A Post-Blacksburg Ramble

April 18, 2007 by susan

Cold turkey on guns and sleaze?

by susan
I'm not thinking this one fully through, but the wrenching heartbreak of Blacksburg seems to be the logical conclusion to an American upbringing. At least, to the American upbringing of the last several decades, where we on the left caved in to a mind-numbing extreme of sleaze, sex and violence on TV, in video games, music, and on the radio, all in the name of free speech. And where those on the right went to an idiotic extreme of encouraging free access to all firearms, even those meant for combat, all in the name of the right to bear arms. What a volatile cocktail we've been feeding our kids. Ramble on.

Singed, perhaps, by the prudish response of our parents to the gyrating hips of Elvis, we laughed off all efforts to squelch the music of the young. Remember when Tipper Gore was the laughing stock of the left for suggesting that parents actually listen to what their kids were buying?

At the time, one of our sons was about 12, and I did listen, and was stunned at the vulgarity and violence that my friends were laughing off. I recall one lyric being something like "the bitch is screamin' louder so I shove it up her harder" and going on to make clear that this was anal rape, and that was before the next track which praised cop-killing and other healthy activity. Jokes were made that it was just suburban wannabees listening to such stuff, not really a cultural thing at all. And that somehow makes it all better? Is not Cho Seung-Hui the saddest example of a suburban wannabee?

And then there's the NRA, protectors of that other over-stretched ammendment, and their zealotry to allow us all easy access to assault weapons, including the sort used by Cho Seung-Hui in Blacksburg, despite protests from police officers all over the nation that arming the citizenry with semi-automatics made their jobs much more difficult and dangerous.

In light of Blacksburg and our de-sensitized kids, can we perhaps find common groud here?

With a few exceptions, including the late Steve Allen RIP, those fighting the sleaze mongers in the media are the Christian right, and they lump other so-called family values under the same umbrella, which makes people like me unwilling to join them.

On the other side, it's those of us on the so-called left who are leading the fight against packing heat, and we tend to lump a few moral assumptions of our own under that umbrella, making a whole chunk of reasonable people want no part of us.

So, let's see. I'll agree to much tighter restrictions (egad, censorship?) on video games, music lyrics, film, TV, and Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, if they'll agree to much tighter restrictions on firearms, starting with semi-automatic weapons. Hunters, I'm not gunning for you, so relax.

I know that the gun nuts will bash me, saying studies show that allowing everyone to pack heat actually cuts down on crime and that the free speech nuts will bash me, saying studies show there's no correlation between media violence and our disturbed and angry kids. Well, actually there are, but I'm not going to dig them up right now.

But for a long time the tobacco industry insisted that there was no correlation between smoking and lung cancer, and yet, people who smoked were getting lung cancer, and we all knew it. The gun industry and the sleaze industry are in the same sort of denial, because they make gobs of money off of it.

It's true that not everyone who smokes gets cancer, and not everyone who gets cancer, smokes, just as there are millions of decent kids who see this stuff and grow up healthy despite it.

But giving up smoking, or at least cutting back, changes the odds dramatically. And if nothing else, quitting our bad habits sets an example, and gives us some hope and a sense of control, something we desperately need in America these days.

So whaddya say, nation, let's go cold turkey -- on the toxic sleaze that poisons our children's minds, and on the lethal weapons that enable their twisted thoughts.

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Comments

Poet (not verified) | April 18, 2007 - 6:04pm

Susan I can agree with your suggestion of cold turkey on guns and sleaze primarily because I think we need to be more concerned with protection than repression.

The position of sleaze mongers and consummers and the NRA remind me of the dumb mantra of free speech addicts who whine that if we don't like what's on TV, in the movies, or on the printed page we should just say "no". That's fine for us, but what about the 31 people guned down at VA Tech on Monday? They all said "no" but Cho said "yes" and so it didn't really matter that those others exercised responsibility because they still got killed by someone who did not.

I am willing to let gun owners own and operate their guns in the same way i am willing to let drivers own and operate their cars. They must undergo mandatory education, pass a written and use examination, be licensed, and carry insurance for any potential harm they might do and present proof of such as condition for renewing and continuing their license to operate a firearm.

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Anonymous (not verified) | April 18, 2007 - 6:14pm

I banned MTV for my kids, once I was aware of it; I couldn't get it anyway, on my non-cable TV at home, but on vacations -in our condo complete with all the cable channels - no. I think it's the one thing I did right with those kids, maybe. And I think I was kind of laughed off the block for it. But Michael Jackson, rubbing his crotch in a phone booth, with a gun, which then swirls around and smashes a glass window onto the bed of a writhing chick in a pink satin nighty, followed by a splash of Michael, whirling into psycodelic graphics, swirling with the broken glass, and the chick, and the gun? A liberal I know told me such stuff was "the new art". Sorry. Just couldn't buy it.
So "no MTV one week a year" was what it came down to, but I'm glad that at least my kids knew I stood against that stuff. Is MTV still around? And if so, does it seem tame by today's standards?(Standards - hah, that's a laugh)

And I do remember Tipper, saying plaintively that she wasn't for banning or censoring anything, only asking parents to pay attention, and to come up with a labeling system to help parents who wanted a tool for knowing what their kids were being "entertained" by, musically.
Where do we go from here? I think it's sort of hopeless. We've raised a pretty numb generation, I suspect.

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Peter (not verified) | April 18, 2007 - 7:08pm

Let us take care of both "problems"!! Let us ban the 2nd and the 1st will soon follow.

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Perhansa (not verified) | April 19, 2007 - 10:20am

Watch your head and watch your backside. We have our set of homegrown terrorists on the union soil and they have plenty of those assault weapons tucked away for the day of reckoning. I'd trade sleaze for some gun controls any day and I'm sick of hearing the "slippery slope" alibi. Living in the woods I know a few hunters and they don't stock AK47's in their basement. It's not the hunters but the segment of society that is paranoid and conspiracy crazed that want the weapons.

And Bush can cut the stupid comments about how it's impossible to understand what leads to violence like the shootings in Virginia. We do know. Read the editorial by James Allen Fox in the Strib today. We know. Saying we don't or it's impossible is an excuse not to do anything. If we can't understand it or imagine it we can't do anything about it. This adminstration has used that lame excuse long enough. It's the same strategy the creationists and ID''ers use. It's impossible to imagine how this flagellum could come about by natural causes... Slam! That shuts the door on trying to figure it out. Slam! We have the ANSWER: "It's impossible to imagine." Stop asking the question you pest. When you hear people say, "We can't imagine or begin to understand..." tell them to speak for themselves. I can imagine. Others can imagine. We know what the raunch (it IS NOT ART, thank you) does to people's minds. We know what continued exposure to violence does to peoples' minds, and we're learning more every single day. The cognitive sciences are opening up a whole new frontier of understanding of how the mind and brain are shaped and influenced. Experiencing something "virtually" or in the realm of the mind (visualization or reenactment) can have the very same effect on the brain as actual experience. It can physically rewire the brain. There have been countless cognitive studies demonstrating this--visualization and virtual experiences change the physical nature of the brain the same way "real" experiences do.

To some degree the argument, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" is true. Guns just make it easier and more efficient. The entire military complex is about making it easier, cleaner and more efficient. We begin the murder of our children by setting them in front of violent movies, games, music, etc. and wire violence into their brains. Then we lay out the arsenal of weapons and say, you can use these but you MUST OBEY THE LAW. Well, the law is wired into them, it's the law of jungle, it's the law of kill or be killed. We are what we consume. It's got nothing to do with Amendments 1 & 2. If we consumed peace, if we read and talked and taught and modeled rationale, compassionate, peaceful acts and interactions, that's what we'd get. But we don't. We're surrounded by violence, aggression, disputation, duality, prejudice, racism, judgment, irrational thinking, escalation, self-centeredness, egotism, anthropomorphism, anti-intellectualism, sexism, mysogeny, misanthropy, on and on...read Daniel Goleman's newest book, Social Intelligence. Our genetic inheritance is like a kind of modelers clay that is shaped by our relationships and interactions with others and with the world. We KNOW what led to this weeks' tragedy. The miracle is that is doesn't happen more often. We KNOW the cause. We just can't seem to change the system. There are too many powerful interests and forces holding it together.

Hug a kid, hug a grown up, smile at someone today, tell them you sincerely love them--it rewires the brain--theirs and yours! Non-random acts of kindness, peace, gentleness and resolution. It's the only hope. "Vigilant compassion," that's going to be my new personal commitment. I'll start today with my wife, my kids, my grandkids and my neighbors. I'm going to try and rewire my brain and a few others with vigilant compassion.

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susan | April 19, 2007 - 11:00am

Thanks, as always, Perhansa, Poet and others, for jumping in on this.
The slippery slope has been opened, because I brought up the notion of keeping the violent sleaze off the airwaves and out of video (so-called) games. The question is always, who decides? One person's smut is another person's art. Take John Ashcroft, for example (Thursday's post) and his draping of Lady Justice's bare breasts.
And it's always the evangelical hardccore removing children's books from the library, whether it's Heather Has Two Mommies or the story of two bunnies who fall in love, one black, one white, that was banned in my day.
Funny, all these people who hate government intervention in their gun life are perfectly happy with it in our private lives.

Solution? Instead of big brother gubmint stepping in and banning assault rifles, just stop making, selling -- and buying them. Instead of a censorship board deciding what we can read and view, just stop producing, marketing -- and buying the stalking/shooting video games, the rape raps, the glorified murder movies.

But, that's like asking the auto companies to see the global picture and curb emissions on their own. They don't do it. Remember when rivers ran foul with sewage and toxic chems, and occasionally combusted? They're all cleaner now, (despite lingering PCB's and other GE, duPont and 3M toxins) thanks to laws that were passed, not to the visionary leadership of the companies.
There are business leaders who do see the future and embrace ethical and environmental practices, and for starters, we should seek them out and support them.

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