Skip to content

Violence is a Franchise

December 16, 2012

Yesterday my daughter and I were catching dinner on the fly at a new franchise which was different from other pseudo-Mexican franchises in the scale of its logo (larger, much larger and flatter; colors bolder and more dated), the size of the chunks of meat slapped into the bowl of rice and beans (smaller, much smaller) and that like a sports bar it had two (big, really big) TVs propped up in each corner so we were kept company by the evening news. Does not everyone watch the news? Should not everyone watch the news? The TVs presented the unfolding of the latest small-scale American massacre, which – sadly, viewed from this angle – felt like a bad franchise: imitative, poorly conceived, repetitive and dreary.

We did not used to have shootings like this, I said to my daughter. What do you mean? she asked. I mean, people used to shoot but not so many people at a time. You mean, like, one at a time? she asked in wonder, as if she were hearing about knights jousting, hoop skirts, or people gathering in the parlor to listen to the radio. Yes, one at a time, and not all that often, I said.  We were watching the line of small children step carefully away from the school, hands on each others’ shoulders, led by teachers as if they were on a field trip crossing a busy street except that their eyes were closed. Against my will I found myself reading the crawl: a parent wondering if her two children who had escaped murder while witnessing their classmates killed could be in shock. Really? In unison my daughter and I picked up our trays and tossed our plastic bowls into the trash. Those were the instructions. The tortilla chips were thin, brittle and overly salted; they gave them to you, like they gave you the news, whether you wanted them or not. The décor was cheap. The lights were brash. Everything, even life, felt cheap under these lights. The people were nice, said my daughter. She did not mention the news. Yes, I said, they were nice. My daughter is used to this. My daughter, who would weep at the sight of a possum crushed by a car, is used to this.

Now, schools are enlisting workbooks written by psychologists to help children understand how to cope with living in a world where violence often surprises us. They talk about how adults can help children to feel safe. Really?

How do we explain to children that it is OK for people in certain costumes to visit certain places and attack people wearing other costumes who may be children, parents or grandparents; that your President is endorsing and your parents are paying for this whether gladly or reluctantly; that — risking I may sound prim — in the realm of entertainment it is OK to imagine, construct, fund, direct, produce, distribute, show, sell and watch spectacles of people wearing matching and non-matching costumes, slinging assault rifles and attacking other people wearing matching and non-matching costumes – that the TV stations and your parents are funding this; but that it is NOT OK for people to visit certain other places with real weapons and open real fire on real people? That is a lot to ask of parents and their children. It could take all day.

The reality of it, the particular wrenching awfulness, does not belong to the spectators.  The endless presenting and commenting by newscasters, the talking about what we saw and read in the news, feels like a dismal cultural habit of poaching on the tragedy of someone else’s life. Public outrage in the wake of these events is always brief, reform is thwarted since we live in a country of such rugged individuals none can agree on what to do, and commentary is diluted to a thin stream of gossip.

The news makes it seem as if watching the news is doing something. TV makes it seem as if watching TV is doing something.  If I were President I would take a page out of the pacifist book, suspend broadcasting for three months and draft a bill banning gratuitous violence. Take away violence-for-consumption, and guns would begin to seem pointless. Disable the franchise, disable the heroicizing, disable the poaching on tragedy, make violence as unglamorous as reclining in a stupor on the couch with a bag of flimsy tortilla chips and guns – like the networks that profit from stoking fear and depicting violence real and imagined, and the addled souls who take up a sorry weapon as a path to glory in the news — may have nothing to do.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2012 5:36 pm

    thank you for putting these words on this….

  2. Annie Neal Corkill permalink
    December 16, 2012 5:56 pm

    Love to read everything you write. Keep it comin’ girl(walksin)!

  3. Marjorie Price permalink
    December 16, 2012 7:42 pm

    Somehow you manage to express the futility, hypocrisy, absurdity and the horror of it all in one breath.

  4. Re'Lynn Hansen permalink
    December 16, 2012 7:48 pm

    Thanks for creating the right kind of thinking around this. Beautiful writing. Well-rendered irony. I love the line “TV makes it seem as if watching TV is doing something.”
    Latest Washington Post headline: Feinstein will introduce assault weapons ban at start of next congress. About time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: