April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech, Indians, and comics

The Virginia Tech massacre is another in a long series of American tragedies. We've seen it all many times before. Put a young man, a school, and a gun together and you've got a deadly combination.

But is this tragedy a senseless one? From Columbine to the massacre on the Red Lake reservation, I've written about these shootings before. I've done my best to make sense of them.

Under the heading of violence, here are some postings on the subject:

Understanding America's violent ways:America's cultural mindset   We expect the American Dream...but we're stuck with the American reality.

America the warrior society   War and violence "have been pervasive in American life and culture from this country's earliest days."

A Latin view of American-style violence   The world notes our hyper-individualism and gunslinger mentality.

Some arguments for gun control   A lone-gunman type displays America's obsession with its manhood.
The media is the gateway of American culture:The evidence against media violence   Violence expert David Grossman and others lay out the facts.

Highlights of the FTC report on media violence   The mass media sells sex and violence constantly, 24/7.

Are parents responsible for their kids' violence?   Try "troubled youth, toxic environment and peer dynamics."

SchoolRumors.com: a typical media influence   How our culture inculcates aggression and hostility in kids.
Other than Red Lake, is there any connection between Virginia Tech and Indians and comics? In a word, yes.

We live in a violent cowboy culture. It was founded on the idea of a chosen land for a chosen people. Indians stood in the way of this warped vision; they said no to America's manifest destiny. They were the first but not the last to pay a price for it.

Our children grow up repeating the lessons of history--playing soldiers or cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians. They learn from countless media sources that you're not an adult unless you solve your own problems. And the way to solve them is with force--with a gun.

Comic books, cartoons, and video games are ubiquitous among today's youth. Even though we claim to prefer peace, the majority of them feature violent conflicts. Frequently they involve guns.

In that sense these mediums are worse than movies and TV shows, where violent conflicts don't occur so often. So our youth's favorite media is the most violent media. From it they learn to accept violence and aggression as the norm.

So what does a troubled boy do these days? Does he go to an revered elder for counseling? Does he listen to a moral story for its lessons? Does he seek mental health treatment at a local clinic?

Or does he do what our culture and media tell him to do: strike first and ask questions later? Be a victor or be a victim? Kill or be killed?

The answers are obvious. While you're enjoying the latest SCALPED comic, Grand Theft Auto game, or 300 movie, think about them.


Rob said...

Needless to say, I could go on about this subject for hours. My website is devoted to it. If anyone wants more thoughts, e-mail me.

greggie said...

Already around here, though, the local news is making allusions to: "He was a foreigner" and "who should have access to these buildings?" to me this is leading into territory of restricting access to higher education. If you are a student, you get an ID that allows access to the buildings on campus. The simplest way to restrict access to the buildings is to restrict the student body. combine that with xenophobia already rampant, add a little dose of restricting immigration (except for exploitable day laborers) and you guarentee a scenario that the archietects of NAFTA could only fantasize about: Now, you don't have to export the factory to a mequiladora, you can import exploitable labor, and then guarentee they wont have access to higher education, and ths wont be able to compete for better jobs etc etc. Maybe I am reading too much into this, but on my local channel (WLWT channel 5) there were two stories back to back about campus security and foregn students that have access to them.

I am inclined to think the shooter was mentally ill. I had a cousin who exhibited some of the same symptoms as the shooter, but for better or worse, he imploded rather than exploded and commited suicide. He suffered from Schizo-affective disorder--also had a lesion on his brain.

However, the american culture of violence can express itself in acts like this when one is bombarded with the image that violence is the solution to all problems, in TV, radio, internet, mass media at large. There are plenty of crazies in other countries that don't resort to mass murder.

Rob said...

Cho's murder spree was a form of suicide, of course. He never intended to live through it.

Rob said...

Another exchange with a correspondent:

>> And yet we are further removed from cowboy culture in 2007. In the 50's and 60's , when there were less gun control laws on the books and kids brought weapons to school for highschool gun clubs this never happened. <<

Are we really further removed? Movies, TV shows, comic books, and video games are as violent as ever. Shooting sprees are broadcast repeatedly, giving the shooters their 15 minutes of fame. And we're in the middle of a war that we've promoted as a righteous cause. Some people have even compared Iraq and Afghanistan to "Indian country."

It's not the access to guns per se. It's the access to guns plus the lack of community support (which was stronger in the 1950s) plus the violence-prone media environment.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
Unfortunately, in written situations such as this one, more violence is done TO the language than is done WITH the language. Reference Line 44 with its charming attempt at pluralization: "mediums". 'Course,if the writer was speaking about his shoe width...
And then Line 46 with the enigmatic phrase "media is the most violent media.." wherein a plural is used not once but twice as if it were a singular.
Gaffes such as those always are a danger when a writer chews both the scenery and the subject about which he is writing.
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

I used "mediums" intentionally, obviously. It's an alternate version of "media" that I thought would be clearer in this context. An "F" for your obtuseness in not realizing that.

If you really want to tally real or perceived errors, Russ, I'll be glad to show you up. I'm guessing you make more mistakes than I do by a factor of 5 or 10 to one.

For instance, in your response you seem blissfully unaware that a period goes inside a quotation mark, not outside. An ellipsis at the end of a sentence requires four dots, not three. You put two periods in a row after "media"--in a failed attempt at another ellipsis, I guess. No punctuation mark uses not one or three but two periods.

So you lose this little contest: three real mistakes to one alleged one. Oops. Next time you need a lesson on punctuation, just let me know. I'll be glad to help.

As for your continuing ignorance of the use of "media" as a singular noun, I've already explained that matter to you. Again, crack open a dictionary and learn about the vagaries of word usage. Or read about it online if you're too lazy to get up off your couch:


me·di·um (mē'dē-əm)
n. pl. me·di·a (-dē-ə) or me·di·ums

Really, do you want me to start listing every error you make in your responses? Because you usually make one or two in every comment. If you want me to highlight your imperfect spelling and punctuation skills, just let me know. Otherwise, quit wasting our time with this petty nitpicking.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
Latinates embodied within the English language still obey Latinate rules, most certainly in the area of signular items and plurals. Memorandum, memoranda; conjunctivum, conjunctiva; agendum, agenda; colosseum, colossea; medium, media; interregnum, interregna. writerfella remembers an old Wayne & Schuster comedy routine where a Roman Senator goes into a bar and asks for a 'martinus'. The bartender asks if he nmeans a 'martini'. And the Senator replies, "Hey, if I want two, I'll ask for them!"
All Best
Russ Bates

russell said...

Writerfella here --
POSTSCRIPTUM: All you cited, Rob, were matters of punctuation, whereas writerfella cited actual matters of word misuse, which you readily admitted were attempts at being purposeful. Any writer worth his salt knows that word choice is premium to the writer and that punctuation only is premium to the editor. And as writerfella has stated and iterated over and again, writing is not about winning or losing. Either one does it keenly and well or one would do better to take up sales of aluminum siding...
All Best
Russ Bates

Linde Knighton said...

This is just about a year after two similar sensless tragedies hit Seattle. In the first, a mentally ill White man from Montana used one of several automatic weapons to kill 9 young people at a party. By all accounts, these were nice kids, and a little too trusting. the killer shot himself at the end.
A week later, a mentall ill young man from central Washington got a gun, entered a Jewish social work organization and started a shooting spree. He was protesting his perception of Israeli foriegn policy.
His parents were extreemly upset, saying that they had repeatedly tried to get him some help, but were not able to do so.
Sound familiar?
I think we need to really examine how we help the mentally ill in the United States. Why wait until they are dead or have killed before we get them the help we need? Is it a luxury we can afford to bypass to get free treatment for these people? The cost in human lives is way too high.

Rob said...

Latinate words change when English users modify them. As they've done in the case of "decimate" and "media."

You cited one non-mistake, Russ, while I cited three actual mistakes. Your comment about "media" reveals your ignorance of English, not my ignorance of Latin.

Check your dictionary if you think "agenda" is still a plural noun rather than a singular noun. You'll find you're wrong about that one, too.

In your latest responses you made three more punctuation mistakes. A single quote goes outside a period just like a quotation mark does, and an ellipsis ending a sentence still requires four periods. You also misspelled "singular" and "means." You now lead 8-0: eight actual mistakes to one non-mistake.

So your excuse for your faulty English is that you need an editor to save you from your shortcomings? Okay, if you say so.

When I turn in an article, I try to make it flawless: no spelling or punctuation or usage mistakes. That's because good writing is as much a matter of good editing as anything else.

Rob said...

Thanks for some comments that are actually on-topic, Linde. Russ likes to tout his superior writing skills even if they're irrelevant to the subject at hand.