Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our Place in a Violent World

Just as most Americans, after the horrific slaughter last week in Connecticut I suddenly feel like I'm drowning in my personal quest to keep my children's moral compasses in check. How do you explain to your child something that you don't understand yourself? What kind of monster could kill so many innocent people? How do I send my kids off to school each day and assure them that they'll be safe?

Today's generation of kids are waaaaay too desensitized. Between movies, Internet and video games, they've become numb to the whole concept of death unless it happens in their personal life. When I was growing up, many of the killers in horror movies were either a mythical creature or someone who came back from the dead to revenge their deaths. But an exception to that rule, and also one of the most disturbing I had ever seen, was Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's no secret that I love a good scary movie, but there are times when I draw the line with senseless violence.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the first of many films to feature mentally deranged humans torturing others. One of the first horror movies I was unable to finish as an adult was Hostel. I just couldn't grasp the concept as entertaining and it was too disturbing to watch. Businessmen paying to torture young backpackers in Europe? How is that anything other than sick and twisted? There have been a slew of movies to follow Hostel that focus on deranged humans torturing other humans.

When The Dark Knight Rises came out, I braced myself for the worst after the shooting in Colorado. But I didn't find Bane's character nearly as disturbing as Heath Ledger's role in the previous Dark Knight film. I guess this only proves that mentally ill people are going to imitate things that come out of Hollywood, no matter what degree of twisted they may be. While I understand this, I still wonder why we add fuel to their imaginations with disturbing films.

When speaking to a friend this past weekend about the Newtown shootings, she pointed out that Americans think shows in Europe revolve too much around nudity and sex, while our entertainment has taken a major swing into gore and violence. When looking at the fatalities from guns in each country, it would seem that the US needs to reassess our goals. There were a reported 8,583 gun-related deaths in the United States in 2011 alone. Just this past week, a grandfather in Minnesota shot his granddaughter when he thought he heard an intruder in the night. Why give anyone and their dog the right to hold a weapon that kills? Why are there weapons available to the public that hold a hundred rounds of ammunition? I'm not going to go into the whole "right to bear arms" issue here, but it just seems gun violence is out of control. Something needs to be done. I know that making guns illegal is not the answer because, as some people recently pointed out in the endless debate, so are cocaine and meth. But something needs to be done as here have been far too many senseless acts of violence in recent years. As President Obama recently stated at the Newtown memorial service, "We're not doing enough and we'll have to change."

What can we as a nation actively do about the violence? Adults need to educate the next generations on right from wrong and monitor what they're exposed to. As much as I try to limit what my 10 and 12-year-old see on the Internet and watch on TV, I know it's impossible to protect them from everything. Still, they don't get to watch The Walking Dead with me and they don't have any video games that involve shooting humans. I know they'll go to a friend's house and see a violent horror movie or play the latest Call of Duty - they already have. But for the majority of their young lives, they'll be exposed to shows in which people are kind to each other and hopefully understand that senseless violence is inhumane.

And above all, we have to teach our children how to be considerate to others. In this modern society of road-rage and school shootings, we have to make more of an effort to demonstrate kindness. We have to show by example that it's not okay to bully others or wish cruel deaths on our enemies (i.e. explain to your children why the Korean singer Psy was horribly wrong in singing about torturing American soldiers and their families). This holiday season, make a point to reach out to others in need and lead by example. Let's show the world that the United States is still filled with good, and teach generations to come that violence is not the answer.

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