Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for the ‘World’ Category

Violence is No Fantasy

What happened in a Colorado movie theatre around 12:30 am this morning was shocking, senseless, and tragic. The victims were in no way to blame for what befell them at the hands of a deranged killer. But we as a society should not be surprised at the increasing number of such violent gun attacks on innocent people when we constantly present violence as entertainment.

I read this quote about the tragedy in a CNN article: “For somebody to go into a movie theater, a place of fun and escapism, and bring that kind of violence into that world is shocking and tragic,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office division of Hollywood.com. But just two short paragraphs later, the same article points out that “Warner Bros., which is owned by the parent company of CNN, has been heavily marketing the action film that includes scenes featuring lots of gunplay and violence.[emphasis mine] Warner Bros. pulled the trailer for the film ‘Gangster Squad,’ which had been running before showings of ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ That film trailer features scenes of men armed with machine guns attacking a movie theater.” Sounds like a lot of what too many people term “fun” and “escapism” involves “fantasy” violence.

I have already seen the inevitable renewed debate over gun control. But this is NOT a gun control issue. This is a behavioral issue. Are violent video games to blame? Or the movie industry itself? How about television? Maybe it’s the parents? None of these is responsible – all of them are. At least we’re talking (occasionally) about those particular issues. Sadly, it’s not politically correct to raise the question of how war and combat are glamorized by our recruitment for and celebration of our armed forces. Frankly, we’ve indoctrinated an entire, desensitized generation into believing that wielding weapons is normal and heroic.

I hear the argument all the time: “Oh, it’s ‘just’ a video game. It’s ‘just’ a movie. Kids aren’t REALLY going to do those things. They know better. They can tell the difference between media and reality” But you know what? When they play it in their spare time, see it in their toys, watch it on TV – in their cartoons, in their news, in their commercials – see it in the movies, witness it in their sports, hear it in their music, and have it in front of them in myriad way ALL THE TIME, they absorb it, they ingest it, they accept it, and they normalize it. It becomes their reality.

My kids are not very exposed to violence through the media. We don’t watch network TV at home at all  (this is no exaggeration – we have had no dish or cable service for over 2.5 years.) We use our TV for Wii games & movies and the most violent DVDs we own are probably the Harry Potter movie collection. However, my kids aren’t completely sheltered from the reality of a violent world. Despite the controversy, I took my kids to see “The Hunger Games,” an admittedly violent movie, because they’d both read the books and because the heroine is herself so horrified by the lack of humanity exhibited by most of the people associated with the games. During the movie, other kids and adults were cheering when each “bad” kid died. Both my girls were horrified by this because even though the characters were “kids making bad choices, they were still kids and they were dying. Why are people cheering for kids dying, mom?” Out of the mouths of babes…

I had a friend, who was raising three boys, tell me once that I didn’t understand that boys need to run around and pretend violence in order to “find their place as men in our society” (I think she’d read that in some book about raising sons). She wasn’t entirely comfortable with it at the time, but “it’s just a necessary part of life.” Her oldest son was so young, maybe 7 years old, that it didn’t MEAN anything, she said. That son is a teenager now and obsessed with all things Army, guns, camouflage, violent video games, killing – and she see no problem with it, still thinks it’s normal. I’m horrified at his transformation and we are no longer friends partially because I don’t want my girls exposed to that kind of “normal” boy.

Does no one see a connection between the massive daily over-exposure of our kids to violence and the rise of school violence? domestic violence? violent bullying? childhood depression? youth suicide? Was no one else horrified that there was a 4 month old baby and a 9 year old child present in that theatre at midnight am for a PG-13 movie containing known adult violence? Does no one else see the grim irony that many people in the theatre didn’t realize what was happening because they thought it was just super-realistic special effects?

Violence is not acceptable – not in our video games, not in our movies, not in our toys, not in our music, not in our television shows, not in our sports, and especially NOT for our children. And if we don’t stand up and say, “No more,” we will continue to find others’ violent escapism fantasies turning into our own very grim reality.

End of the Innocence?

For 10 years, I’ve been quiet about my personal reaction to and feelings about the events of September 11, 2001 and the aftermath. But it seems fitting on today’s 10 year anniversary to let my perspective finally be heard.

Nothing in my experience of the day or my feelings as it unfolded was unique or remarkable. I was a stay-at-home mom of two young children ages 2 and 2 months who took her kids to a morning gym class and came home to news reports of tragedy. Millions of Americans saw the same scenes I saw and were glued just as voyeuristically to the horror unfolding on television as I was. It was what happened in the days, months, and years afterward that came to shape how I feel today about the events of that day.

People associate a wide variety of feelings with their personal experience of 9/11: grief, loss, fear, confusion, insecurity. Personally, I associate 9/11 with shame and anger – for my own country. If today’s ten year anniversary is about loss, and here’s what I believe we truly lost on 9/11:

* We lost over 3,000 civilian lives in a horrifically tragic way – as tragic as the millions of innocent lives which continue to be lost in horrific ways all over the world from violence, preventable disease, human cruelty to fellow humans, and wars which we ourselves are perpetrating.

* We lost our sense of fiscal responsibility, led by a President who told our citizenry that to spend money to avoid recession was their patriotic duty. Is it a surprise that we are in the economic situation we are today?

* We lost our sense of security at home, just like we lost that sense when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. We vowed we’d never forget the lessons we learned following that particular national tragedy, never repeat the mistakes made in the aftermath.

* We lost the recognition of individuality for which we were admired throughout history. We blamed an entire religion instead of a handful of radical zealots. We feared and institutionally discriminated against Americans who practiced Islam, making them feel fear in their own country and depriving them of individual liberty, just like we did to Americans of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor.

* We lost the very foundation of freedom that defines us as a nation. Instead of being MORE vigilant to protect that for which the world envied us, we gave it up for the illusion of action to create a false security which never did, never could, and never will exist.

* We lost our pride in our freedom to question those in power. We pretended unity and called it patriotism. We called traitor those who disagreed, rather like the very extremists we abhorred.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty – power is ever stealing from the many to the few…. The hand entrusted with power becomes … the necessary enemy of the people.” Wendell Phillips, 1852

After the events of 9/11, we vowed not to let the terrorists and the extremists win, but when we allowed them to take our sense of security in ourselves, when we allowed our priceless American liberties to be eroded, we gave up our power. “We have met the enemy – and he is us.” (Walt Kelly, 1953)

“The world changed that day,” they say. But did it? Or was it just your personal perception of the world that changed? “We will never forget,” they say. But that’s what a generation before us said after Pearl Harbor.

I believe with all my heart in what the United States of America truly stands for, in the ideals on which it was founded. But I feel we have fallen far away from those ideals as a result of our reaction to the events of 9/11 – and THAT is what saddens and angers me even more than the loss of innocent life. I pray that as a country, we will stop cowering behind bravado and return someday to what made us truly great: to embracing the REAL American values of individualism with respect, openness without fear, and freedom with hope that made us a target that fateful day.

This Little Piggie

Hysteria annoys and appalls me.  Today at church, instead of greeting fellow congregants with a handshake or hug, it was suggested that we bow – to be sensitive to the people who are worried about catching the so-called “swine flu.”

First, this viral strain has as much to do with birds as pigs.  It’s a hybrid pig-bird-human flu strain with no demonstrable link to pigs at all.  The more appropriate name is H1N1.  So let’s get some perspective on the H1N1 flu:

People in the world: 6,777,490,406

Confirmed cases of H1N1 world-wide: 900

Cases of H1N1 in Ohio: 1

Deaths from H1N1 in Ohio: 0

Deaths from H1N1 worldwide: 20

Incubation period of the H1N1 flu: one week

So unless you’ve been to Mexico in the last week – or interacted with someone who has – you have no mathematically rational reason to be concerned about catching H1N1. But apparently, many people are not rational.

Maybe the price of pork will go down.

Criminal Government

To say I am outraged by the inactions of the government in Burma would be an understatement. Their actions over the last six months – really, over the last 56 YEARS – have been deplorable. But their actions over the last six days are crimes against humanity.

Some of the horrors these people were enduring BEFORE Cyclone Nargis are recorded here. “A young woman, a domestic worker in Rangoon, described how one woman bystander who applauded the monks was rounded up. “My friend was taken away for clapping during the demonstrations. She had not marched. She came out of her house as the marchers went by and, for perhaps 30 seconds, smiled and clapped as the monks chanted. Her face was recorded on a military intelligence camera. She was taken and beaten. Now she is so scared she won’t even leave her room to come and talk to me, to anyone.”

“Another Rangoon resident told the aid worker: “We all hear screams at night as they [the police] arrive to drag off a neighbour. We are torn between going to help them and hiding behind our doors. We hide behind our doors. We are ashamed. We are frightened.”

It sounds a lot like a holocaust to me.

And there’s more recorded here: “As reported in The Gathering Storm, the junta spends 40 percent of its annual budget on the military, with only 3 cents of every dollar going to healthcare – an average of about 40 cents per citizen.”

“In 2006, observed Beyrer, Burma’s military dictator, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, spent some $40 million on his daughter’s wedding, a short (but damning) video of which was later posted on YouTube. That compared with $137,000 for a nationwide program to combat AIDS.”

But when I read today on CNN that the government literally STOLE two plane-loads of food from the U.N., I about lost it. Now the junta is saying that they’ve reconsidered and are willing to accept aid. Well, sure they are – so they can steal it for the wealthy government officials. And listen to this: “Officials plan to go ahead Saturday with a national constitutional referendum aimed at strengthening the power of the military junta. The government has delayed voting in areas most ravaged by Saturday’s cyclone but refused to cancel the balloting countrywide.”

These government officials are utterly corrupt, unbelievably greedy, and criminally self-centered. The UN should go in there and take over Burma by force. Forget respect for a sovereign nation, this is cultural abuse on a massive scale and should not be tolerated in the 21st century.

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