Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gun Violence as Entertainment

The United States will not take action to curb gun violence until such violence ceases to be viewed as entertainment.

No one with any sense believes the government is out to take away guns from ordinary people, the folks who hunt, enjoy target shooting, and so on. Nor would even the most cursory reading of the Constitution lead anyone of good sense to believe that effective gun control somehow violates the Second Amendment. These are anti-gun-law arguments promulgated by the self-serving NRA and radical rightists bent on deluding the public for political gain. None of this blather would make any difference if the American public were sufficiently enraged by gun violence to take action. The sad fact is that the American public is not enraged by gun violence; it is entertained.

The term ammosexual should be a clue. Ammosexuals are those with an affection for firearms, those who see guns as sexy, those who wear guns a fashion accessories. But for every ammosexual there are ten or a hundred individuals who view, whether consciously or subconsciously, gun violence as entertainment.

Murder and mayhem as entertainment have a long history. Romans flocked to the coliseum to see prisoners torn apart by wild animals. Public executions across the centuries have drawn crowds in many nations eager to see people hanged, shot, beheaded, or worse. The lynching of black people was a popular U.S. pastime, particularly between 1880 and 1920, when nearly 3,500 African Americans were killed by mob violence.

The postmodern era has moved spectacle violence to the evening news, where it nightly entertains the population in reports mainly of gun violence. Mass shootings this year in the United States have become a near daily experience.

Digitized gun violence—television reports, newspaper stories, government statistics, and other sources of information, usually accessed by digital means—dampens the revulsion factor. Viewers are distanced from actual events. The violence becomes fictionalized, just another shoot ’em up at the OK Corral.

Twenty-seven killed in a Connecticut elementary school. Thirteen shot in a New York immigrant community center. Twelve killed in the Washington Navy Yard. Twelve killed in a Colorado movie theater. Nine killed in a South Carolina church. It’s all schadenfreude for the masses, rubbing their hands and tsk-tsking in front of screens.

Gun violence is real. When one’s children or parents or siblings or friends are injured or killed in gun violence, it is all too real. It’s not entertainment. It’s murder. When we finally come to our senses as a nation, no objections, no fake excuses, no hyperbole will be allowed to stand in the way of sensible gun laws.

But we’re not there yet. In the meantime, we will continue to allow the slaughter of the innocents—for the fun of it.