It’s Always Time to Talk About Shit That Doesn’t Matter

I keep going back to this, from the brilliant Cleolinda:

(Here’s my thought on that in a nutshell: Violent movies and videogames do not make people violent. Violent people are attracted to violent media. Of course, so are many of the rest of us, just for different reasons. I ended up watching The Matrix about 46,000 times–at one point on a three-day loop–for the book, and I shot nobody. If you want to talk about warning signs, don’t look at the kid’s taste in movies or his literary output–look at those two things in the context of his real-life behavior, which was already disturbing his teachers and classmates. Stephen King? A folksy, personable guy in real life. Quentin Tarantino? Full of energy and enthusiasm. Consequently, no one expects them to go on shooting rampages. The bitter, stalkative kid who won’t even speak when spoken to, who also writes about bloody murder sprees? For God’s sake, keep an eye on him.)

I would never say we don’t need to have a less nihilistic, brutal, violent culture. But we can start working on that by refraining from blowing up so many fucking kids in the world and starving them of food and care here at home. Once we are done with that I will listen to you about shooting hookers in GTA or whatever the hell we think is the problem right now. Once we are done making sure everyone can EAT, we can get on to what disaffected suburban brats are reading these days.

Once we’re done with this:

The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—”Were there any difficulties with…at what age did your child…were there any problems with…has your child ever experienced…does your child have…”

At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits.You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.

No individual insurance plan, and until the laughably toothless health care reform passed last year which has been called a staggering overreach of government power, few insurance plans AT ALL. The kinds of intensive therapies children need, even with Cadillac insurance, can bankrupt middle class families. Can bankrupt relatively wealthy families. Can, even if there is money to pay for them and doctors to provide them, can quite simply drag a family under with the grinding, every day process of staying level enough with the horizon to buy groceries and go to school.

It is one of the grand ironies of what little mental health assistance exists that when you need it most, that is when you are usually so far beyond the beyond that accessing it seems like going to the moon.

But getting back to Cleolinda’s wise words up there, what we’re not doing very well right now is creating a nonviolent world for any of us. (I almost wrote “our kids,” as if adults have no need of peace and decency.) That violence is not, primarily, on screens or in “the media” or anywhere imaginary, but imaginary violence is all we can seem to bring ourselves to talk about when things like this happen.

It’s all we can bring ourselves to try to address, because real violence, real agents of violence, are political, and controversial, and emotional and upsetting and they’re going to make dinner conversation awkward and difficult. Everybody agrees that shooting fictional aliens is probably not the most productive use of anyone’s time. Almost nobody agrees on the correct number of children that have to be killed in drone strikes so as to properly elevate our national dick, or how much money we spend turning schools into prisons instead of the other way fucking round.

It’s like there’s a list somewhere, of Things We Can Address, and it’s all stuff like why so many kids have ADHD, and how parents aren’t hugging their children enough, and where precisely in the schoolyard we should stick the plaque proclaiming GOD IS LOVE because that’ll fix everything. It’s how many teachers need to be armed, and how many cops need to be at every entrance, and the opinion that perhaps we need fewer cops in schools and OH SHIT RIGHT FEWER HOLES IN THE SCHOOLS’ ROOFS WHILE WE’RE AT IT never quite makes it through the World of Warcraft soundtrack blaring on every goddamned Sunday show.

(See, already there you go, asking why I have to put it just that way. Can’t I use nicer language?)

We have limited ourselves to addressing matters that don’t need addressing, so as to drown out the screaming of the things that do.


5 thoughts on “It’s Always Time to Talk About Shit That Doesn’t Matter

  1. MapleStreet says:

    Well said!
    Facts are that the majority of people watching violent movies are using them for escapism and have no plans for violence. Ditto for video games. etc. The majority of the mentally ill are not violent.
    But I see the folks trash talking about how they will use their guns to blow away anyone who offends them.
    I note that the 2 implicated in Columbine were from a heavy military town and Columbine also had strong military ties.
    I also see Aaargh’s comment in an earlier thread and note that some folks here have also posted that teachers should have guns. (Obviously, we screen the kids with metal detectors as they enter school but the teacher has a loaded gun in their desk, right on top of the test which the kids are breaking into the desk to steal. What could go wrong? And no teachers have psychopathology? Not to mention that the guns for defense folk have never explained the dichotomy that a weapon for defense needs to be readily available, loaded while safety mandates guns be in locked racks, unloaded, and trigger locks in place – plus the problem of cheap pistols with hair triggers being carried around while loaded).
    Fact is that we have “real life” instructing us in violence.

  2. montag says:

    The, uh, “fiscal bluff” (someone coined that one, and it’s good) is a perfect example. It’s a manufactured crisis upon which everyone is supposed to dwell, obsess over and endlessly comment, so that the genuine problems–the literally and politically dangerous ones–can be safely ignored.
    And yet, that bothersome busybody, reality, continues to intrude. Banksters blow up the economy, drones blow up people, pipelines leak, water supplies are contaminated, wars grind on, and with frightening regularity, some frustrated asshole with a head full of dangerous ideas and military-grade weapons and a deep-seated grudge sprays a bunch of bullets around, either as a means of ending it all or as a means of proving a point only he understands.
    The supreme irony, of course, is that we have, over sixty-odd years, adopted–and obsessively funded–the government’s very narrow view of what constitutes “national security,” to such extremes that we are not allowed to question why all the essential elements of our security are steadily eroding from within.

  3. pansypoo says:

    teevee gnews might be far more dangerous.

  4. MapleStreet says:

    Of course, the attempts of the news media to perform a psychological autopsy of the shooter draw him anywhere from a perfect saint to a nerd/geek with Asperger’s to a really weird kid who no one who knew him is surprised.
    It is becoming clear enough that he was in some way “different”. As such he undoubtedly received repeated special attention (systematic harassment/bullying) from his peers. (I can’t help but think of the movie Carie.)
    The weapons were reportedly purchased by his mother. These were not “riflery 101” weapons. These were firearms intended to fire rapidly and cause damage. While it is clear that the father was fairly affluent (and passed it along to his ex-wife and son), one has to wonder about why she purchased these weapons.
    What I find myself stopping at is how the debate is the same as 50 years ago. I remember an All in the Family episode where Archie gave an opinion piece to the local news station. Basically guns don’t kill people, people kill people. In the piece he advocated that we could stop hijacking of airliners if instead of checking people for weapons at the gate, we issued a firearm to each person as they boarded the plane. No one would dare try to hijack the plane with all the passengers firing at him.

  5. Robert M. says:

    I mostly lurk, but writing like your closing sentence there is what keeps me reading. Never stop.

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