Aurora Mass Shootings

There’s an article at The Good Men Project worth reading called “Not a Joke: Why Do Our Boys Keep Up the Mass Shootings?” in light of the mass murder this morning in Colorado.  I left a comment there that I wanted to explore some more here.

This is a risky comment, because it is perhaps too early to theorize.  For starters, I live in Colorado and I’m stunned.  I also love the Batman movies for the same reasons lots of other boys and men love them.  I get a rise out of violence in my entertainment, gun-related or otherwise, and I’m not sure yet what that says about me or my conception of masculinity.

At the risk of being too politically charged, I would like to offer this idea: gun/violence culture.  Not guns and violence themselves; the world has had both for eons.  I’m talking about the culture thereof, which I believe is different.

I work for a military-tech company.  We design products that integrate into soldier systems and weaponry.  One of our employees was touring his kid through the plant recently and the kid’s eyes went wide when he saw one of the assault rifles sitting on an engineer’s desk.  We were conducting testing on a new design, and the kid was ecstatic.  I didn’t know (and can’t remember) the model of the gun; he knew it cold and could tell me how many rounds per second it fired.  I asked the kid how he knew so much about it (you know where this is going): Modern Warfare 7 (or whatever version we have now).

Again, I am not talking about the video games themselves, or the guns themselves.  We have always had these with us.  I’m merely talking about the culture that has arisen around that stuff that I think matters more.  The culture celebrates weaponry and violence to a level never seen before, where the protagonist hero can rampage without any consequence — in fact, he is rewarded for doing so.

Just some scrambled thoughts on an emotionally cloudy Friday morning.

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  1. It’s hard to fathom what possessed this man to do such a terrible thing and I am as lost as everyone else.

    You and I spent probably hundreds of hours running around our homes shooting each other again and again.

    We just used our imagination and I’m sure neither of us ‘imagined’ the blood included in our pretend fighting.

    There is a difference between what we did and what is done now simply because of the increase in graphic imagery.

    Probably, in the hands of well adjusted kids of appropriate age violent games are okay. In the hands of kids (or adults) with serious emotional issues, not so much.

  2. Spot on, Rob. I have always enjoyed guns since I was a little kid, but they were a tool that required great responsibility, and could be used for good or bad, saving a life or taking one. They did not define who I was. One book that really opened my eyes and I can’t recommend enough is by Lt. Colonel Grossman called “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War & Society”. It was eye-opening to see the conditioning tactics that had been employed on me in my military training to make me a better soldier, more likely to kill enemy with less hesitation and more efficiently. But what was more eye-opening was seeing how closely modern video-games and TV and movies mimic our military training in creating a generation not only accustomed to the idea of killing, but also one that takes it very lightly and without remorse. What’s worse, this “training” is without direction like in a structured military or LEO environment. Not only are kids not being hammered on the “Rules of War” and the need for justification for killing, like they would be in structured training, many of the games and movies provide for comic relief through running over innocent bystanders, fragging your buddy, or other forms of generally unacceptable behavior. The resulting desensitization to graphic violence and changing of unacceptable behavior to acceptable, combined with a pervasive shift to anything goes morals (what you call “wrong” may not be to me) has gone a long ways to creating the culture you speak of, IMO. If you get the chance check out Col. Grossman’s book. I think you’ll like it. Very balanced and well-researched.

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