The Stories We tell

For the record, I do not agree that hot-heads, morons, undisciplined dreamers and untrained pretend soldiers should have unlimited access to firearms. Guns, like any technology, require knowledge and practice for proper use. Like automobiles and other deadly technology, firearms require respect; respect that comes from practice and knowledge; respect to not operate when impaired or emotionally distressed.

But that is not my message here, only a misplaced apology for any who might misunderstand what follows.

Firearms make hyper-violence possible, make everyday violence fatal and increase the potential number of victims in most violent situations. (As would explosives). Evidence indicates that controlling firearms nearly, if not completely, eliminates acts of deadly, mass violence. I accept all this but …

Firearms do not cause the violence. Something else does.

I think the root of that something else lives in the stories children hear and see.

Prior to the 1970’s, story-telling media presented heroes who overcame overwhelming odds using intelligence, determination and integrity. Collateral damage mattered. Villains were as well armed and often outnumbered heroes. Violence, for heroes, was a last resort. One they came to reluctantly.

In the 1970’s the action movie emerged with a new set of rules. Winning at any cost became important. Potential collateral damage no longer caused heroes to hesitate. Consistently high body counts could not be avoided. Violence emerged as the preferred, often only, response to threat, bullying and frustration. The guy with the biggest gun always won.

Complex, introspective heroes disappeared. Soul-searching and concern for by-standers fell by the wayside. The popularity of extreme action movies and our national curse of mass, public shootings increased.

I watched old movies during my formative years and suspect they, in part, shaped my character. Men and boys younger than I am, as are most who go on shooting sprees, watched action movies during their formative years; movies that taught, through story, that violence is an acceptable response to frustration; that collateral damage is inevitable; that the guy with the most and biggest guns wins; that dying is acceptable as long if you take as many of the opposition with you as possible.

I think common stories must affect decisions people make and action-hero stories inspire the emotionally stranded, small-minded and weak. Action-hero stories help them rationalize fantasies and actions the rest of us would find unacceptable. Yes, guns kill people but someone has to pull the trigger. Our stories make those trigger pullers. Extreme, unhesitant violence shapes life lessons taught by television, movies, books and games. It seems children are learning those lessons.

© 2016 Karl May


2 responses to “The Stories We tell”

  1. Terry says:

    So well said! And perfect timing as we move into another summer season of violence in films!

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