At times, I have been accused of being… umm, robotic? A potent cocktail of realism, sarcasm, and skepticism has led more than one person to believe that I have no feelings or that I lack empathy or that I am bereft of basic human compassion.

This fails to explain why I cry twice every time I watch Schindler’s List. It fails to explain why I tear up every time I listen to the soundtrack from The Pacific. It fails to explain the fog of emotion and reflection that swirls around me at the end of the Mass Effects, Bioshocks, or Spec Ops: The Line. Or why I can’t look someone in the eyes while telling them how important they are to me for fear of breaking down.

I am an emotional person. I just try very hard to control it and even harder not to show it. Thanks, German farmer upbringing!


This is why I write the day after the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard. When I first heard of the attack, I felt… nothing.

No anger. No sadness. No anxiety. No righteous indignation.


And I hate myself for getting to this point. The point where I can go, “Meh. We want guns? This is what we get.” Or “The chickens are going to come home to roost when we ignore the factors that lead to violence.”  The point where the violent deaths of twelve people are less a tragedy and more an argument for the inexorable nature of trade-offs or cause and effect.

I want to be skeptical without becoming cynical. I want to question everything without giving up upon receiving the same answer over and over. Fundamentally, this is what cynicism is and does.

If I’ve fallen off Cynic’s Cliff on the topic of gun violence, is it possible to climb back up? I hope so. Cynicism feels so empty that I can’t help but hate the forces that pushed me off the ledge, but only almost as much as I am disappointed that I failed to put up a bigger fight.

But hey, at least I’m feeling again.

Why Do You Love This?

Nike is a far better symbol for America than Columbia. Not only is Nike appropriate as the Goddess of Victory (Success in almost 90% of our military conflicts), but also as the Goddess of Just Doing a Thing. We do. We don’t think; frequently before, but especially after. For all America’s positive traits, we are not a nation of reflection.


Some months back, I posted an essay claiming that American society places an extremely high value on violence. If this is true, the Western is easily the most “American” style of film.

After all, consider the subtext of every Western: Justice (read: violence) dispensed from the twin barrels of a righteous sawed-off shotgun. Others will fail you. Society will fail you. The law, most of all, will fail you. Your convictions, backed by a six-shooter (and a high-powered rifle for that guy on the rooftop), never will.

It doesn’t get more American than that.

Before I watched Unforgiven, I had never enjoyed a Western. Unforgiven, though, is perhaps less a Western than it is a deconstruction or critique of Westerns. Unforgiven took apart the myth of frontier justice and replaced it with something far messier and far uglier.

It asked the quintessentially un-American question: Why do you love this?

The violence of Unforgiven is merely pervasive; its consequences are inescapable. Continue reading

We All Got It Coming, Kid

(Editor’s note: Saturday afternoon I posted this on my website. By Saturday evening, a good friend of mine published a response/supplement. This is a continuation of that discussion. Erik, if there’s more to come, keep it coming.)

I can still remember the exact moment that I came to recognize my responsibility to the world. I had been raised well by two loving parents. I understood responsibility. I understood cause and effect. But I don’t think parents can teach collective guilt.

For that, my teacher was Clint Eastwood. Continue reading


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. Continue reading