But I find the oversimplification in this case unfortunate and the lack of personal reflection disturbing. This is MORE than a gun control issue. It's a violence (out of) control issue.
Do I think we have major issues to address in terms of gun control? Absolutely. Do I think our handling on mental illness is asinine? Without a doubt. But I also think we live in a society obsessed with violence and worse? A society who accepts it as status quo.
And every time I read of a tragedy such as what took place Friday I wait for the discussion to go beyond the "gun control" debate... to the root of WHY people think they need guns in the first place. Why, in 2012, there's a huge percentage of people who believe "we" must defend ourselves.
From what? From whom?
Where does this need come from? To protect ourselves. To defend ourselves. To carry weapons like our favorite TV badasses.
THAT is what we should be talking about. We should be talking about how many shows we watch and stories we read and movies we watch and video games we play and how many "horror" stories we click on and what it's doing to us.
Because behind the gun there is a man and behind the man there are many, many MANY many guns. Guns loaded with blanks but loaded nonetheless. Loaded and going off in our ears round after round after round. Day after day after day. Every time we turn on our TVs. Pull our car onto roads trimmed with billboards. Turn up the music...
And we're conditioned to think we're enjoying watching what is force fed to us by networks and studios and media outlets. That these are stories we HAVE to see and read about. That without them we have no content on our blogs, no books on our shelves, no Emmy award winning television in our DVR. We think it's perfectly normal that we fear "bad guys".
Since the beginning of time, humanity has entertained itself with violence but we live in a far more technologically advanced time. And what is real and what is make believe can confuse. And what is available now is everything. EVERYTHING is at everyone's fingertips. NEVER has that been the case. Besides, violence isn't something our day to day survival depends on like it did once upon a time. The only "hunting" we do is for parking spots at Whole Foods.
We're being advertised violence like toothpaste. And we can't buy it fast enough. We can't buy it for our children fast enough. (When you can't take your kids to a G rated movie without seeing a torture scene and semi-automatic weapons? Something's not right. When the hottest teen fiction involves children killing each other and everyone seems to accept it because OF COURSE! TEENAGERS KILLING EACH OTHER IS WHERE IT'S AT, YO! We need to talk.)
And I don't care if we all know it's make-believe. Because the blood? Doesn't look like ketchup anymore. The weapons? Are all for sale. So are the costumes on the backs of our favorite characters.
We live in a world where violence is our most bankable source of entertainment. Where war is our most profitable business. And whether we curse or embrace this fact, we're all HERE. We're all here.
"A hero is someone who kills a bad guy," my son recently told me.
"But how do you know if a guy is bad?"
"You just do."
"But what if you don't?"
But what if you don't.
I realized I can't shelter him from violence so I stopped trying. In the same way I stopped trying to shelter myself. Because I'd rather him watch Star Wars so we can talk about it. I'd rather he experiment with his own darkness because we all have darkness. We all like to pretend to be the bad guy... Even the most empathetic and sensitive seven year olds. I acknowledge this because there is no alternative. We are raising our children in a violent society that has ALWAYS been violent. Always.
So why is it so difficult for us to admit that we have a serious problem? Because we do, don't we? Is this not a serious problem? We call these shows, films, video games our "escape" and yet from them, we cannot. We cannot escape.
(I dare us to try.)
We can't escape the violence nor do we seem to want to. We NEED it. We need it in our eyes and in our ears and in our thoughts. But can we at the very least acknowledge that calling horror movies entertainment and the news "horrific" is an irony we seem to collectively ignore? Is pretend violence not violence? Does it not have ramifications? Because whether it's the news at 11 or the midnight showing of The Dark Knight we are ALL watching. We are paying good money to watch violent acts take place, torturous, horrendous things that look pretty damn real. CRAZY real. And that affects us. It affects every single one of us. "Bad guys", "good guys" and everyone in between.
So, yes, guns kill people. Guns kill people and people kill people. But so do the people behind the guns behind the people behind the guns behind the people. And we should be talking about them as well. We should be talking about us.