First, the ways in which I’m a walking oxymoron. (And perhaps a regular moron).
1. I hate guns. We have 3 of them in the house (locked in a safe). They give me the heeby-jeebies, but yet I support my husband’s enjoyment at using them to shoot at clay pigeons. What I believe to be a right and believe to be “good things” aren’t always the same.
2. I’m a pacifist. And when I saw the photograph of a woman in sheer grief and agony, I thought – nearly aloud – if someone were to take a picture of me at such a moment, I’d cut them. Hardly a moment John Howard Yoder would be proud of. I recognize that my instincts and what I might want to do in moments of conflict may not coincide with what I believe to be true and right and good. I think that’s part of the human nature.
Now, my thoughts on yesterday.
I’ve heard blame, the cries of “we must do something” (and I’m all on board if we have full-proof plans by the time H Boy enters kindergarten). The pundits allude to new discussion of how laws and rights will shift and change. But I believe this all to be the efforts of the powerless to feel a sense of control in a situation out of their hands. Perhaps by adding “regulation” we can feel like we’re doing something, but in actuality we’re not doing anything, we’re simply passing the buck and crossing our fingers.
The problem isn’t guns – the problem is how we think about guns.
Name the last movie you watched that didn’t include ammunition. Name the last top-selling video game that lacked weaponry. Violence pervades our entertainment and our entertainment shapes the ways in which we view the world (I could make a similar argument using romance and love). Even those of us who consistently stay behind the trends by a good 6 months, can’t name the last 3 Academy Award winners or the 4 major gaming systems (are there only 4?) become shaped and molded by what we see on the screen.
I’m not saying it’s the fault of the media for producing violence-laden entertainment. I’m saying it’s the fault of society for not realizing that it can, and will, impact our perception of reality. Can a reasonable adult play a shooting game and be trusted not to let loose on the neighborhood? Sure. But can we at least ask that same reasonable adult to acknowledge that engaging in the activity has in some way glorified the heinous act of killing people simply in the act of making it enjoyable? Absolutely, I believe we can and should.
In our culture’s version of “conflict” we crave seeing it in a physical form. It sells. So it’s highlighted, celebrated, and sought out. “Chick flicks” even require a certain level of action to pacify segments of the audience. We walk into a cinema expecting something to be blown up. And woven in the the messages of the stories to which we seek to escape are lies, lies, lies about violence. These experiences make violence simple, often non-emotional methods of finding solution. But they’re so common that we’re not always sure how to find resolution without the epic action scene of saving the girl and the building.
Do I advocate a moratorium of movie-making? Not really. But rather than ask some lawmaker to pass a 465 page bill that no one understands which makes it more inconvenient for those seeking to properly use a gun, perhaps we as individuals, as parents, as families, as churches, as schools, as communities, should ask ourselves how we view – and glorify – violence and how it might affect those being raised in that culture.
My 4 year old often picks up random toys, such as a plastic vice grip (I had to ask what it was called). He uses it as a “shooter”, to shoot-shoot-shoot at people. How exactly do I speak to this? How do we begin to talk about why people shoot other people? And if we feel it’s okay to shoot “the bad guys”, what defines a “bad guy”? How bad of a guy does s/he have to be?
These are the questions we’re letting our media answer for us. And often, it doesn’t take much to define a bad guy. One could simply “hurt you.” Sometimes, it only takes being different from ourselves, being part of an opposing team, group or country. How does this speak for our views on acceptable violence? And when this is the pervading message of our culture, why are we shocked when its youth take these beliefs and live them out in extreme and horrifying means?
“Gun control”? Probably not a solution. Banning all movies and games with guns? Probably not a solution. Calling members of personal society to personal reflections about internal beliefs about “acceptable” violence? Not an an easy solution. But for many of us trying to make sense of tragedy, it might be the first solution we can seek out.