Sunday, February 3, 2008

Another Senseless Killing. What to do?

This week’s saying: "All of life builds up to and then radiates from a single moment." -- Milan Kundera

I had intended to write a blog piece on a totally different subject, but then I happened to see the following article posted on the web:
COCKEYSVILLE, Md. (AP) - A 15-year-old boy was charged with murder Sunday in the shooting deaths of his parents and two younger brothers in their suburban Baltimore home. Nicholas Waggoner Browning was charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of his father, John Browning, 45; his mother Tamara, 44; and his brothers Gregory, 13, and Benjamin, 11. He was charged as an adult. Browning was arrested at 1:05 a.m. Sunday after he admitted to the killings, Baltimore County Police spokesman Bill Toohey said. The teen had not been getting along with his father, police said in a news release. On Friday night, he went into the house after other family members were asleep and shot each of them using his father's handgun, which was in the house, police said.

As I’ve stated in other blog entries, I’ve been investigating the origins and nature of violence in humans so that, as a writer, I can better understand my character’s motives. So when the above article caught my eye, it triggered an avalanche of thoughts.

No doubt, the press will churn away, looking for a reason why this young man went ballistic. They’ll blame the fact that he was not getting along with his father, or his school chums, or his teachers, the usual stuff that happens after one of these sad incidents. But seldom do I see anyone address what I feel is the key issue, that society conditioned him to vent using weapons. We, as a society, are at fault. Each one of us helped pull that trigger. And we will continue pulling triggers until we stand up together to stop the violence.

Think about it, people are not born killer. They are taught to kill. This young man has been conditioned day after day by what he saw in the movies and on TV. Hardly a day went by that he didn’t witness multiple murders, which hardened his psyche, slowly sculpted his behavior, all in the name of entertainment and the almighty dollar.

Many people feel that violence in movies and TV is healthy, that because the bad guys get captured or die in the end, the movies send the right message, but I strongly disagree. One movie immediately comes to mind, Cliff Hanger, in which Sylvester Stallone goes after a gang of twenty or more bad guys and kills each of them, one at a time. That was the entire plot, the so called hero murdering twenty bad guys to save the day. And what made him the hero? Why was he any different from the bad guys? Because he had moral motives, he was on the side of justice. Another perfect example is A History of Violence, where an ex-hitman kills his brother and a dozen others rather than being drawn back into the mob. This good killing evil is the theme of most of the movies produced in Hollywood.

That’s the message that has been pounded into the American psyche over and over and over again: it is honorable to kill as long as it’s for a just cause. It’s somehow noble to go to war and slaughter thousands, soldiers and civilians, as long as it’s to preserve a justice idea.

The problem comes in trying to determine what is righteous, who is just. Perhaps Nicholas Waggoner Browning’s father treated him unfairly, harshly punished him for something he didn’t do. Nicholas was a hero in his mind, standing up for his rights. The boys who shot up Columbine were treated unjustly by teachers and students. Didn’t they have justification, based on the message Hollywood vomits out in every action movie? The point is that everybody, especially young people, are impressionable and fall victim to the images on the screen. They can’t help but be conditioned by the violence spewing out of Hollywood, and that of course translates into actions.

How long will people continue to die before we stop rewarding Hollywood with our dollars for producing violent trash? How many families will suffer before we, as a society, say enough, and revert to wholesome examples of moral behavior? How long before we recognize that this conditioning has made us the most violent and hateful country in the world. When will we demand that all movies demonstrate how to resolve human conflicts without resorting to violence?

This is an issue that involves us all, and it will take all of us to solve it.

At the risk of sounding superior, which is certainly not my intention, I can say that I have stopped viewing violent films, and I stopped watching television long ago. I refuse to reward Hollywood or the TV networks a penny for condoning bloodshed. And as a novelist, one of my chief ambitions is to write gay friendly stories that promote human kindness and overcoming obstacles in ethical, compassionate ways.

If you agree with me, please, let people know, get people talking about it. One of the great things that happened in the 60s was masses of people turning towards peace and love. We need that again, desperately, only without the beads and fuzzy hair….

No comments: