Needed: Some Common Sense
I saw a story about a boy who got in trouble at school for throwing an imaginary grenade. He mimed throwing a grenade and threw his arms in the air and went “PFFFF!” to simulate an explosion. He was suspended!
I sure hope there is more to this story. I hope this wasn’t the sole reason this boy was suspended. Because, well, come on, he’s in second grade. He was playing.
It shows, though, the problems we’re struggling with as a nation to get a grip on what many have called our “culture of violence.”
Of course, I am not denying it exists. Violent movies? Yeah, we like them. Violent video games? Sure, a lot of people play them.
But here’s the thing: Enjoying the movies and the games do not make you a sick person.
Or a violent one.
A lot of people enjoy watching men and women who can kick a**, blow up a building and pulverize giant robots, all while looking great in spandex, a uniform, a tux or spiky high heels. Many people appreciate movies that, while violent, have something to say about the human condition. How do you condemn violence across the board – or maybe I should say, the depiction of violence – without taking into account a masterpiece like, say, Saving Private Ryan, or the interesting, quirky and (bloodily) artful Kill Bill?
As for video games? People play them all over the world, putting a kink in the theory of a direct correlation between violent video games and violent deaths, specifically violent gun deaths.
Americans are full of contradictions when it comes to violence. Most think it’s fine, they can take it – as long as it’s not real. They can watch Django Unchained without a problem, but show them a real death on TV and they cringe and complain and shield their kids’ eyes.
As they should.
But here is where I delve into more controversial matters because, you see, I believe Americans see too much make-believe violence and not enough reality.
We can send young men and women to wars far from home – yet we cannot bear to acknowledge their deaths. Pictures of flag-draped coffins are the only acceptable images allowed. And even that was banned for many years.
We know about the gun deaths in our country, the mass shootings, the suicides, the accidents, the murders – heck, we have heard the horrifying statistics over and over again. Yet we are removed from the reality. The media blur pictures of the victims of domestic violence, or make sure they are completely covered up before they appear on air, in print or online.
And we have not had to actually see the awful reality of a child’s body that has been shredded by an assault weapon. The mother of Noah Pozner, who died at Sandy Hook Elementary, insisted on seeing his broken body. It was, she said, her duty as a mother. She brought Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy to view Noah’s open casket. Why? Because she does not want the horror of her son’s death sanitized.
Veronique Pozner said, “I wanted it to have a face for him. If there is ever a piece of legislation that comes across his desk, I needed it to be real for him.”
How do we make it real for all of us? What would happen if we were forced to actually see the results of our failure to protect our children and our citizenry? Would it make a difference? Would it shame our leaders into action?
We don’t need to punish second-graders for pretend violence. But maybe we should have consequences for adult lawmakers who refuse to address the real thing.
For those already gearing up to accuse me of wanting to take your guns away: Settle down. I’m not. I am not at all against responsible gun ownership.
I just think we can – and must be – more courageous, more realistic and smarter about dealing with weapons and violence in our country.