Too close to home

Just before the start of school last Friday, a woman entered a home across the street from our campus and found three dead bodies. She left and called the police, who found two more bodies. We heard the news in a special assembly where our head of school told us that five people had lost their lives in the house that morning. I went to the faculty lounge and wept.

I did not know the people, nor the circumstances of their death. I was weeping for the state of our world: where someone can walk into a home and kill five people before breakfast, where a street scuffle turns to murder (in self-defense), where a war-ravaged soldier takes it upon himself to assassinate civilians, where children are barraged with violent video games and celebrate the death of zombies, or enemy soldiers, or even simple pedestrians (in one car-theft game whose name I’ve forgotten).

My daughter has played very few such games, and she told me the other day that she doesn’t like when the Naughty Bear “de-fluffifies” the other bears who didn’t invite him to their party. She thinks his reaction is a bit extreme. She told me a few days later that calling someone names is silly because “it just hurts someone’s feelings.” I credit her non-violent upbringing for these demonstrations of reason and humanity (is it “humanity” if imaginary bears are involved?). I like to think she’ll be an amazing addition to our adult society if she continues along this path. But so much can happen between 10 years old and 18: middle school bullying and girl-on-girl cattiness, teenage low self-worth and anxiety, sexual pressures or assault. How much can one strong-minded young woman take before she gives something up?

I gave up a lot due to violence, low self-esteem, and sexual assault. I hid behind depression, eating disorders, anger, and a layer of pudginess—all of which I’ve worked hard to overcome. But I never gave up hope that human beings are basically good. I believe it is culture, greed, and hopelessness that warp us, twist us toward violence and hatred, steer us away from loving our neighbors as we would want to be loved.

I want to nuture a different society founded on the simple principle of respect: respect for difference and differences of opinion, respect for everyone’s rights, respect for nature and the world that nourishes us. Aretha sang it well. Let us not forget it. Let dawn bring respect closer to home.

(photo: pits47 2011)

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2 thoughts on “Too close to home

  1. I believe the game you forgot is Grand Theft Auto. Having a 15 year old son, I am witnessing first account just how odd our culture is around violence. To me it feels like we are preparing for a very large and violent war but I also see something in the male energy that seems to have been ‘evolved’ for such encounters. Pretending it is not there or labeling it as ‘wrong’ is just to not really recognize the energy for what it is in my opinion. Not all males have it and some females do but it is there. I think rites of passage and a community where teens (especially males) can go away from home and learn to be men who recognize, honor, and manage these ‘drives/impulses’ would be a wonderful addition to our culture rather than just sticking them into the military or jail where the numbers are growing faster (imprisonment) that the population is growing. I think this is the correct link if anyone is interested: http://mankindproject.org/good-men-project-mens-narrative-today

  2. According to statistics, violence is actually on the decline. (example: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html) So perhaps our society is doing something right. Grand Theft Auto is a great game. But it isn’t intended for children, any more than The Godfather or Apocalypse Now. Violence in entertainment isn’t new, and as an avid horror reader I can testify that it hasn’t desensitized me at all. I still cry like a baby when I watch watch a sad movie, and I often get choked up when I read sad books aloud to Skyler. There is a huge difference between playing a violent video game such as GTA or any number of games I have played through the years (or reading a violent story, or watching a violent movie), and witnessing or enacting violence in real life. There may be some who can’t tell the difference, but I would argue that for those people the entertainment isn’t the catalyst. For such people the problem is somewhere deeper. Entertainment media doesn’t create violence. While violent individuals may be naturally drawn to violent media, that’s just a given, and it doesn’t imply any causal factor.

    As for zombies, are you saying you wouldn’t celebrate the death of a zombie? They want to eat your brains, woman! What’s wrong with you! 🙂 But seriously, one of my favorite “horror” novels is “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson…yes, the one they made that horrible Will Smith movie from. There was a better Vincent Price version in the old days. SPOILER ALERT!!! Anyway, the basic plot is that there is a man who has survived this catastrophe that has left everyone else on the world as vampires, and he is barely surviving. He spends his days hunting and killing the vampires where they sleep, and his nights huddled in his fortified house. At the end of the film, he realizes that these “vampires” he has been slaughtering are just people who have been profoundly changed, and who have been seeking a cure, and that they view him as the monster…someone who hunts and slays them without mercy. It’s a very cunning twist on the monster story. Very violent and brutal, but not without philosophical import in my opinion.

    I’m certainly not saying you are wrong, or that violence should be embraced. But what exactly is violence? For example, I have never raised a hand to my daughter and never would. But for some parents, spanking is a common form of correction. I think that can be a lot more destructive than a violent video game or comic book. But that’s just my opinion. Skyler has seen some fairly violent films already…Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, for example. Yet she is about as tender-hearted as anything, and is the most compassionate person I’ve ever met. Maybe not so compassionate toward zombies, but then that might be my influence.

    Love you!

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