Desensitized To Violence


After particularly gruesome events, the song Hands On The Wheel by Willie Nelson captures the angst in the air:  “At a time when the world seems to be spinnin' hopelessly out of control…There's deceivers and believers and old in-betweeners...”

Two news items to consider:  First, on Thanksgiving Day 2009, four members of a family were gunned down in Jupiter, Florida.  Paul Michael Merhige, a brother of two of the victims, is the prime suspect in the murders. 

Second, in Parkland, Washington on Sunday, November 29, 2009 a gunman burst into a coffee shop and opened fire on four uniformed police officers, killing the three men and one woman in what has been described as a targeted ambush.

These horrific incidents are causing many pundits to wring their hands about the culture of violence.  We do live in interesting times that bend perilously close to frightening, but is it really a newsflash that violence reigns supreme in 2009?

For some in the real world car bombs are nearly a daily nightmare that we see only as news coverage.
For some in the real world car bombs are nearly a daily nightmare that we see only as news coverage.
In fantasyland Jack Bauer will keep American interests safe & secure by a routine use of violence.
In fantasyland Jack Bauer will keep American interests safe & secure by a routine use of violence.

Slowly Anesthetized

Even a quick appraisal of American society reveals that over the last number of decades we have developed a casual disregard for life. Any suggestion otherwise is to be oblivious to the obvious; by commission or omission we have all participated in the cheapening of human life.

Murder and mayhem are played out on our television screens each and every day. We see car bombs exploding halfway around the world so often that we are immune to the living nightmare; the body count from each detonation has become nothing but numbers to us.

The high-tech coverage of the war on terror assaults us; sometimes it is presented in graphic detail that numbs the senses, so we seek escapism, but take a gander at what we call entertainment.

Season Eight of 24 is already being hyped for its mid-January 2010 premiere. The series relies almost entirely on brutal force or menacing threats to move plot-lines along and the previous installments have been hugely successful.

That means a lot of us have been watching and are anxiously waiting to jump feet first into the new story. FOX is counting on our loyalty and continued high ratings because that is what generates advertising dollars.

Or consider the video games that glorify death and destruction, yet adults and children compete and play them over and over again. The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred beyond distinction.

Speaking of human life being cheap, what about abortion? 93% of all abortions performed in the United States are for social reasons such as convenience or as a form of birth control. We euphemistically call it a woman’s right to choose, but the on-demand snuffing out of innocent human life is infanticide.

Is it any wonder that we have been slowly anesthetized to violence?

In the twenty-first century, are we any less barbaric than in the thirteenth century as portrayed in the movie Braveheart?

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No Place To Hide

We often pass ourselves off as scholarly, sophisticated or enlightened even, but we are no less barbaric than any other time or place in history. We simply ignore, sanitize or legislate our barbarity.

Yet there is no place to hide. More often than seems possible savage scenarios peel away the civilized veneer to reveal a deep-seated societal sickness: Law enforcement personnel shot dead while working at their computers; a family shattered to pieces after celebrating Thanksgiving Day together; the Fort Hood massacre.

We point fingers of blame and look everywhere except at our culpability; we sift through an orgy of psychoanalytic minutia and blindly grope around in wide-eyed wonder when things seem to be spinning hopelessly out of control.

If we would honestly look in the mirror, here’s what’d reflect back at us: We have treated common sense like disposable diapers; we have discarded time honored truth; we have gorged ourselves at the buffet line of secular fundamentalism; we have indulged in every crackpot whimsy of human-centric reasoning.

Sowing & Reaping

Here’s a certainty that no amount of effort will ever change: God cannot be mocked. As a society we disregard God's values at our peril. We sow seeds of violence that desensitize us while continually degrading human life, and then are somehow surprised when we reap whirlwinds.

Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of some words Paul of Tarsus wrote say it well: “Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.”

We reap what we have sown. Is that far too simplistic? Or so profoundly true that it sets off spasms of denial?

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Comments 32 comments

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Sometimes I think civilization is but a thin veneer to limit our worst selves.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

dahoglund - I agree. Thanks for stopping in & sharing.

Drew Breezzy profile image

Drew Breezzy 7 years ago from somewhere in my mind

Yeah violence images are so common that they don't hold the shock they should. I thought your car bomb picture was a movie scene.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks for stopping by, Drew Breezy.

oldyeller3 7 years ago

I remember watching "Walk The Line" Cash's movie with you and Anita, I couldnt watch the saw accident. You commented then how most people are desensitized - a true and sad fact - God has to watch His children die every day as most put more value on comfort than human life. Unbelieveable!

RevLady profile image

RevLady 7 years ago from Lantana, Florida

I so agree with you Ken,

I read about the incidents you mentioned and it ignited similar thoughts as well as feelings of grief. I grieve for the victims and I grieve for their families and I grieve for a world slowly dying and spiraling out of rational control.

One of the greatest problems we face today is that of controlling the absurd, the insane in human nature which tend to defy complete control. We certainly observe this in acts of violence and extreme aggression. As crime and violence mount, we seem to think severe legal penalties will eradicate or tame the problems. So we strengthen our police force, lengthen regulations, extend jail sentences, and reinstate capital punishment.

But even after we have tightened up, the results are still the same. We are dealing with something that cannot be permanently changed. We are dealing with sin. Jails are not big enough to contain sin. Nuclear weapons cannot kill sin. The demons running our streets cannot be controlled by the judicial system. The sin within is manifested without; it darkens human life and saddens human history. Sin is an offense against an infinite God and He promises immeasurable consequences.

Yet, beneath the violence veneer, is yet another reality. There is an undying sense that we need to be saved from the sin that torments us, and we know that we cannot save ourselves.

So, where can salvation be found? It can only be found in God through Jesus Christ.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

oldyeller3 - I remember that too. Thank you for stopping by & sharing good words. Blessings to you.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

RevLady - Wow. Amen to everything you wrote. We cannot pass a law to change the human heart, can we? Thank you so much for sharing.

50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 7 years ago from Arizona

You got my attention with Willie, good fish hook for this subject, now that I've read it I cannot unread it.

As Americans most are desensitized just due to the fact they have been isolated for so long. All most know are images when it comes to death and horrific violence. With in a wide percentage of humanity there lurks the ability for one to go rogue, what it takes to "set" one off will be unexplainable until we, if the memories of such times are still with us, ask God. He will be the only source that may be able to sum it all up. Many say simple, it is just evil, these people became one with Satan. Well I'm not buying that summation. It fails to explain the American soldiers ability to kill countless people many smiling all the while and then coming home and then mingling with society for the remainder of their lives. There is a many a year one longs for his rifle and his war back, just due to the fact that it was the first thing he was good at and due to the repercussions of those experiences he just don't fit any where else. We see a few breaking (poor terminology) and returning to his skills here on US soil, but in relativity very, very few.

There is a violent animal inside each of us and what triggers the cage door varies from person to person. I've seen the innocent 17 year old go out scared to death, and return with the black evil in his eyes. I can't explain it but I can tell you when I see it. We have yet to reach the "out of control" in America, I do believe with all my self we are coming to it and that this once blessed nation is as Davids pursuer, fallen from the position of being anointed. What's up with anti-abortion and pro-death penalty? People calling for the heads of others? Barrabus, Barrabus, and they set him free. It was for the good of mankind, yet it was still so very wrong.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

50 Caliber - Yeah, Willie is one of a kind. Thank you for your good observations. Well said.

One sentence grabbed hold of me: "There is a violent animal inside each of us and what triggers the cage door varies from person to person."

How true; how sad but true.

JimLow 7 years ago

Ken, there are still people who claim random acts of violence and murder are no worse than they were in previous generations of modern society but they must be living on a different world that I am! Part of that desensitization to it is because it is so frequent anymore. People used to exclaim "Oh my Lord, a mass murder happened in USA town today!" and now they say it with such matter-of-fact expression and is seemingly not as disturbing. I can at the same time understand their not reacting fully to it because with so many incidents occurring in the world, if we don't allow God's peace to comfort us in the midst of it, we will be in a state of feeling emotionally disturbed and fearful. We're human and can't avoid some of those negative feelings and reactions but I personally don't believe I could handle all of it very well without God's comfort in my life!

This Hub is an eye-opener!

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Jim. Good words.

Madame X 7 years ago

Yeah, it's ok to see someone's throat slit but seeing a woman's breast . . . gasp . . . that's x-rated! I'm not condoning pornography but natural human nakedness, not even sex, as I've seen in some movies, has been demonized. Where as outright hideous violence barely gets and "R". Seems our priorities are all turned around.

Good hub :)

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Madame X - Thank you. Good comments to consider. Can't imagine us having our priorities turned around. :>)

50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 7 years ago from Arizona

Having banged around in this world for a time, I wonder, has it gotten worse really? OR has the media gotten much more advanced and we receive more reports of these acts just due to advancement in the ability to deliver it to the homes of most?

Is there a media drive to assist the government in disarming the citizens so the take over can be done easier? Is this media drive spearheaded by Satan himself? How can he be expected to mark the foreheads and right hands of those who can and will resist to a greater degree?

In my opinion there has been little change in the percentage points, more population = more crime or accidents etc.

It also equals more good, but that doesn't sell as well as the obituaries. What was your favorite part of the hockey game? Or the auto race? My guess would be the fights and blood on the ice and the auto crashes.

As you said it is sad that evil lurks just beneath the skin.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, 50 Caliber. More good words; much fodder to chew on & consider.

Pachuca213 7 years ago

I really enjoyed this. I also loved your ending. I used the same scripture in my hub "what goes around comes around". It is absolutely true. And I agree that the world we are living in is so calloused that they do not react as a normal person should according to violence due to the constant bombardment of it on television. I grew up in Los Angeles and I witnesses many heinous things as well as dealing with a lot of drama during my lifetime. So I guess you could say at one point I noticed I was becoming calloused to things too. I had to take a step back and analyze how easily we can succumb to that thinking. Wonderful hub!

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, Pachuca213. I will check out "What Goes Around Comes Around" this evening.

Foxxfire profile image

Foxxfire 7 years ago from Pennsylvania

God gave us free will. We, as mankind, have become desensitized because of our own choices. I personally refuse to watch violent or demonic movies. If you ALLOW yourself to watch, play, or become involved in these types of games or movies you are desensitizing yourself. The next time you come across the same situation you may say, "Oh what the hay, why not? What harm can it do? It's just a movie, it's not real." That soon becomes a snowball affect. It is beyond my comprehension how anyone can sit there and watch a movie where someone is being murdered, raped, abused, etc. and be okay with watching it. It all comes down to free will. It's a personal choice that not many people today take into consideration.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Foxxfire - Thank you for your good comments. More stuff & fodder to consider. Blessings to you.

sweetie1 profile image

sweetie1 7 years ago from India

Movies and TV do inspire youth a lot and if it shows wrong things then as heroes are role models for youth, the youth does same and many a times mindless violence occurs and there is so much loss of life and property for no reason at all.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

sweetie1 - Thanks for stopping in & sharing your good observations.

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia

Have you ever watched A Clockwork Orange? It's about this same topic. Violence makes me physically ill, and it's all too rampant in our society. Good hub!

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

habee - Thanks. A Clockwork Orange? Yes, a long time ago. Now we are both dated. :>)

Dao Hoa profile image

Dao Hoa 7 years ago

I think the children are also desensitized. They saw it on the TV and then act the same as if it is the right thing to do!

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Dao Hoa - Yes I think you are exactly right. Thanks for stopping in & sharing.

AEvans profile image

AEvans 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

There is far to much violence in todays's society and I believe it is certainly a sign of the times. People rarely smile at each other anymore and they are fearful of each other. TV, media etc is desensitizing everyone and so many are become ruthless! Great hub! :)

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

AEvans - Thank you for stopping in & sharing comments. Unfortunately you are correct.

Lynda Gary profile image

Lynda Gary 6 years ago

I work with kids (children!) who come from the inner-city and are so surrounded by violence, it's not uncommon to see someone have his head bashed in while a dozen passersby do nothing to intervene. Or, worse. Some of these kids are now MY kids, and it takes so much effort to try to sensitize them -- but effort worth the work. Even my biological kids are so much more desensitized than kids of a generation ago. SOoo sad.

Thanks for this beautifully written hub.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Lynda - You're welcome. Thank you for your sharing your perspective & observations.

Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 5 years ago

I ,too have worked with inner city kids and those in foster care who were brutally abused and neglected. it pains me to think that they were treated so badly by the adults in their lives and they will be damaged the rest forever because of them.

i also see kids today who play violent video games and watch violent movies totally desensitized to violent acts.They don't have much empathy for others and this worries me.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Stacie - Thank you for sharing from your experience. What you say is indeed worrisome.

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