Yes, of course, every day that Congress goes on refusing to ban guns is more blood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. It’s immoral, disgraceful, embarrassing, and in large part a function of financial corruption. But it’s also in part a government operating within a culture of violence — albeit one that the same government plays a huge role in creating.
U.S. movies, tv shows, video games, music, news, and schools are uniquely and increasingly violent. Primates’ chief form of behavior is imitation. Humans are no exception to that rule. Human cultures that have not known stories of mass-murder have also not known mass-murder. Anthropologists have studied cultures in which people have had an absolute taboo on taking human life.
U.S. culture floods us with the acceptability of violence. Check out Heidi Tilney Kramer’s Media Monsters: Militarism, Violence, and Cruelty in Children’s Culture for a catalogue of horrors that extends from the normalization of torture in G-rated movies to the celebration of war in song lyrics. Kramer quotes some experts:
“The University of Michigan’s Dr. L. Rowell Huesmann says that ‘every exposure to violence increases the chances that some day a child will behave more violently than they otherwise would.’ A 17-year longitudinal study showed that ‘teens who watched more than one hour of TV a day were almost four times as likely as other teens to commit aggressive acts in adulthood.’”
Other causal factors may correlate with watching TV (or computer) screens, but the main problem is clearly what is being shown on those screens. Kramer quotes from a 1999 U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee report:
“With respect to television violence alone, a 1993 report by University of Washington epidemiologist Brandon C. Centerwall expresses a startling finding: ‘[If], hypothetically, television technology had never been developed, there would be 10,000 fewer homicides each year in the United States, 70,000 fewer rapes, and 700,000 fewer injurious assaults. Violent crime would be half of what it is.”
Many other factors contribute to a culture of violence, some improving, some worsening. Here are some that need changing badly right now:
- Ban guns.
- Halt the public investment, through the U.S. military, in some of the worst films and shows and videogames.
- Get the disgusting violence out of U.S. entertainment and advertisements, or at least break the media monopolies to create the option for people.
- Create a public health campaign to end the watching of television.
- Get television out of classrooms.
- Get JROTC and ROTC shooting ranges out of schools.
- Get the machine gun range for kids out of Orlando.
- Get state governments to end financial aid used to lure the production of violent films and games to their states.
- Teach nonviolence nonviolently.
- End a judicial system based on sadism, including capital punishment, solitary confinement, and mass incarceration.
- End a foreign policy based on extreme sadism.
One way we could end the wars abroad that teach violence, train future killers, militarize police, proliferate weaponry, exacerbate racism, and drain resources would be to care about all the people killed every day in U.S. wars in foreign lands — to care about them in the way that we care (or, even better, the way we used to care) about U.S. victims of mass-shootings in the U.S. Terrorism has predictably increased worldwide throughout the war on terrorism. But that is without even including the increase in what’s not counted as terrorism, namely domestic U.S. mass-shootings by non-Muslims.
Wars find a lot of ways to come home.
Unless you end them.