We can blame the Newtown killings on America’s lack of gun control, on America’s inadequate mental health services, on critical mistakes in judgment by Adam Lanza’s mother (legally obtaining assault weapons so that she and her son could let loose their fury legally at target ranges) Certainly all of these factors must be considered if we have a prayer of answering the mystery of Newtown. What made him do it?
I cannot be confident about any of my best guesses. But one thing we all know. Something has changed in America. Violence has been escalating for the last 20 years, along with its opposite. Public morality has been ever more focused on helping the underdogs: gays, African Americans, people with disabilities, the retarded, wounded and helpless. No jokes, no comments, not even a hint of anything other than generosity, equality, a warm welcome from the family. This purity must not only be shown to outsiders. It must be felt in the depths of our hearts. What we project to outsiders about us is small compared to the need to demonstrate our basic decency to ourselves.
Let’s address the violence. From everything I can see, not unlike most people, we have a good healthy pleasure in aggression, and competition Turn on the TV. Go to the movies. In sight and sound, the demonstration of it is amazing. Boom boom bang bang. Our intimacy with killing, our insatiable need for more and more. Clearly seeing people killed is pleasurable or it wouldn’t be on TV.
Let us be fair to its fans. The deaths brought into our living rooms would be the envy of spectators watching Roman gladiators getting torn apart by lions. True we know our actors and actresses are not really dying. Romans got to see the real thing. But the hoopla created by modern death entertainers is as engaging. HD close ups of a victim being murdered, or heroes righteously exacting revenge, evening the score- the blood, the splatter, as another evil person goes down. Dexter is legitimate competition for the gladiators.
Will we, over the years progress to something like those who ruled in the Hunger Games, (written by a Sandy Hook, Newtown author)? Will we match the gladiator shows put on in Rome. Send not actors, but the real thing, real people out to meet their death for our entertainment.
It is satisfying a need. Anything less has become boring. The audience demands not only “as close to real as possible” but real. Period
Killing for this purpose has a long tradition. Believing that Gods controlled whether they lived or died, the Aztecs kept their fear at bay by trying to bribe the angry Gods. Human sacrifice was the answer to lessen the gods’ hunger for human flesh. Give the Gods a gift worthy of their stature . Beautiful virgins were killed in wondrous ceremonies, songs, dances, chants the whole village there to take part in the ritual. Before Abraham, future Jews, like many of their Semitic brothers, thought the choicest morsel that God desired was their first born.
There is something profound about innocents being intentionally killed. It communicates a primal truth, It is the basis of Christianity, the ghastly murder of Christ, an innocent so innocent that he was able to take on the sins of all Christians for ever after. Pacifists often point out. Why such a gruesome way to get the point across?
The killings of innocents in Newtown is the closest we have come to Christ’s innocence. First Graders Jeezus! How can there be more perfect victims?
Time out. I’m not claiming that anyone, anywhere, deliberately helped Adam Lanza, anyone wished that it happen. I am simply raising the possibility that the expression of violence, while never sanctioned in words is sanctioned by deed. The frequency of presented violence, the money in it, the fun, glamour, the repetition in video games, and drama, unconsciously communicates every thing Adam Lanza needed to hear. But why now?
Item. In my youth (the 50’s) there was no wrestling in cages. No contestants kicking, beating on a downed man’s face, leaving him bloody, and hopefully in a stupor. Football players were strong and tackled their adversaries with all their strength, but they were half the size of today’s football players, and not nearly as muscle toned. It wasn’t brick crashing into brick.
Something has changed. So what is it? Is American society unusually violent.? Definitely. Is it unusually goody-good. Equally true. Can the two coexist? Obviously they can and do. Do they fertilize each other. That is enough thinking for the day.
The point being made is that while the Newtown massacre trumps the rest, while it has almost 9/11 impact in kicking us in the gut. Newtown is only the latest. These events are escalating. It isn’t the makers of shoot em up video games, the gun manufacturers , the NRA, TV programming directors and Hollywood producers chasing the public’s appetite for violence. Then escalating it with their creative efforts. It is not Adam Lanza’s mother, it is not the hatred Democrats and Republicans have developed for each other. All are manifestations of the problem, not necessarily its cause. Something has gone amuk in our society and we must try to control it. That is if we can figure out what is going on.