History is no longer written. It’s shouted and broadcast. Why go out in public when you can see “reality” in the comfort of your living room?
A shooting on a program? No problem. It’s “only” a flesh wound and the victim is joking with friends right after the commercial break. Or else the good guys are talking about how the dead guy got what he deserved. What about that other reality? The one where a person is writhing, groaning and puking on the floor? Have today’s entertainment fashions sanitized violence to the point where cause and effect have been disconnected? For many people, the reality of an edited, accelerated broadcast life is the only reality they understand. When a protagonist can solve the issue du jour in a one-hour show that includes 12-16 minutes of commercials, a main plot and two or three subplots, daily living can seem awfully boring.
If we believe movies and television, we’d think that weapons were endemic to the old west. The reality? Tombstone, Deadwood, Dodge and nearly all of the other places popularized in the American mythos had strong gun control laws. Duels at high noon were rare. Adam Winkler’s book, Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America tells of 1873 Wichita posters telling people to Leave your Revolvers at Police Headquarters. And Get a Check. One of Dodge City’s first laws was a gun control law.
Why do a significant number of Americans toss a tantrum when someone tries to prescribe limits on their use of weapons? For the most part, these are the same people who won’t let their kids play with carving knives. Are they afraid? Of what? Are they insecure, needing to show off the phallic symbol that’s socially acceptable in some parts of America?
Sitting in the safety of their homes, they absorb the fear-mongering “entertainment” that solves nearly all problems with sanitized violence in a simplistic black and white manner. Those who are so proud of their “open carry” weapons are simply showing how receptive they are to media manipulation and the politics of fear. If you want to carry a loaded weapon and be a big man, why not join the military so you can do it around people who might shoot back?
Kids – and those who are chronologically older but emotionally still childlike – can see bar fights on TV, where a sugar glass or breakaway chair hit on the head leaves its victim coming back for more. Or in person, where lost teeth, eyes and serious scars are much more common. I’ve seen both.
America is a young country populated by people with an inexperienced, non-curious, youthfully ignorant worldview. Even before today’s digital age it was easier just to buy a replacement product or move to a new place than to repair the old or deal with a changing environment. An advertising-driven sense of out-with-the-old overwhelms a sense of history and a knowledge of context. Today this youthful invulnerability is poured into a blender with the “entertainment” of sanitized violence, a vocal gun culture and a fear-infused view of the world. What do we get? A teenage myopic tone-deaf world view.
When America meets a new challenge it reacts to symptoms, rarely looking for or dealing with causes. The result? We keep doing the same things the same way and hoping for a different outcome.
When we encounter something new, do we react with fear or respond with curiosity?