February 19th, 2011 12:44 EST
How Can We Debate Gun Control and Ignore The Causes of Violence?
Debating gun control, ignoring visual violence
How many filmed deaths have you watched in your lifetime? How many acts of cruelty? Do they wash over you? Do they stick, haunt, riot in your sleep, subtly shape the way you act and think?
I find that in my old age I`ve lost my tolerance for watching human suffering while munching snacks. They say you can immunize yourself against arsenic if you ingest it in small doses over time. I`ve ingested violence over a very long period of time; I find it has immunized me against sleep and harmony.
How has it immunized our culture? Are we perhaps peace-proof? Proof against getting along, against tolerance, against arriving at consensus, and against being moved by fellow humans` circumstances? Might it be true that feasting on images of people being tortured and slaughtered disinclines us towards empathy?
Last night I saw a young woman beat her bound and gagged roommate with a hammer. I saw a handsome young man stick a pencil into the neck of another handsome young man and smile. I saw a bloated body wash up in a lake. I saw men in black mow down other men in black. And this was just as I channel-surfed for something less violent to watch.
I sometimes wonder if we can account for the popularity of the late-night television talk shows as ways to come down off the violent orgy between 8 and 11 p.m. television " celebrity trivia as a chaser or perhaps as the aspirin to ward off hangovers the next morning. It`s difficult not to conclude we are orgiasts attending nightly rituals of violence presided over by celebrity priests. There will be a time in the distant future when this will be regarded much as we regard Aztec priests cutting the living heart from human sacrifices. It will be difficult to understand, abhorrent even.
We worry about toxins in the air, although perhaps we don`t worry enough. We occasionally worry, perhaps not enough, about speculative builders creating unsustainable suburbs and endangering our water supply. The point is that we seem to have reached a point in our evolution at which we admit that what we do affects others. So what ideas do we carry away from all this entertaining violence?
If romance and stories of triumph over adversity inspire us, is it reasonable to think that equal or larger doses of violence have no effect on us? And yet we conduct our divisive discourse about weapons in our society as if it were solely about their control and not about the psychologies of the people using them. We seem to think our infotainment industry isn`t part of the problem.
Is it reasonable to debate the Second Amendment outside a context in which violent imagery encourages violence? Is it reasonable to discuss it outside the context of an endless barrage of violent imagery? Is it reasonable to preclude film and video game makers from the debate? Why should they get a pass any more than drug dealers or the purveyors of alcohol to children? Isn`t imagery as addictive as drugs? If it`s not, why are we so het up about pornography? How can we divorce pornography, which often involves the denigration of fellow humans, from a discussion of violence? Why does the big picture so consistently elude us? The answer must be money. We narrowly frame the debate so as not to disturb moneyed interests, and so the debate is a charade.
The United States may be the world`s premier distributor of visual violence and pornography. We have publicly embraced the use of torture. Why then do we talk about gun control as if guns existed in a vacuum? Guns exist in a culture that celebrates violence in full color, a culture that once celebrated genocide as its manifest destiny.
Under the circumstances, isn`t the gun control debate a sham indulged by both sides of the issue?
Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaperman. His second book of poems, Brushstrokes and Glances, will be published by Deerbrook Editions on December 20, 2010. His first book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. It won the International Book Award in 2010. His novella, Artemisia`s Wolf, will be published by Prakash Books of India in December. His novella, Saraceno, was recently published as an e-book. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com