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?
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?
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?
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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