I believe an armed society is a polite society, which brings me into conflict with many these days, yet the root cause of tragedies such as what has transpired in Connecticut runs far deeper than simple guns.
We as the American Society revel in violence and destruction: the best selling games are those in which your avatar is that of a “super-soldier”, which is a modern and correct manner of saying “mass-murderer who kills his targets before they can ably defend themselves”. Games that expand our understandings or appeal to our artistic selves are always considered “niche” titles with little potential to sell well. The Portal series has been an odd duck in this regard, achieving much higher mass-recognition than most, yet nobody would say it has sold better than Halo or Call of Duty, both being best-selling series that glorify the American revelry in violence. The most profitable and most highly advertised games are those that encourage players to kill as much and as creatively as possible.
It’s not just games though. TV, comic books and movies all more or less constantly portray a romanticized and glorified view of violence, with twisted villains that are portrayed as somehow likable, such as the Joker in Batman or Howard Epps in Bones, opposed by heroes who, while better people than the villains, still often plummet to the same degree of violence in order to put a halt to the diabolical machinations of the villains, often with devastating results for innocents caught in the crossfire.
And people are saying that the weapons themselves are the problem? If weapons were the problem, then nobody would ever walk out of a gun show alive. The problem is our culture, something we have allowed to get wildly out of hand, allowing our values to become miserably vexed and flayed. What good will banning weapons do when our pop culture teaches us all so intently that killing is cool? That it’s hip?
Violence has changed. I personally believe violence, and indeed killing, do have a natural if unpleasant place in our world. Humans are not the only species to kill. Predators hunt, mothers fight and kill to protect their offspring, and packs and prides will fight to defend their territory. Indeed, violence and killing are always going to be all around us. They are a fundamental truth of the world in which we live. But we have twisted it. In the natural world, we see killing as merely a means to protect and ensure the continuation of either one’s own life or the life of family or friends. In the HUMAN world, it has become something we seek out. We go out of our way to buy tickets to a murder mystery film in which the victims are killed in unspeakable ways. We pay top dollar for video games that ask us to enjoy gunning down or slicing and dicing people who, by the game’s very programming, are less able to defend themselves from you in order to give you a “satisfying kill”. And week after week, month after month, we buy comic books that feature grand, sweeping story arcs in which the world is imperiled by madmen with superpowers with astoundingly high body counts at the end of each storyline.
Guns are not the problem. We are the problem. We have no one to blame but ourselves.
When we can cure our lust for violence, I will give up my gun. Until then, I obey the law of nature, and I will fight life and limb to defend myself and those I care about with the tools I have available.
I won’t lie. I enjoy these games, movies, TV shows, and comics as much as the next guy my age. Eventually, it tires me and I put the activity down and I curl up with a good romance story instead, or maybe my favorite puzzle game, Lumines: Electronic Symphony, on my Playstation Vita.
Because even though I cherish my right to guns and do not wish to give them up, I have a heart. It’s time my country followed that example. Violence has a place in the world, but it is NOT where we place it now.
I’m NOT railing against violence in pop-culture. I’m NOT saying violent games need to be banned. What I AM saying is that it needs to stop being celebrated, and instead have people learn to see it in such a way that the thought of killing someone turns your stomach.
As long as violence is celebrated, some sicko like Timothy McVeigh is going to take his “celebration” too far, and the cries of ruined mothers will continue to show up in headlines.
Choose your purchases. Choose not to celebrate violence. Leave that copy of Call of Duty on the store shelf. Don’t go see the latest Saw-like film. Don’t watch shows like Dexter, which glorify a serial killer, no matter his intentions.
Show our culture it needs to change. The best way you can do that is by deciding where you place your money. The wolf that wins is the wolf you feed.
Let’s feed the right wolf.