The Sandy Hook Shooting made me think about guns, children, mental illness, the Bill of Rights, violent video games, and an assortment of related topics. I’ve also been thinking about collective guilt and the NFL. Concussions, suicide, premature deaths, and my role as an avid football fan have been weighing heavily on my mind since the death of Junior Seau, the first casualty whom I can remember watching play. I also play video games with violence and explosions. (Yay!)
While these topics might not seem connected, all three have led me to the same place. Our society’s glorification of violence doesn’t cause violence. It’s an effect. We glorify violence because, at heart, we are a violent people in a society that values violence.
The renewed discussion of gun violence has predictably brought out the extremists on both sides. Those who wish to pretend the 2nd Amendment doesn’t exist clash with those who think that the right to own assault rifles was handed down from Mount Sinai. (As a side note, maybe “I Dare You to Come Take Them, Diane Feinstein” Guy shouldn’t be group spokesperson.)
As willing as I would be to wipe out the hobbies of every hunter and gun enthusiast in the nation if it eliminated gun violence and saved lives, it won’t. We are a nation, overall, that loves guns. There are so many guns floating around out there that it would be impossible to remove enough of them to make an impact on gun violence.
Ultimately, gun violence isn’t the root of the problem. It’s merely a symptom. The problem is that our society sees violence as a perfectly acceptable, or even preferable, method of problem solving.
Being bullied at school? Just pop ‘em in the nose and they’ll back off. Getting hassled at the bar? Go outside and “settle it like men.” Foreign nation not behaving properly? Assassinate leaders, overthrow governments, launch invasions.
It’s not “appeal to logic.” It’s not “have impartial third party resolve dispute.” It’s not “find compromise with which everyone can live.” Might makes right.
Our national dialogue on violence has led to commentary on the role of violent video games in promoting violent behavior. As a connoisseur of violent video games, it pains me to admit that while a smaller factor than most other things, they do have an impact. Even if they don’t actually lead to violent tendencies, desensitization to violence is rarely a good thing.
Again, though, violent video games are a symptom of a societal infatuation with guns, soldiers, and violence. Call of Duty is a consequence of a violent society giving the people what they want. When a society loves violence, violent heroes who use violence to violently solve their violent problems will follow. (Violence?)
You might not know this, but football was almost outlawed a hundred years ago. People said it was too violent and too dangerous. However, the President of the United States told them to sack up and quit being pussies. Predictably, this president was Teddy Roosevelt.
Study after study confirms that concussions have numerous, and serious, long-term effects on athletes. Despite knowing this a long time ago, the NFL did nothing to improve player safety until public opinion demanded it.
Even as the rules change and player safety becomes more of a priority, there are still many who resist these changes. “They might as well start playing in tutus.” “All these rules are turning football into a pansy sport.” (Again, maybe Sexist Homophobe shouldn’t be group spokesperson.)
We want to see hits. When a safety lights up a defenseless receiver mid-air, my reaction is “OOOOOOHHHHH…” And that’s not “Ooh, that’s scary.” It’s more short-hand for “HOLY FUCK, THAT’S AWESOME!” Then, I remember that players are human beings and not pieces of meat that exist solely for my entertainment.
And it’s fine as long as everyone gets up. Athletes can die prematurely as long as it’s not in front of us. That would make us question our culpability. Out of sight, out of mind.
If you haven’t caught on to the pattern yet, football is not the problem. We can never eliminate violence from football and that’s why we love it. Football is an inherently violent sport. It’s not coincidence that America’s most popular sport is also its most violent.
When you get to the heart of it, violence permeates our history. When we were hit with Britain’s “brutal” taxes that were the lowest in all of the British Empire (HOW DARE THEY TAX US TO PAY FOR THE WAR THEY WAGED TO PROTECT US!), we immediately started wrecking shit. We could have been like Canada and asked politely until Britain granted us independence. We didn’t. We picked up guns.
We established a nation where violence kept a large portion of its population in shackles. When the nation we established with violence began to crumble, we used violence to keep it together. We used violence to stop two genocides, after using violence to commit one of our own.
You get the idea.
As hopeless as I sound, this is not a call to surrender or inaction. It’s about knowing your enemy. During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about inequality, but he knew that inequality was not the problem. Inequality was merely a symptom of the hatred that poisons our souls.
If you want to stop violence in the United States, know that guns are not the problem. Video games are not the problem. Football is not the problem.
Our culture of hatred is the problem. New laws and rules and regulations are probably a part of the process of cultural transformation, but don’t ever mistake one for the other. Violence is a manifestation of the hatred we bear. If you want to end the culture of violence in the United States, change its people. Work for love. It’s an uphill struggle and one that might never be won. However, we owe it to ourselves and each other to try.