I had a great discussion with the kids in my Sunday school class this morning. We have a couple of computer geeks, a video-game aficionado or two, a kid whose dad owns several guns for hunting and kids whose parents believe there is no place for guns in a civilized society.
We started off talking about whether we should ban all guns or at least regulate them as tightly as we regulate decongestants.
We talked about whether anyone with a history of mental illness should be able to buy a gun, and we found difficulty there because whom do you refuse? I have been treated for depression, so do I get rejected? Knowing my peacenick stance, a couple of the kids laughed at the thought of me wanting to buy a gun.
“Well, you get someone’s primary care physician to write a letter,” one of the kids said.
That would be great except for the huge number of people who have no primary care physician. And it wouldn’t stop other members of their families from having guns, thereby giving access to the person who shouldn’t have it. That’s what happened in Newtown.
Armed guards at the school’s entrance wouldn’t have helped because the gunman didn’t go in the door — he crawled in through a window.
So the talk turned to our culture of violence and corruption. Gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association have been able to shut down any talk of serious gun regulation. They’re incredibly powerful.
And violence is everywhere — in games, on the Internet, in movies and on television. It’s really difficult to escape. Parents might tell their children violence is bad, but then they sit down at the computer and play a game that’s rated M for violence. They send the kids into the theater that’s playing the G-rated movie while they go in to see the movie that’s rated R for violence. Kids see that and they internalize it.
Studies show that children who are exposed to violence in games and movies are desensitized to it.
And it’s not like kids have no access even if parents lock up the games; there are plenty of places online to play war games. It’s a recruiting tool. Gun manufacturers aren’t the only ones with a huge stake in perpetuating our culture of violence — government contractors make billions and billions off going to war, and we have been kept in a state of perpetual war for more than a decade now. Still, even as we prepare to leave Afghanistan after 12 years of war there, some call for an invasion of Iraq or Syria.
We have to reject violence as a society. It’s not just the guns, although we do need regulation.
Violence is too easy an answer when you’re surrounded by it.
When my boys were teenagers, I wouldn’t allow violent games in my house. I didn’t allow them to watch movies with an R rating for violence. If we went to the movies, I didn’t drop them off at a Disney movie and then go watch something “mature.”
I have never seen a Quentin Tarantino movie and I don’t plan to. I have never played a violent video game and I get really upset when I see my 12-year-old grandson playing one.
I don’t just preach nonviolence; I try to live it. After being pepper sprayed at a demonstration last year, the temptation to get angry and break a window was pretty strong, but instead I walked around reminding others that this was a nonviolent protest and we had taken a pledge to remain nonviolent. So we sat down and sang songs. By doing so, we made out point that violence is not the answer.
We as a society aren’t going to get rid of violence in our midst as long as we approve of it in our entertainment. We have to reject it.
I took that pledge a long, long time ago, but I think now is a good time to renew it. Will you join me? Our children’s lives depend on it.
Leslie Boyd, a former newspaper reporter, is president of the health care advocacy nonprofit, WNC Health Advocates, founded in memory of her son, who died in 2008 because he couldn't access health care. E-mail her at leslie at lettersfromtheleft dot com or follow her on Twitter @leftyletters1, visit Letters from the Left on Facebook. For more information about WNC Health Advocates or to read Boyd's health care blog, visit wncha.org.