by Julia Buckley
My son is walking around the house with a toy gun, stalking his brother in the time-honored fashion. His round head and angelic face make him look like a Precious Moments figurine, but his commando stealth and narrowed eyes hint at the dreams of a soldier. In one sense I see this as a tradition: my own brothers often maintained amicable conflicts in their teen years--mainly a celebration of violence and testosterone which sometimes had them grappling on the floor of my mother's clean kitchen.
But my brothers didn't have access to all that boys have access to today: violent video games, far more violent movies, violent songs, violent images. According to this USA today article, school shootings are increasing because violence among young people is increasing.
Reasons for this phenomenon are complex: lack of parents at home, more access to guns, a belief that guns solve problems--those are some offered by the psychologists interviewed in the article. Added to these social realities is the very new notion of wanting to be famous for any reason--a sort of AMERICAN IDOL and reality tv-inspired idea that fame is something one deserves and can demand in whatever way necessary.
Naturally I look at my "normal" sons and worry that they, too, are affected by the violence. They used to play really sweet video games about animals escaping from the zoo, or little astronauts landing flying saucers on the moon; but now that they're a teen and an adolescent, they've decided that the only "cool" games are the ones which involve guns and lots of shooting. Like the people who say they read PLAYBOY for the articles, my sons suggest that they like these games for the realistic scenery, the amazing special effects.
But the reality is that they like the violence and the power they feel with the joystick in their hands--so close, really, to wielding a real gun. The violence doesn't end with the game, because they pretend to shoot each other all day. We warn them, we complain about their behavior, we threaten them. But they can't resist the lure of being powerful, even in play. Perhaps the only way to really address it would be to wean them off the games, which are their favorite things in the world.
If we did lose the games, though, they could always turn to the internet for their doses of violence, or the movies--even PG rated ones--which seem to be so much more violent than they once were.
According to the USA Today, this is distinctly an American issue. Perhaps before we address why our children are fascinated by violence, we will have to address why we adults are.
It is ironic, I know, that I like to write tales about murder and I'm quibbling over the kind of killing that fascinates my children. Perhaps we're all drawn to the notion of murder because of the power dynamic behind it, which in itself provides good drama.
But if in fact we are becoming more violent than we once were, is the violence a symptom of a larger illness? What makes it distinctly American? Are we any different now from the raw and violent America that rose in defiance of its motherland?