Vail Daily letter: Enough already
Ryan Summerlin December 20, 2012
Once again America witnesses another senseless and horrific tragedy. We again immediately hear cries for stricter gun control, more enforcement, and tighter security. And the pro-gun lobby will again dust off their rebuttal.
We are seeing a fairly consistent “pattern” here. That is, younger men (boys really) going into public places and randomly opening gunfire on, and killing or seriously wounding unknown and innocent people, and then committing suicide. Rage against the world that rejected them.
But to me this pattern we are witnessing and all too often experiencing goes beyond just guns, cops and security guards. In my humble estimation, this pattern is fairly easy to decipher.
The video gaming industry’s top selling products are war games. Generally marketed to young boys, the goal of the game is to kill as many of the enemy as quickly and efficiently as possible. Young boys isolate themselves for hours playing these games to the point of hand fatigue, blisters and injury. They can even go online and join others in the adrenaline rush of the graphic and bloody random killing.
Social media is anything but social. For too many in our younger generation, being “social” involves Facebook, Twitter, My Space, texting and email. They can interact with society almost exclusively without any real or meaningful personal interaction.
It’s all too easy to hurl vicious commentary outward because they don’t see the actual repercussions of their words on the faces of those they hurt. They become numb to experiencing the real human reaction to their actions and words. And when they do get a reaction, it’s often retaliatory, and they retreat further into isolation.
Combine the above with the inevitable onset of mental illness issues a few of our youth have always experienced and you have a bad recipe for potential disaster.
I offer the following ideas that need to be considered in whole, none really effective on its own:
1. The media should not publish the picture of the perpetrator. As a society, we have long understood that we don’t show a guy who runs naked across the field at sporting event (as not to encourage such behavior). Yet the media will glorify these petty murderers for weeks or years. Is it so difficult to understand that this is exactly what they wanted? And that it further incentivizes the next potential tragedy. This is a no-brainer. It should be immediately implemented.
If the media won’t take it on themselves to do the right thing, then the government should. No more 15 minutes of fame.
2. While I believe further gun control is not the sole answer, I don’t understand why powerful automatic weapons, designed to kill people in the line of war, are the constitutional right of any person to own. Those who choose to own that class of weaponry should be more toughly vetted and they should be honored and respectful to do so.
If I own something that I intend to use in a lawful manner, why would I resist responsible registration and commitment to secure that weapon from theft or misuse?
3. The video gaming industry needs to acknowledge its far-reaching social responsibility. Their products have a huge impact on the growing minds of their clientele, mostly our children.
The industry needs to quit hiding behind the “it’s what our market wants so we are just providing it.” There’s more to this than just company profits. Heaven forbid your child would see naked people, but simulated violent killing is OK?
4. Parents need to stand up and get their kids away from the gaming box and put down their iPhones once in a while. There’s a big globe spinning out there that has creatures on it called people. Have your children get to know them. Limit time spent on video games. Make your kids put down the iPhone at dinner. Have them volunteer in activities that foster face-to-face interaction. Have them actually make something with the help of others for someone they don’t know. Make them aware that the world isn’t the next gadget!
5. Generally mental health has always been a societal stigma, and most people (who’ve never experienced mental issues) prefer to look the other way. Our society needs to better integrate our understanding and response to those who struggle with these various issues.
We need to react more proactively when mental illness becomes potentially harmful. In most cases these killers gave multiple warning signs prior to the incidents, and hose who saw them lament later about not doing more.
I think most will agree that something needs to be done to thwart further attacks by obviously disturbed young men on random innocent citizens (and children!) just living their daily lives who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But don’t take away my rights.