machines. The latest young murderer  had ready access to them of course, his mother apparently was laying in supplies for the apocalypse. The pitiable self-parodying irony of her fate, in the light of that, requires no further comment.

But the shooter also apparently had a “head full of video games” to match his house full of guns. The truth of the stupid familiar slogan (“people kill people”) is unavoidable: these dreadful weapons, perversely described by an expert enthusiast on npr as “cool,” obviously don’t collect or discharge themselves. Someone must intend that, and intentions don’t grow up in a vacuum.

I was giving Younger Daughter a hard time yesterday over her penchant for violent entertainment, from “Hawaii Five-O” (etc. et al) to zombies to “mature” video games. And don’t get me started again about football. She’s a gentle and peaceable soul, as I suppose are most of us. 999 out of 1,000, at least.

But, isn’t all this “fun” and “entertaining” violence really unhealthy, for the culture at large if not for each individual consumer? Doesn’t it create a perfect little petrie dish for the nurture and development of nut-jobs who can stroll down one Wal-mart aisle for their games and another for their guns, even if Mom hasn’t done them the convenience of stocking up at home already? It’s a big country, 1 in 1,000 adds up.

So has anything actually snapped, in this country, this time? I heard the Hawaii Five-O theme in the next room again last night. People all over town were glued to the Titans on TV, either dispersing or gathering their aggressions. Young and not so young people all over the land were again spending their leisure in virtual violent conflict. As we say: it’s a free country.

I never used to understand Kris Kristofferson’s lyric about freedom’s meaning “nothing left to lose,”  we saw again in Connecticut what a terrible price we all continue to pay for a too-glib interpretation of what freedom means. If something really has snapped, we’ll at last act to honor the freedom of little boys and girls to grow up and live their lives.

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