Violence in America: Some Questions
A Starting Point
In 2005 A History of Violence was released, a movie that starred Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, Maria Bello and William Hurt. It raised a provocative series of questions, such as: Can a person with a violent history go ‘straight’? When is violence justified? What, if anything, can be done to counteract the love of violent actions in American society? Is there any resolution to the damage caused by violence?
Those questions are more pressing than ever, in the wake of the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and - in more recent weeks - charges of abuse against NFL players. Rather than suggest answers in this article, I want to raise the question once again of violence in our society and do that in a variety of ways before inviting readers to enter the conversation.
Read through the questions listed below, think about them, and come up with your responses:
Why is it that films featuring the Three Stooges slapping and thumping each others’ heads and poking at one another’s eyeballs seemed so funny?
Why were the Roadrunner and Tom & Jerry cartoons with their many violent acts so popular?
Why are microphones needed to capture the sound of football bodies colliding?
Why are elementary school children allowed to use automatic weapons on firing ranges?
Why do most people decry the use of firearms by mentally ill persons, yet continue to resist background checks that might screen out such persons as potential threats?
How is it possible that our American society can produce a woman who says on camera, ‘I’m against abuse, but if a woman strikes a man she deserves to be hit back?’
How can whipping a child hard enough to create open wounds and scarring be interpreted as discipline?
How is it that a majority of Americans polled say they approve of military action in the mid-East, while at the same time suggesting that it won’t work?
How can the public love boxing and football and fights among ice hockey players, yet decry the brain damage that results?
Why is it that children (mostly boys) spend a huge amount of their time playing video games that are geared toward violence?
Why is it that boys love to fashion guns out of fallen tree limbs and assorted loose materials found around the house?
Why is it that the vast majority of games found in stores involve shooting, war or attacks by aliens – and still, parents and youngsters are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for them?
Why do we have road rage?
How is it we can decry the shooting and killing of children in our schools, yet refuse to at least restrict the number of bullets a cartridge can hold?
Why do we need between 200 and 300 million guns in the U.S. kept in nearly half of our country’s homes?
I know the usual responses to all of these questions, and probably you do too: heredity, repressed anger, bad modeling etc. What I don’t know is how to forge a different approach that moves us in the direction of a less violent society and fosters the ability to discuss our problems and differences, instead of acting them out in anger.
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