Violent Imagery Shapes Our Reality

Deadly wounds are healing slowly in Tucson. More than two weeks have passed already since Black Saturday (as one of my friends called the 8th of January) and most conversations and local news are still wrapped like tangled ribbons around that tragic event. People’s responses are amazing and in overwhelming numbers as always when great tragedy is encountered. The evidence of it is visible in front of the University Medical Center where the injured were treated — masses of flowers, notes, candles, photographs, and stuffed animals left for our Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of the shooting.

Memorial to Gabielle Giffords

The word “love” is visible and has surfaced very strongly in response to that tragic event.

Yes, Tucson is healing indeed, but an important quest now should follow. How do we prevent such tragedies in the future?

Almost everybody agrees that we have to be more civil in our political debates. I am also sure that there will be a lot of discussions concerning the gun control issue. I already received a letter/petition from Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts gently addressing the very issue of gun control in this country. “Look,” the letter says, “this isn’t about taking guns away from anyone who wants to buy them legally. It’s simply a plan to fix the system we have so that it respects the rights of stable, law abiding citizens but keeps guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.”

Such debates likely will take place in other states, but I doubt they will in Arizona. Here in Arizona too many believe that possession of guns is the basic right of a citizen and that it represents one of our fundamental freedoms.

“Guns do not kill, people do,” I hear, and there is some truth to it. Of course, there are exceptions, like the recent accident at one of LA’s schools where a gun fired unexpectedly in a student’s backpack and wounded a couple of other students. The presence of guns in schools is an absurdity, but it is today’s reality.

Why is there so much violence in our country?

Michael Moore in his movie Bowling for Columbine addressed that question several years ago. He spent a lot of time wandering from place to place in search of an answer. Then to his surprise (and ours) he found that our Canadian neighbors, like Americans, own a lot of guns, yet they don’t shoot each other nearly as often or as violently as we do. So what is the problem? It is clear to me that the answer is attitude — the attitude of righteousness, arrogance, and intolerance mixed with a desire to solve any problem by using power.

Such an attitude is nurtured slowly in the average American from an early age by constant exposure to an immense variety of violent imagery — starting from the war toys and electronic games to violent images pouring from our TV and movie screens.

"The American" DVD cover with George Clooney "Salt" DVD cover with Angelina Jolie

Let’s look for instance at the very popular movie Salt starring Angelina Jolie. The plot is very naïve, outdated, and hard to follow. The speed of the action is so high and intense and predictable that it might as well be no action at all. There is no question that watching Angelina Jolie full of amazing energy is the major attraction. Her skill in beating, kicking, jumping, and shooting is astonishing and the ridiculous ending of the movie strongly suggests that some day we might have Salt II to entertain us more.

A beautiful woman better trained and fit than any man, superior, and unbeatable. How very sexy! Yes, she is very sexy with or without guns, but being angry and running with a gun seems to be the new image of an exciting, sexy woman.

Just watch out (soon) for new and dangerous gangs of angry, ticked off “girls” on your street. Aren’t we — women — finally equal? Sure! How exciting!

Violence is glorified in this society; celebrities are almost worshipped or at least strongly occupy the minds of many. In the age of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter everyone seems to want to have a piece of fame! A desire to be noticed, to be followed, to be more popular than others, to become a star even for a short moment.

Impressionable people (including “unstable minds”) want to have a piece of fame, too, without much work. Doing something outrageous and very noticeable seems to be an easy way. A political attack can fulfill that desire even more effectively.

We need to address the issue of glorifying violence sooner rather than later — before we find ourselves again in another “time for healing.”

Our society has changed its attitude towards many important issues, like the environment, smoking and eating habits. If we can change those, we can change our attitude towards violence, too.

Don’t you agree?

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Copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann

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4 Comments on “Violent Imagery Shapes Our Reality”

  1. Lauren Raine Says:

    Thoughtful post……….thank you for sharing this important message. It’s been a pleasure to hear you read at the group meetings; I look forward to the next meeting.


  2. Alicja Mann Says:

    Many thanks Lauren and see you soon!

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