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Life imitates art

Okay, time for more feeding of the Virginia Tech blog frenzy. I know that when it comes to spouting opinions, everyone is an expert and has the most insightful and correct things to say. I suppose I am no different. But, I feel like there is one aspect of what is going on that completely misses the point, no matter which side you are on. That issue, which has inflamed many passions lately, is gun control.

The events in Blacksburg have given fuel to two very prominent voices - those who believe there should be strict control or that guns should be outlawed entirely, and those who believe that gun control disarmed a citizenry who would have been able to defend themselves from such an attack. Whichever way you look at it, the issues of gun control are responsible for 32 innocent people getting killed.

I believe there is an issue going on here that is much deeper than the legality or non-legality of guns. We are surrounded by a deeply poisonous pop culture of violence. Our video games are deeply violent. Our movies glorify killing. Our music glamorizes atrocities. And, I know this because I participate in some of this. I like to hook up the network and play a rousing round of HalfLife Deathmatch. I play Halo with my nephews. I used to spend hours on Grand Theft Auto. I ultimately gave up GTA completely because it really was affecting how I saw the world around me. The influence of the things that feed our minds runs much deeper than we think. There is no such thing as "just a game" or "just a movie" or "just music."

There are some things that we have a superficial hypersensitivity to as an American society. One of these is sex. Although a seething sexuality surrounds us, the nation went into an uproar at the Janet Jackson Superbowl incident. Yet, horrific violence really does not phase us. I point back to the Grand Theft Auto series of video games. These games are the bloodiest, most violent pieces of entertainment that exist. It makes gunning people down on the street, murdering police, crushing bodies with vehicles, selling drugs, and killing rivals the newest level of fun. But, when it was revealed that a secret code could be entered that unlocked a 30 second sex scene in the game, the country and legislators went crazy that this kind of thing was in the hands of our children. That's what it took for people to be concerned? Add two ounces of illicit sex to 800 pounds of horrific violence and only then will you have a problem.

Our culture is poisoned with violence. This poison feeds every one of us. What does it feed to those who are disaffected? What does it feed to those who are looking for a fantasy? What does it feed to the lonely 8th grader who finds solace only in front of his computer? This is when it becomes more than entertainment and transforms into the food of ideas on which we feast. What are the consequences of walking down the street behind the police officer, choosing your weapon, raising the arm, and spraying his head over the sidewalk in front of him? In the game, nothing. You choose your next weapon and move on to the next person. If you somehow die, you revive immediately. You feel nothing. You know no one. Pain does not exist. No one knows you in this world - total anonymity and complete power make you a god. In the dark room with the movie, the power of the violence over life gives even the villains an edge of cool. Everything is solved with the weapon, even for the heroes. Kill. Slash. Stab. Shoot. Destroy. Explode. All of these are answers to a situation and give power to the weak.

You may not see this happening to you. And maybe you are completely unaffected by the images, ideas, and concepts and are constantly fed into you. But I would hazard to guess that you are one of the few. And every once in a while, there is someone, somewhere, who is fed just enough to be overtaken by the alternate reality. And we don't see it until after the damage is done.

Both images from the South Korean film Oldboy, whose tagline is
"15 years of imprisonment, five days of vengeance."


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