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This morning, on my Facebook page, there were a number of people calling for just shooting James E. Holmes without a trial, because he was caught with the gun in his hand and there were dozens of witnesses to what he did, so why waste the money?

I also saw some news reports about that idiot Louis Gohmert saying that if other people in the theater had had guns, this wouldn't have been such a tragedy because they could have shot the shooter.

I also want to respond to a conversation I had with my ex's new partner, about the culture of American violence and how we need to get our collective heads out of our collective asses and recognize that this is cultural and structural, not individual, or we're all screwed.

I'll take these issues in the order they were presented, after the fleur-de-Kos.

First, to the eye-for-an-eye, kill-without-a-trial folks:

The only way to respond to this morning's tragedy is by following the law. Those advocating "an eye for an eye" or execution with no trial are advocating vigilantism, also known as lynching, which is what people did to blacks in the 1950s.

It's called due process, folks. We may not like it, but the moment we depart from it, you can put your head between your legs and kiss your rights goodbye. As angry and disgusted as we may be by what happened in that theater, we must remember that the LAW demands due process for all, and hold to that. We either protect the rights of ALL, or we admit that nobody has them.

If you want your rights protected when and if you are accused (and don't kid yourself that you never will be), you must protect the rights of those you hate when they are accused. End of story.

Second, to the "if others had had guns they could have shot the shooter" folks:

I am deeply offended at that yahoo Republican in Texas making this tragedy into a political issue. More to the point, I'm extremely offended at his claim that if other people in the theater had had guns, they could have stopped the shooter.

There are other ways to respond to a gunman in a crowded area. Witness the Unitarian Church's response to the shooter that walked into their church in Knoxville, Tennessee a few years ago. They did not shoot him. They grabbed him, took away his weapons, and detained him without violence until the police arrived.

There are other ways to respond to violence than with more violence.

A friend of mine pointed out that in a dark, chaotic theater, another person with a gun would have just probably hit more innocent people. And I responded, "Thank you, yes. And the people in the Unitarian church, which was well-lit in the middle of a morning church service, might have had a clear shot but still did not respond with violence. We could use more of that kind of response, frankly."

It's time to stop meeting violence with more violence.

Which brings me to item 3: the American culture of violence.

My ex's boyfriend's opinion was that we have to get past the belief that it's all about mental illness or a personal problem. He asked why we question that this happens, when American culture has so desensitized all of us to violence in the first place. He said "Why bother looking for a motive? The point is that he committed the crime - motive is irrelevant. We've created a culture where this happens."

And he's not wrong, folks. This is a cultural issue.

Unfortunately, our nature as human beings demands that we find a motive for actions, which is why "senseless shootings" make us so frightened. More to the point, we demand PERSONAL motive, because we don't want to accept what my ex's boyfriend said - that our culture has desensitized us to violence. The law will also demand a motive, and if he's crazy, the motive will probably be "because the voices told him to," which will pretty much guarantee him a stay in a mental hospital. So although we may want to think motive is irrelevant, it's actually pretty central to the problem at hand.

It's why we keep seeing the MSM talking heads endlessly speculating on why he did it. But notice - nobody is going to bring up "the American Culture Is Violent" as a reason, because that would mean it's not just about this one crazy lone gunman, but about US. And that means we might have to change.

The problem with that is getting past the mental and emotional resistance of those who continue to believe that we're the best country in the world, the best culture ever produced by human beings, and the best everything else. As frustrating as it is, psychological and sociological research has repeatedly shown that you cannot reason someone out of a belief they were not reasoned into, that facts and data that show why a belief is invalid often just serve to reinforce the invalid belief, and that most people don't act or think logically most of the time. It's an uphill climb that makes Sisyphus' job look like a level plain. I've posted about this here before.

It's the American culture of violence that allows a dipshit like Louis Gohmert, (R) Idiotsville, to claim that more violence will somehow solve the problem of violence and to know that the majority of his supporters will agree with him. It's the American culture of violence that moves people to support vigilantism instead of due process. It's very likely the American culture of violence that causes people like James E. Holmes to do what he did - one person on my Facebook page said "I find it interesting that the automatic reaction is that this is diminished mental capacity, instead of a reaction to a system." That's because we can't handle the fact that diminished mental capacity often comes about AS a reaction to a system.

I have studied this American culture for years. I'll be studying it for the rest of my life. But I also know that change has to come from the ground up; it can't be imposed top-down and made to work. So until we, as a culture, are ready to admit our failings as a culture and work to change the culture, we'll continue to see these kinds of tragedies.

And that's sad, folks. That's really sad, that we'd rather continue to cling to our violent ways than to find something that works better.

Originally posted to Killer of Sacred Cows on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 10:36 AM PDT.

Also republished by Invisible People.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

    by Killer of Sacred Cows on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 10:36:41 AM PDT

  •  I had to teach a class the day after Columbine (11+ / 0-)

    The course was called "The American Character" and I wasn't prepared  (for the only time that semester, but then my quals were the following week). I walked into the room, said "Is what happened yesterday part of the American Character?" and then did nothing but direct traffic for the next 70 minutes because everyone had something to say. The consensus, in north Orange County, was yes.

    It will take generations as long as the NRA continues to abet the healing.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 10:49:12 AM PDT

  •  sometimes looking in the mirror (7+ / 0-)

    and admiting that you are part of the problem is the hardest thing to do.

    I watch football, but not a fan of MMA. My taste is movies is all over the place. Violence is all over our culture.

    As for Rep. Dumbass, there was an excellent diary posted earlier about how, unless a person in that theatre had special training, an armed person returning fire could have made things a LOT worse.

    The Spice must Flow!

    by Texdude50 on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 10:51:22 AM PDT

  •  because violence gives us PLEASURE. (9+ / 0-)

    Violent movies, violent song lyrics, violent television, violent video games:

    We're saturated with violence, we swim in violence, we eat, drink, and shit violence.  It gives us a little dopamine buzz, it gives us boners, it gives us something to talk about, it makes boring lives exciting.

    It wouldn't matter if that guy had lobbed a home-made cyanide gas grenade in there and wiped out all 300 of the people in that theater.  It wouldn't matter if Al Qaeda had set off an atomic bomb in downtown Manhattan on 9/11:  

    We'd still want our violence, every last fucking gory bloody splattery drop of it.  

    Because it gives us pleasure.

    And that's fucking sick.  It's as sick as kiddie porn made with computer-animated children and a disclaimer that "no real children were used to produce this material."

    What would you think of someone who got off from looking at that shit?   "Oh hey, no problem, as long as it's not made with real children!"  Eh?  

    So here's the cure:

    As with alcoholism and other substance abuse conditions, you have to JUST STOP.  Give it up.  Quit.  Cold turkey or with the assistance of a doctor.  Whatever.  
    Just say enough is enough, and stop.  

    And here's the test:

    Who among us is willing to swear off all graphically violent media in their lives?

    No more violent TV.
    No more violent song lyrics.
    No more violent films.
    No more violent video games.

    Who here is willing to boycott all that shit in order that we can change the culture?

    And who here is willing to urge others to do the same and follow their example?

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 11:01:19 AM PDT

    •  Not just addicted to violence; (17+ / 0-)

      too often that addiction goes hand in hand with hatred.  See how the vigilantes hate this perpetrator?  They get a nice warm glow thinking of how they would see him die.

      I can't imagine living that way anymore--because I used to be that angry violence addict seething with rage and hatred and just waiting to trade punches with the next guy who looked at me wrong in a bar.

      After my daughter was born, and after my divorce I undertook to reduce my stress through Zen and meditation and one day I woke up and the anger and hatred was gone.

      I no longer recognize the guy I was when I was in my 20s.

      Somehow our culture needs to grow up and leave behind the hate and anger and violence--because it's consuming us from the inside.


    •  I'll be the first to admit... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      home solar, MKSinSA, Larsstephens

      I won't be giving up the following:

      No more violent TV.
      No more violent films.
      No more violent video games.
      I abhor actual violence. I am a peaceful Wiccan.

      But man I love my Assassin's Creed. I love The Dark Knight (that, for you non-pop-culture folks, is the second batman movie with the incredible performance of Heath Ledger as the truly deranged Joker). I like Game of Thrones, which is based on an incredibly violent and brutal series of novels.

      It's not that it gives me pleasure. Well, maybe deep down inside, someplace I'm not consciously aware of, it might, I'm not going to be an armchair psychologist.

      It's just entertaining and it makes my boring little crappy life look pretty good when compared to the horrible things that COULD happen and probably did at some point in human history.

      As a side note, I take note that no one ever, ever, suggests that violent books should also be given up, like violent tv and video games should. I mean Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) is some of the most savage, brutal stuff I have ever read, and shows that the author has thought about the very worst that humanity has to offer. Why do we let our kids read Lord of the Flies in school? Heck, Shakespeare didn't shy away from violence in the least, and kids read that in school too. The Odyssey and the Iliad, anyone?

      Why do the anti-violent-pop-culture folks never discuss books? I'm just honestly curious. I am an English major and have devoured books ranging from the Epic of Gilgamesh (like the first known written literature, and not short on violence) to Drizzt Do'Urden, Harry Potter, and the Hunger Games.

      Can we at some point, maybe after some of the furor of this tragedy has blown over, have an intelligent discussion about why books are okay for violence, but not movies and video games (I mean it's not like books haven't influenced psychos before, E.G. Catcher in the Rye). And, as part of that discussion, maybe we ought to examine why all of humanity's greatest literary works, from the very first written works, seems to involve lots of violence.

      Maybe it's not just the culture here that's violent. Maybe it's the species? Personally, it seems to me like the theater shooter is just one of a type of personality that somehow manages to pop up in every part of human history. I really don't think the Ancient Greek version of Grand Theft Auto made the Spartans the bloodthirsty men that they were.

       Dunno, just food for thought.

      •  a boring crappy life, and books. (4+ / 0-)

        As you said:  "It's just entertaining and it makes my boring little crappy life look pretty good when compared to the horrible things that COULD happen and probably did at some point in human history."

        Not to worry, if climate change keeps going, your life won't be boring, though it might be crappier than you can imagine, and you'll be saying "never a dull moment!" and wishing for dull moments.

        You do realize, don't you?, that demand for violent media is what keeps the supply coming full-force?

        And as for violent books, as a generalization, people who read have better impulse control than people who don't.  

        Anyway, suit yourself, and remember what you said here when you find yourself living in something that looks like a science fiction dystopia in about 30 years.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 01:00:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Boring crappy lives (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I never once said I wished to not have a boring crappy life. I very specifically said that reading and watching violent stuff makes me appreciate MY boring crappy life. It's not like I wish to live in the world of Panem (Hunger Games) because it would be cool to fight to the death at age 12.

          And as for violent books, as a generalization, people who read have better impulse control than people who don't.  
          Don't buy it. That is, I don't buy that only readers have better impulse control. Where did you get such a curious generalization? Has there been a study of some sort? I think I will Google it when I am done typing this, because I think that would be a particularly interesting topic of study.

          But at any rate, what about all the millions of people who DO watch violent films and tv and play violent games that don't shoot up theaters, churches, political rallies, etc? I mean for reals, did you see what a ridonculous amount of money The Avengers made worldwide? How about the Hunger Games? The Dark Knight? Do you know many millions of people around the world watched these violent films, and didn't come out of the theater thinking, "Man, that Joker guy, what a class act! Shit sounds like fun, let's DO THIS!"

          I've been playing violent video games since I was 12 (WAYYY better than fighting to the death in an arena, let me tell you!). I am 32. Can't say I have ever had a desire to kill another human being. Well, maybe that's because I am a voracious reader and have superior impulse control?

          I am not mocking you. I really am not. I think you have some interesting points and I would like to continue discussing this with the Dkos community at some point (just not today, I am leaving work early to go to the movies, so I apologize in advance for not replying to any points you further make today). But I do think it is a knee jerk reaction to point at violent games and movies and say, there, there, that's what is doing it because the culture is SICK.

          I think humans have always been "sick." I point again to all of our past literature. We are violent beasts and we have a morbid fascination with violence. It's just that we don't throw Christians to the lions anymore for the laughs. We prefer to be civilized and watch people acting like Christians pretend to be thrown to green-screened lions.

          By the way, how do you feel about movies and tv based on violent books? Is it not okay to have made Hunger Games or Game of Thrones? Do you refuse to watch these things even when they are based on books you like to read? What about when they make Shakespeare into movies (uggh let's not talk about that awful DiCaprio/Daines interpretation of Romeo & Juliet, though)?

          •  The books may be partly to blame (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but books are not visual. They are not a full-body, full-sensory experience the way a movie or a television show can be.

            We aren't civilized; you're right about that.

            Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

            by Killer of Sacred Cows on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 05:51:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Our turn the barrel is coning. Right, Right (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          G2geek.  We'll be primed to take each other out when the tap stops flowing.

        •  Then we have to attack the demand. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Start shaming people who demand more and more violence. You CAN have excitement and adrenaline rushes without violence - people ride roller coasters, don't they?

          Unfortunately, I think you may be right. Environmental change happens far faster than cultural change can, or will. We may be out of time.

          Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

          by Killer of Sacred Cows on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 05:52:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Well, not today. (0+ / 0-)

      I loves my precious.

  •  Guarantee him a stay in a mental hospital (3+ / 0-)

    Probably not. John Salvi, who shot 3 people at a Brookline, MA abortion clinic in 1994 was placed in a general inmate population in the MA prison system.  As a heart-rending article in The New Yorker Magazine detailed, there is a huge case to be made that John Salvi was insane.

    Salvi had no business being in a general prison population. The prison structure there was ill-equipped to handle Salvi and his medical needs. This placed a strain on the regular prison services and impacted negatively others in that system.  A prison is not a mental health dumping grounds.

    There are mentally unbalanced people in the population and some of those people commit insane acts. We cannot comprehend these acts because they are outside of the wide scope of normal activities. They are insane and the perpetrators need to be treated as dangerously violent and ill.

    Here is a transcript of a program that the PBS show Frontline did on Salvi.  It raises questions on societal needs for revenge and on the nature of the insanity defense.

    •  The way we treat the mentally ill (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is unconscionable. We ignore them until we can't anymore, we blame them for their conditions, and we punish them just like witch-hunters from the Inquisition.

      Civilized culture, my fat gay ass. Sometimes I have no hope for us.

      Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 05:50:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  yesterday, lamar smith (5+ / 0-)

    asked gohmert to tone it down when gohmert was questioning janet napolitano on homeland security's appointment of mohamed elibiary.

    if lamar smith is telling gohmert to STFU, you know that things have gotten pretty extreme with that guy.

    hope springs eternal and DAMN is she getting tired!

    by alguien on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 11:16:59 AM PDT

  •  Stop bothering God (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BOHICA, qofdisks

    With problems you have the power to do something about - bipartisan message to the cowards in office and running for office.

  •  American culture of violence (8+ / 0-)

    I was a part of it.

    Aging bitter Vietnam Veteran
    Repentant ex member of Murder Inc.
    Southeast Asia Division

    White-collar conservatives flashing down the street, pointing their plastic finger at me..

    by BOHICA on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 11:24:25 AM PDT

  •  I agree (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows, blueoasis

    While the chances of the shooter having some type of mental illness are great, our culture is a culture of violence (and by the way we do little to help people with mental problems).  Thank you for your insightful diary.

  •  I have been posting this sentiment all day on this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows

    blog because the same old tired arguments and rationalizations keep getting recycled.
    This is the root.  It is us and the American insatiable appetite for violence in our entertainment.  There is money to be made from our most base reptilian drives.  Most Americans get a good dose of graphic violence every day.  Certainly, our kids do and we all LOVES it.

    Spartacus (Blood and Sand, Gods of the Arena)
    Underworld and all modern monster movies
    Battlestar Galactica
    The Deadliest Warrior
    The endless splattering of countless zombies day in, day out.
    Graphic war movies
    Suffering, torture and terrorizing (Saw ad infinum)
    Raunchy and crude cartoons and comedy
    It goes on and one without end.
    Low end culture

    The stuff that is hard to understand and do and requires thinking and contemplation and imagination, discipline, analysis and practice does not stand a chance.

    We are drawn like a moth to a flame.  Our brains neural pathways are more like super highways taking it in and "regular" life is so boring and dull.

  •  Disappointed that your well-articulated thoughts (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows, MKSinSA

    aren't on the rec list.  Probably because you aren't at least indirectly attacking someone else but critically analyzing the culture.

    The problems are age old ones, but like climate change in both a different and similar sense, it's all a matter of the degree.  So many people simply can't seem to understand what's happening to and around them.

    99%er. 100% opposed to fundamentalist/neoconservative/neoliberal oligarchs.

    by blueoasis on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 05:32:07 PM PDT

    •  I've written quite a few diaries (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, MKSinSA

      I hoped would make the Rec list that didn't, and at least one that I hoped would not that did (I still wince about that one). If I can even get these ideas out to a few, though, it's better than nothing. Critical analysis of cultures is kind of what I do, especially now that I have all those shiny letters after my name.

      Thank you for the kind comment.

      Science can tell you how to clone a dinosaur. Humanities explains why this is a bad idea.

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 05:47:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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