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Friday, October 21, 2016


“In the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy,” President Obama said this week in Aurora, Colo., after the shootings.

That’s probably not true.

From Charles Whitman up to the present day, the collective American memory preserves the name of the killer . . . the lone psycho, the shadow hero. We’re far too fascinated with violence not to mythologize its perpetrators. And just as we all know (because the media tell us) that there will be a “next war,” we know, oh God, in the deep churnings of the heart, that there will be more murder victims — schoolchildren, college students, shoppers, churchgoers, theatergoers, bystanders. We know because we live in a culture that tolerates and perpetuates violence.

James Holmes may have been a “loner,” but, like his predecessors, he acted in a complex American context. He wasn’t alone at all.

The U.S. is far more violent than other developed countries, for reasons seldom addressed or even looked at in anything like a holistic way. The root of the matter, as I see it, is our false distinction between “good violence” and “bad violence.” We don’t address the issue systemically because of our social investment in “good violence” and the enormous payoff it delivers to some. But good violence — the authorized, glorified, “necessary” kind — inevitably morphs into bad violence from time to time, and thus we are delivered jolts of headline-grabbing horror on a regular basis.

Image by chuybenitez via Flickr.

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Copyright 2012 The National Memo
  • bcarreiro

    the victims and their families want a motive for this tragedy, this is what the media is after. the media plays a big part in what is transparent and not so transparent. people kill people when they level of thinking is to make us think why they are doing this. these killers feed on this because they have something to say. its unfortunate that killers take the lives of the innocent in order to get a point across. we need to stop exploiting violence and women on tv and in the movies.

  • rplight

    A brilliant article that reveals a central truth about our great but tragically misguided country

  • old_blu

    The media makes these people bigger than life, so it is easier for the next one to do it because of all the hype, and I’m as guilty as anyone I want to hear about it. (sorry but I am)

  • tokoloshi27

    At it’s core, I believe, this article is wrong. Initially the statement, ” we live in a culture that tolerates and perpetuates violence”, doesn’t define “violence” until later it mentions “good violence” and “bad violence”. It minimizes this by putting it into the context of entertainment and media-news.

    Does all violence involve photogenic gore? Aren’t starving kids in Darfur the result of violence – is that glorification we see from the media? The same media or state department dweebs that don’t want to rock a Saddam or Burmese junta’s boat?

    After the WWII when this nation was staring down the Soviet threat(s) in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean; we had programs to offer military surplus weaponry to citizens for home/civil defense purposes. While the domestic threat eventually turned out to be non-existent, how many of those weapons were used for ‘bad’ violence – which I would define as resulting in criminal convictions? A few, I would dare say. On the other hand (and there is one) would you honestly say that the threat to an individual domestic citizen today, during this non-declared threat from Islamic extremism, is any less than the perceived threat during the cold war? Yes we do have a higher per capita percentage of police than we did then in those days of universal (male) conscription/military service; but does the fact of paying for more security make us more or less secure?

    For myself, whether there are two or one cops for every 25 citizens, while statistically very significant, means very little to our perceived security as citizens. As a group we don’t have the training or the experience to defend ourselves (unlike in decades past) – nor are we encouraged to do so. Articles like this ‘blame’ our culture – as I would too, but from the opposite perspective. Few of us are capable (by virtue of resources or training) of defending ourselves in the face of ‘bad’ violence. If we were capable we might feel more secure and less likely to unknowingly blame ‘assault’ weapons or ammunition sales for the insane preconception that ‘good’ violence is the Hollywood special effects of an action movie.

    While such movies may serve as a cathartic release, they actually inculcate very poor misconceptions of firearms and firearm use. So good for escapism, ‘bad’ for violence.

  • howa4x

    The Gun manufacturers are the only industry not held accountable for their products. If a faulty brake line on a car causes injury and death than the car company is held accountable. If food is contaminated and peope die from it the food purveyor is held accountable. this is the only industry that can make and offer for sale a product whose purpose is death. Why do they get away with making large capacity magizines for sale on the internet? why can they sell military type assualt weapons to the public. The NRA has become the new merchants of death because of their unyeilding support of the Gun industry to the point where the smallest restriction in ownership is lobbied against like it was the end of private ownership. They have formed an unholly alliance with the republican party and some democrats to stamp out any opposition to gun ownership.

    As for the innocent public, they are considered colleratal damage and a necessary evil in the gun saga. We are the targests of any person at any time who wants to act out a fantasy. The targets range from presidents to infants and none of this carnage makes any politician or all of us want to stop it.

    I live in a state that banned automatic weapons 20 yrs ago, and I asked my kids after the colorado tragedy if they feel safe going to movies here, even ones at midnight or if they ever felt danger going to school on any day. They looked at me and said of course we never feel danger, why would we?
    That’s the answer you get when a state really looks to protect it’s children and not just talk about it like they do in most. I don’t know why the shooting death of a child is not considered a basic family value. I don’t know why all the religious leaders are silent.

    that is the power of the NRA!

    • Your premise isn’t correct, howa4x. Your problem with guns isn’t that they don’t function properly like your examples (car, food) it’s that they work all too well as we expect items purchased to do.

      The Aurora theater was a no-gun zone, too and it did absolutely nothing to stop the murderer.

      I’m still waiting to be informed as to what signs he showed ahead of time that he was a psychopath and no one took steps to make sure he was treated or locked up.

      • howa4x

        Most states because of pressure from the NRA don’t do background checks. Wva and Ariz had 2 different mentally unbalanced people purchase automatic weapons and gun down innocent people.. You would think after colombine Colorado would have tightend their laws but didn’t . fla has a concealed law and a stand your ground and an innocent teen was gunned down. If you want to live in a state that has lax gun laws then do so. If anything happens to one of your family members because of it than so be it. I won’t happen to mine and that is all I care about

  • I think it is a little more complicated than the media or gun laws. It has more to do with the basic roots of the Country, which is a combination of the influence of fundament religious beliefs that holds a solid influence on about 1/3 of our population and the fact that the Country has its roots in an immigration population. Many Fundamental religions push corporal punishment, righteous anger and the concept that everything a person does was because God wanted him to (which eliminates personal responsibility). Our news sources regularly report stories of wife and child abuse and murder that are connected to radical religions that have made the behaviors acceptable and part of their culture or that a mentally ill person has twisted to his own needs. Our love of guns is part of the legacy of a Country that, let’s face it, has for most of its history has been expanding in landmass and until recently has always has had a frontier with the individuals living in it having to protect themselves. In terms of history, this Country is just an adolescent who is fighting between what it knows it should do and what it wants to do and isn’t quite mature enough to think about the consequences or either choice.

  • phantomoftheopera

    i think we need to take a look at the value we put (or in many cases don’t put) on human life. we think it’s ok to kill a person if they threaten our possessions, our things. we think it’s better to kill someone who’s threatening us when we have a way out. anyone not ME has no right to life if i deem it so. we think it’s ok if a poor person dies because of lack of health care. we think it’s ok to kill a person doing something we disagree with, because ‘we’ are the only ones who are right. people harangue about gangs, but fail to realize that they are mirroring society. having guns just makes it much easier.

  • Quit complaining. USA has History of violence, remember the old days when the best Indian was a dead Indian? What about the shootings of the Old West?
    Read your History books (if you have any) and realize that this Country was built KILLING the Natives or each other.
    Police still kiling “because they are afraid to be harm” (???)

  • Well thought out and thought provoking.