Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Virginia Tech murders should shake all of us up, but maybe not for the reasons you're thinking.

Food For Thought 4-20-07

Hi friends, this is Harry Blalock; General Manager for radio stations KZMI & KCNM. It’s that time once again to take a look at the issues of the week, and to offer some Food For Thought.

The entire world is in shock over what happened at Virginia Tech this past week when a psychotic student went on a rampage killing 32 other people on the campus before finally killing himself. The magnitude of what he did and the horror of it leave you in a state of disbelief at first, until you start to see some of the video footage of the body bags and blood. But even when you see it, it seems almost surreal, as if you’re watching a movie, something that can’t possibly be real. After all, you have to ask yourself how someone could be filled with so much hate that he could intentionally kill that many people. But it wasn’t just about hate, and I don’t believe you can just blame it on him being crazy. All evidence would seem to be to the contrary. He went to the campus that day with every intention of killing a lot of people; he went prepared with weapons, extra ammo clips, and chains to secure the doors so people couldn’t escape before he could kill them. That takes careful thought and preparation, not something you just do on a whim.

To me the most alarming part of this is that it seems to happening more and more frequently. After the Columbine killings, we heard all kinds of speeches about making sure that nothing like this could ever happen again, but we knew those were empty words. Unless you take away every gun in the country, which we all know is not possible, there will still be shootings. We have passed laws making it tougher to buy a gun, that’s what the Brady Bill was all about. But to someone who wants a gun to wreak havoc, it’s really not that difficult to get one, even legally. Laws like that one may cut down on spur of the moment violence, the kind that is triggered by emotion, but it won’t do anything to deter these types of crimes. In both the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres, the killers had planned it out and set out to kill as many as they could. Passing gun control laws, or trying to outlaw them all together won’t work, because criminals will always be able to get guns one way or another. We have very strict gun control laws here in the CNMI, and yet we continue to see armed robberies and have seen several shootings over the years, so obviously outlawing guns isn’t going to stop anything.

50-75 years ago we didn’t see these types of random and senseless violence. Yes, of course there were problems with violence, we had Al Capone, mobsters and the carnage that went along with them, but it was different. They didn’t go into schools or grocery stores just shooting up people because they were mad at the world, their violence was usually directed at rival gangs, it was usually contained to those they had a quarrel with. Yes, there were those who seemed to think they had the right to inflict harm and death on those around them; some of their names were Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, and they were the reason that we had a world war. We have seen some of the same sort more recently with names like Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. It has been said that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I believe we have more than enough examples to give credence to that theory. It seems that once these madmen gained the power, then they could live out all their horrific fantasies and live by their own rules.

But what is going on with the random violence we are seeing in America the last 10-15 years? It’s not like these kids have absolute power so that they can do whatever they feel like, or do they? What has changed, why do they all the sudden feel they don’t have to live by everyone else’s rules? Could it be that they have been desensitized to violence to the point that they think it’s an acceptable way to deal with your anger and frustrations? And if so, how did that happen? If you really don’t know the answer to that question, you’re badly out of touch with what has been passed off as entertainment for the last 30 years. Our movies have gotten bloodier and gorier over the years, and have shown over and over that killing those who stand in your way is an acceptable way of dealing with your problems. If you think I’m overreacting, maybe you should go back and watch the Rambo, Terminator and Matrix movies and see if I’m not right. We have been sending out very dangerous messages in the form of entertainment for years. And we have a whole generation of who has been raised on these messages, and can quote most of the movies back to you line for line. Now that doesn’t mean that everyone who watches those movies will turn out to be a mass murderer, but I do believe it means that those who may not be wired the same as the rest of us may be encouraged to express their anger and frustrations in a very violent manner.

And when you couple that with some of the trash that’s being passed off as music these days, you can see how it could definitely warp a person’s thinking after years of prolonged exposure to it. I don’t know how closely you’ve ever listened to the lyrics of some of the rap music lately, but it’s just plain despicable. If you don’t believe me, tune it in for an hour or so and listen closely to what’s being said, I think you’ll be shocked if you’re not used to listening to it. Women are routinely referred to as Ho’s, and I don’t think there’s any way you can spin that to turn it into something positive. When you listen to that for hours and hours every day, and it tells you over and over that women are only good for one thing, it begins to shape your thinking and your attitudes.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these mass murders are all the fault of the movie and music industry, however, I do believe they are significant contributing factors. I believe it is important what you allow your children to be exposed to when they are very young, those are their formative years, and so much of how they will think and feel about things is determined in those early years. Back in the early days of computers I remember a sign I saw that was attached to the computer, it said “Garbage in – Garbage out”. In other words the computer is basically a blank slate, and is only as good as what you put into it. If you put in bad information, or garbage, you can only expect to get garbage back out of the computer, after all, that is what you filled it with. But if you put in good information, you will get good information back out of it. Young children are much like computers in that respect, whatever you fill them with is what you can expect to get back out of them. That is a concept that should scare some parents to death when they think back on all the things they’ve let their kids see and listen to. Many parents don’t seem to think it makes any difference what your kids are exposed to, but I believe that is a naïve and mistaken approach, one that society will ultimately pay for.
I think our justice system has also failed us miserably. We have made it so that the criminals have more rights than the victims, and that’s just wrong. We let criminals loose on technicalities even though we know they are guilty. We slap them on the wrists and put them in counseling fooling ourselves into thinking we have rehabilitated them. I can remember a situation we had here not too many years ago when a rapist was let out of prison for the weekend to go to a rosary. Punishment doesn’t really mean much, and thus it holds no deterrent effect. We have lawyers who have become filthy rich finding technicalities to get murderers and rapists off scott free, letting them go back out to find their next victim. These lawyers and judges then become partners in the criminal’s future crimes, since they made it possible for them to happen. If only we could hold them responsible for their role in it. I realize this view won’t be looked upon favorably by the lawyers and judges among us, but the truth is the truth, and sometimes it hurts when it hits a little too close to home. How many of you have enriched yourselves on money that you know is tainted and dirty? How many of you have had to put your conscience on the shelf so that you can effectively do your jobs? When is the last time you turned down a case because it turned your stomach, even though the client could afford to pay big bucks?

We have a problem as a society, and it’s not going to be getting better the way things are going, it will only get worse. We will see more Columbines and more Virginia Tech’s, and we will continue to ask what went wrong, why didn’t anyone catch them before it was too late. And yet we will keep making movies that glamorize killing and crime, we will keep recording songs that talk about popping a cap on your enemies and sexy Ho’s, and we’ll let our young children listen to it thinking that those attitudes are perfectly fine. And the lawyers aren’t about to give up defending criminals, murderers and rapists, trying everything they can to get them off on technicalities or by confusing juries, there is simply way too much money in it. And after all, it takes a lot of money to maintain the standard of living that many of them have become accustomed to. So they can’t afford to go letting their conscience get in the way of a good case or a big payday, it’s all about the money.

And we will continue to lose brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and friends to senseless violence that will leave us all puzzled and confused. And yet, it’s really not as puzzling or confusing as we make it out to be, we just really don’t want to find the answers because they might infringe on our personal rights or tastes. After all, we all loved Rocky, he was the underdog who made good, and we’d all like to believe that could be us. We identified with Rocky and wanted to believe it was possible. So then when Rocky turned into Rambo, we all flocked to see him again because he was after all our underdog hero. And he was still in character as an underdog, but now he had to kill people in his role, and he did so with flair, making it look sexy and macho. Fortunately all of us haven’t turned out to be killers, but to those of us who aren’t wired the same, I don’t think it’s a real stretch to see how these things could have had a detrimental impact on them and made them believe that they too could be a hero just like Neo or Rambo.

I’m Harry Blalock, thanking you once again for giving me a generous slice of your valuable time, and allowing me to share my Food For Thought.

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My commentary that airs on radio stations KZMI - 103.9 FM & KCNM - 101.1 FM