Let's talk about our rights and our freedoms.
How many were free to shop at a Wal-Mart last two Sundays ago without fear that El Paso copycat would announce himself with the staccato fire of an AR-15?
You saw the stampede in the theater district in New York City when a motorcycle backfired. And the evacuation of a Wal-Mart in Union because of a false report.
We may have freedoms, but we longer live free of fear.
People in the blighted parts of our cities aren’t free from fear of gun violence.
And this year, New Jersey middle and high school students are no longer free to choose anything but a clear backpack.
The latest shootings have led to the latest round of political grandstanding and finger-pointing.
Blame Trump. Blame guns. Blame video games. Blame movies. Blame mental illness.
Assign blame and take no responsibility is the soulless political and industry M.O. after yet another horrific, and uniquely American mass killing.
When America looks in the mirror, we must admit we see a nation that lives by the sword and is dying by the sword. We must begin to ask, is this what we want?
Maybe it’s time to truly look into our soul and question the “swords” we wield.
We are by far the largest supplier of war-grade weaponry. It’s nearly a $200 billion industry and America exports 40 percent of the world’s military weapons.
The manufacturing of guns and ammunition is a $50 billion industry, and grew 4.5 percent last year. That doesn’t include other industries our gun industry feeds, namely law enforcement and prisons.
With 40,000 gun deaths a year (two-thirds are suicides) a common line explaining – or is it excusing? – America’s predilection for violence is that we were begat from war, so violence is in our DNA.
But modern France, Italy and Spain and many other nations were formed by armed revolutions and have managed to come to civilized terms with their violent beginnings.
Will we ever come to ours?
Another sword in our national scabbard is the “entertainment” industry.
Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” featured 57 bloody homicides and was released on Christmas Day 2012, just 13 days after the all those children were murdered in Newtown, Conn.
Instead of Americans being sickened by Tarantino’s blind ambition and arrogance in releasing a splatter film on what was a declared day of reflection and mourning, the movie eventually made $425 million at the box office. His equally bloody “Kill Bill” and “Inglorious Basterds” collectively have made $500 million.
I would like to live in a country where someone like Tarantino is dismissed as a gore whore. Instead, some critics attach the word “genius” to him.
The “Call of Duty” war video game has made $17 billion. "Grand Theft Auto" has made $9 billion. Those are just two games where players shoot, stab and terrorize their way through stages.
Now, guns in movies are as old as "The Great Train Robbery" (1903), but gore came in with the “splatter films” of mid-1960s. Alfred Hitchcock had to fight censors to keep the shower scene in “Psycho.” By 1974, we had “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
The early 2000s saw a dramatic technologic leap in video games in high-definition graphics. The killing just got more real.
Does violence in video games and movies lead to mass killings? All the data says no. Of course, no one has done a study where all the subjects are mentally ill or disturbed, or have delusions of grandeur or catastrophic fantasies.
And psychological studies are one thing.
There is an indisputable correlation between the increased number of mass shootings and more enhanced and graphic violence in movies and video games.
You can chart it on a timeline, beginning with disturbed WWII veteran Howard Unruh’s rampage in 1949.
The next one, the University of Texas clock tower sniper, doesn’t happen until 1966.
Almost 10 years go by before a man in Hamilton, Ohio, kills 10 family members on Easter Sunday.
Then come the 80s, and the San Ysidro McDonald’s shooting that leaves 21 dead not only shocks the nation in the number killed but that it happens in very public place where across the nation, at that time, millions had been served.
And then came Columbine in 1999 and the unthinkable: our schools aren’t safe.
The new millennium brought us 18 of the nation’s worst 25 mass shootings, including eight of the 10 worst.
Of course, the technology of rapid-fire weapons also increased during that time. So where does the blame lie? It lies with the industrial and so-called creative forces who will not congeal for the safety and common good of the country.
It lies with the forces who will not self-police, who insist on their pushing the envelope of the Constitutional Rights without regard to the damage being done to the psyche of the nation. Their swords are cutting us all.
And this last statement is not just aimed at gun owners and the Second Amendment. It is also aimed at those who use their First Amendment rights to desensitize us to violence and suffering. At least Universal Pictures had the decency to shelve a new violent film “The Hunt.” But I’ll bet it’s released as soon as there is a lull in mass shootings … if there is a lull.
The law-abiding gun owners of this country should be the first to help figure out how to get guns out of the hands of criminals and try to vet the mentally ill. Perhaps something as simple of having to show proof of a gun license to purchase ammunition could cut down on the killing in our city streets, lobby to have penalties for possession of weapons for unlawful purposes strictly enforced, close the gun show loopholes, and back legislation for strict liability laws for the straw buyers who put the guns in the hands of the people who pull the triggers.
As for the Quentin Tarantino and other parasitic entertainment and media gore whores who feed off our most base, reptilian instincts, they should be treated like the pariahs they are, and should begin to reject the gun violence, butchering, torture and other savagery as not being “cool” or “fun” or “cartoonish,” as Tarantino has said in interviews. They are sickening and dehumanizing.
Live by the sword, die by the sword. The solution is collective. It’s a massive group conscience to choose life, and peace.