It’s a dark day for America. The events from Colorado yesterday are still so fresh, we’re only just starting to appreciate the scale of the horror and carnage.
In order to make sense of my emotions and my thoughts about this event, I just started writing this afternoon. Four hours later, I’m still here….
More and more, real life is touched by violence here in the US. On the roads, in the streets, at schools and workplaces, at places of entertainment and in homes. Unless it happens to you, it’s easily shrugged off as an acceptable part of life. ‘Collateral damage’, if you will. But I find it unacceptable.
Each day, I go to work, and I have to deal with trauma and victims and the outcome of violence. Every single day. And it eats at me inside. Just reading the summaries is descriptive enough to give me nightmares, and hearing the wailing of the victims in the waiting rooms really affects me. So in my non-professional life, I elect to fill it with happiness, love, warmth and connection. I steer clear of violent movies, TV shows, books and video games.
I firmly believe exposure to increasing levels of violence in popular culture is having a significant negative effect on people. People have become desensitised to violence. But this is not about finger pointing at the filmakers, studio execs, writers and game creators. This is a general observation that with each passing year, our entertainment becomes increasingly more violent. These platforms continue to push the boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour, and we adapt. The public eats it up, and demands more. More violence, more gore, more psychological warfare, more carnage. And as a consequence, the brutal acts that are committed by one human being upon another in real life continue to increase in horror. I see the product of this with my own eyes.
I don’t buy the excuse that violent movies or video games don’t influence people to commit violence upon another human being. I believe they do influence people, yet I don’t believe they’re the chief motivating factor that triggers violence. Outcomes in games or in movies don’t have consequences like they do in real life: you can’t hit ‘reboot’ or ‘rewind’ when you kill someone.
Real life is scary enough. You only have to open a newspaper or turn on the TV to see how prevalent violence is in our community. Yesterday, a 16-year-old was charged (as an adult) for the murder of a 23-month-old boy. And today? A 5-year-old was shot when a stray bullet from a drive-by pierced her neck.
How is this sort of behaviour acceptable?
How are we not talking about the problem with guns and people’s delight in using them to kill or wound others?
And the ease in which these instruments of death and destruction can be purchased or acquired?
Last night, I was struggling to process all of the information and anxiety I had about the events and the state of life. I saw the way what happened in Aurora affected Craig Ferguson, and felt exactly the same.
In the darkness of my small apartment, I shed tears for all of those families who will never again share the birthdays with their loved one or quarrel with them. They cannot hold their hand ever again and have it squeezed back. All they have is grief and silence and unanswered questions. And the ones that escaped, harmed by bullets or scarred by the memories, will have the events of that night seared onto their eyelids. I can only imagine the fear these victims felt as they realized the scale of the violence being perpetrated upon them. It will take days, months, years to resume a sense of normalcy, if ever.
But already in the hours since the event, there’s been a telling lack of interest in discussing the issues that are at the center of events such as this: issues like gun control and mental health. Things in this country aren’t going to change at all. The consumption of this event will only be matched when there’s an even bigger event, and then bigger, and bigger, ad nauseum. Tomorrow, life will move on and the carnage will have no lasting effect on the minds of most Americans. There will be no debate on gun laws because ignorant, ill-educated Americans (which seems to be the majority of them) will not tolerate the government impinging on their (misinterpreted) Second Amendment rights. And as a result of the lack of discussion, there will be no reforms. American life will continue to become more sadistic and cruel and violent.
I may not be a scholar on constitutional law, but I think if the citizens of the United States were a forward and progressive people, they would understand that life has changed since their beloved Constitution was written. The country has been settled, the days of Wild West days are over. It’s time to spell out the rights of the individual in 2012, and clarify that the Second Amendment no longer applies. I cannot see in a reasonable society that ordinary people require guns to protect themselves. But that’s not the ‘American Way’. The way they steadfastly resist change on so many levels on one hand, yet encourage new ideas and the entrepreneurial spirit of the individual on the other, is one aspect of the American psyche I will never understand.
I am not the first person to have a whinge about this, and I certainly won’t be the last. And you don’t have to agree with me. I am just hoping in the days to come that we can engage in active debate over issues like violence, gun control and mental health for the wellbeing and future of the nation that I currently call home.
UPDATE – Monday, 23 July:
Just read a great piece by another blogger, Kathy of What Do I Know. It would seem I am not alone in thinking this way:
Sensible gun laws don’t prevent every death, but they do prevent most of them, as evidence in Europe and elsewhere makes overwhelmingly clear. And when there is a shooting spree in a country like Norway or Germany, people don’t hold vigils and then go on as before: they change the law, fix whatever loophole in the system allowed a nutter to gain access to weaponry capable of killing so many, so easily.