Regardless of who or where you are, you were probably devastated at the horrific news of the shooting that took place on Friday in the state of Connecticut here in the U.S. 26 individuals lost their lives on that tragic day, including 20 innocent children. Imagine being a parent at work and receiving that phone call. Imagine what those families feel when they look at the gifts that they had prepared under their Christmas trees for their slain children. Imagine what the children who witnessed the massacre will be forced to deal with for the rest of their lives…
Unfortunately, we made this happen. Our participation in this culture has enabled atrocious behavior. We have created a culture of violence. This culture of violence comes to a head time and time again, and with the help of manipulation of the media, a society without empathy, and a refusal to address America’s sordid history in favor of more laws, we will be forced to endure more and more violent fits of rage.
There is a very well-known principle in western media circles: sex and violence sells. America’s blood-lust is reflected with the surge in ratings and the millions upon millions of dollars made by media outlets that feed images of human suffering to eager viewers, readers, and listeners. Cases in point include the amount of media coverage given to the shooter, their weapons, and how they ended the lives of their victims. These monsters are studied, made infamous, and become the subject of books, made-for-tv dramas, and are characterized in big screen movies.
All of this amounts to media manipulation. The following statement (allegedly made by actor Morgan Freeman) puts the manipulation of the media in the best context. In this statement, he explains the media’s role in why such a tragedy occurred:
“You want to know why? This may sound cynical, but here’s why. It’s because of the way the media reports on it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.”
The media is such an important influencer of a peoples culture that we would be remiss to not place at least some blame for the behavior of our society there. Rather than discouraging such behavior, our media promotes it. Glamorizes it. Commercializes it.
Sex and violence has done much for the media moguls in terms of clout and money, but at what cost to us?
A Society Without Empathy
The cost that we have paid as a media obsessed culture (when that media is founded on sex and violence) is a decline in our collective morality, a rise in violence, and the fall of empathy. You see, when we consume media, we take it into our consciousness. It becomes a part of our thinking. Our thinking goes on to affect our emotions, and those emotions then influence our behavior which leads to an event.
If the media were to focus on knowledge of the victims, the impact on the surviving children for the rest of their lives, and the destruction unleashed on the surviving parents and siblings, the media could become a tool for developing true human empathy.
But that is unlikely to happen anytime in the future. For to do so requires empathy in the first place
It is very difficult to give to others something that we – as a society – do not have ourselves. American culture is one of self-absorption where the individual is more important than the collective. In our society, it is more important be narcissistic, to save ones self, express ones self, “get yours because Imma get mine“, and “Imma do me” than it is to concern oneself with the needs of others or the collective. In order to develop empathy, you must put yourself, your prejudices and your agenda aside and recognize the common human condition that we all must endure. Prejudice self-centeredness, and an unwillingness to consider the emotional impact of your actions on those around you are the very antithesis of empathy.
To cultivate empathy requires caring for and respecting others – something America has been sadly incapable of demonstrating. America is aggressive, and that aggression is woven into every aspect of American culture – from violent and sexually charged media to a foreign policy predicated on the threat of violence. From the massacre of more than 100,000 people in the Philippines to the first nuclear attack ever at Hiroshima to the unprovoked invasion of Baghdad, and from the blood of millions of Africans who built this country (and are still enslaved by it), to the millions of Natives who were removed and exterminated to make room for the red, white and blue, this country has known nothing but bloodshed, slavery, and death since its inception.
Calls For Tighter Gun Control Laws
Immediately following the Colorado and Connecticut shootings, gun-control supporters and lobbyists pressed Obama to turn his tears into action with harsher gun regulations in hopes of preventing similar shootings. Powerful and dangerous weapons should be regulated – but not removed. You may take the guns out of the hand of every law abiding citizen’s hand, but that will not prevent or end gun violence. In fact, despite tighter restrictions in gun laws, killers are still legally obtaining and using weapons to carry out their massacres.
And despite a decline in gun ownership in the United States, these massacres continue to happen…
Tighter gun laws are not the answer, and would in fact do more harm than good! Here’s why:
The right to keep and bear arms simply implements the unalienable right to individual self-defense against aggression of any kind. The Second Amendment refers to “the right of the people” (not the state) as a pre-existing right that government must respect. Armed and moral citizens are empowered to protect themselves, their family, and those around them. Had anyone been armed within the theater of the Colorado shooting, would the shooter have been so successful? If a teacher had been armed, would the Connecticut shooter have achieved his motives? Who knows, but would you be more or less likely to attack another individual if you knew they were potentially armed?
Additionally, our second amendment rights protect us against a tyrannical government – something EVERY African-American should support, considering the severity of our persecution. Even the founding fathers of this country knew the importance of citizens having access to arms:
The Federalist Papers, No. 28: Alexander Hamilton expressed that when a government betrays the people by amassing too much power and becoming tyrannical, the people have no choice but to exercise their original right of self-defense — to fight the government.[Halbrook, p. 67]
The Federalist Papers, No. 29: Alexander Hamilton explained that an armed citizenry was the best and only real defense against a standing army becoming large and oppressive. [Halbrook, p. 67]
The Federalist Papers, No. 46: James Madison contended that ultimate authority resides in the people, and that if the federal government got too powerful and overstepped its authority, then the people would develop plans of resistance and resort to arms. [Halbrook, p. 67]
The Federalists promised that state governments and citizen militias would exist to make sure the federal military never became large or oppressive. During those days there was no police force, but it is understood that the state-authorized police force is categorically included in principle.
The Second Amendment was designed by people who did not want to become slaves to violence, or to their government. From a modern perspective, the people should be just as well armed as the government that rules over it.
The problem is not the gun; the problem is the person and the culture of violence that gives rise to such people. If a people believe their government to be benevolent, empathetic, and working in their best interests, then there is no reason to have armed citizenry. HOWEVER, if a government has proven itself to be a threat to its people, to murder its people, to manipulate due process of law and corrupt justice to the detriment of the people, then a well-armed population is mandatory to keep that government in check.
Although we don’t always see eye to eye, one of my favorite commentators, the Field Negro had this to say about America’s atmosphere of violence;
“The truth of the matter is that you are not safe anywhere in America, anymore. There are a lot of urban high schools with metal detectors. Statistics show us that those children are certainly not safe. Rural elementary schools in upper middle class neighborhoods do not have metal detectors. And before today that was not even subject to debate. Now, after these horrific events, we find ourselves soul searching again.”
And we will continue to blame, call for more violence, feed our blood-lust, and indulge as these incidents arise time and time again. The real solution is to tear down the culture that drives individualism, conflict, and unfeelingness in favor of one that promotes empathy, compassion, and humanity.
Klein, Ezra. “Twelve Facts about Guns and Mass Shootings in the United States.” N.p., 12 Dec. 2012. Web.