How Many More Mondays? Changing a Culture of Glorified Violence

by on December 15, 2012 · 6 comments

in Activism, Culture, Government, Media, Music, Politics

The Boomtown Rats: I Don’t Like Mondays

The plan for the day had been to finally get the Christmas decorations up and address cards.  I turned on the news to get my daily laugh from the cirque de D.C. and see how much closer we were coming the fiscal cliff.  I wish I had not.  The news was so just awful, again, I wept.  Twenty-six souls lost, 20 of them only 6 and 7 years old. In an instant, another mad man took away so many dreams, so much joy, and so much love.

According to reports, the 20-year-old murderer took his own life, so we will never get the chance to ask him why or how he became so full of evil.  Even if we were able to, it would not stop the carnage which all too often frequents the innocent, here and abroad.  It will not stop, because we either do not care enough, or we must ghoulishly enjoy it enough to not do anything about.

It was in January, 1979, I recall the first school shooting, at least the one which caught everyone’s attention.  And it was here in San Diego.  After barricading her house across the street from Cleveland Elementary School in San Carlos, 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer opened fire with a semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle, killing the principal, the custodian and wounding eight children and police officer before she surrendered after a seven-hour standoff.  Tried as an adult, she received a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.  She has been denied parole four times, and it will be 2019 before she is eligible again.

After her capture, she told police the reason behind her attack was, “I don’t like Mondays.”  Shortly thereafter, Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats immortalized those words in their song of the same title.  The United States collectively covered their ears and called for a ban of the song because it capitalized on a tragedy, as if that had never been done before.  Instead of engaging in our typical knee-jerk reaction, we should have listened to the lyrics of the song and we would have found it was a song asking why such a young person could hate so much to kill and injure so many.

But we did not, we tried to ban the song, we denounced Geldof, and wrung our collective hands and beat our collective breasts and, in the end, did nothing.  And more killing took place.  I heard yesterday that since the 1999 Columbine murders, 20 years after Cleveland Elementary School, there have been 181 school shootings in the United States.

Yes, we pass laws which are so draconian in nature that any reasonable person would think twice before committing such heinous acts.  The people who commit these horrible acts, however, are not reasonable.  So instead of laws, why not mental health care and once and for all remove the stigma when someone seeks help for emotional illness?  I know, it’s rhetorical.  Punishment is much easier than prevention.

How about gun laws?  Like making it illegal to possess, own, sell or manufacture semi-automatic weapons?  Those movies and television shows we watch about foreign invasions, government takeover and zombies are not documentaries.  They are fantasy meant to entertain, which is entirely different kettle of fish.  If you truly are a hunter, I refuse to use the word sportsman, you do not need a semi-automatic weapon, at least until a time the constitution is interpreted to read a right to arm bears.

How about naming the National Rifle Association and its members a terrorist organization? That’s fairly easy.  We do that every time an American of Mideast descent organizes a food-drive to help those in need in the Mideast.  I mean after all, it is the NRA that fights so hard and pays so much into the coffers of their representatives in Washington to keep the subject of gun control as taboo as marijuana legalization or taxing the wealthy.  They are the same representatives we voted into office to represent us, but we just do not have the money to gain access to their representation.  It is the NRA which has time and again put up opposition to controlling assault rifles, multi-round ammunition clips and bullets which can tear through concrete like a knife through hot butter.  Sounds pretty terrifying to me.

How about finally admitting we have gone too far with First Amendment protections.  Funny thing for a writer to put into words, but I really seriously ask, what benefit is the proliferation of violence on our culture.  I can turn on the television at any given moment (I just did) and find at least one show focused on gun related violence (I found seven just perusing the movie page).  And do not get me started on the desensitization from the carnage of video games.  It may all be fantasy, but it cannot be good for a 13-year-old to spend several hours a day using his or her thumbs to slaughter all comers in a virtual world.

What it really comes down to is responsibility.  We, the people, need to start taking more responsibility for what goes on around us.  We need to elect representatives into office who are not beholden to those who would reap the benefits of the industry of violence.  We need to demand our representatives bring an end to proliferation of firearms in the United States.

Did you know in California it is a felony to possess nun chucks, throwing stars, a billy-club or a dagger, but only a misdemeanor to carry a loaded concealed firearm?  When is that last time there was a mass murder and the weapon of choice was throwing stars? Perhaps a start would be to make carrying a loaded firearm, concealed or not, a felony in the State of California.  Why don’t we ask Toni Atkins, our representative in OB, to do something about that? We can even offer to help her.

We need to say “No more” to entertainment which glorifies violence toward anyone, and this includes staring ghoulishly for hours at “news” reports of such.  Instead of creating controls on free speech, just stop patronizing free speech which is abhorrent and does nothing but degrade us as human beings.

There is a new sequel to the “Hunger Games” franchise due out.  What if no one went to see it?  A dent in the movie industries pocketbook might be a place to start.  How about petitioning someone like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie who make their multi-million dollar profits off violent movies to stop appearing in films which use violence as a draw? Is it just me, or is it a bit incongruous that the two of them talk about ending the evils of the world while making movies (not films) which glorifies the same?

We as parents need to be parents.  I know it is hard to be a parent.  Sometimes we need that Calgon-take-me-away time, but we cannot abdicate our responsibilities.  I was glad my son was more drawn to sports video games than the violent sort.  A few still slipped in and I know, however minor, they still had an impact on him.  The same with television.  He is grown, but in my home shows like cage fighting and any “surreality” shows are not allowed.  We could ask the networks to take them off the air, or even refuse to watch them ourselves.  Would you really miss watching the seamy underbelly of our society?

As parents we also need to look into our children’s eyes once in a while and ask the tough questions.  Be prepared for the “Your smothering me response,” but at least they will know you care.  For every ten steps back I took trying to establish a good relationship with my children, there was always one very good stride forward.  It takes a lot of drops to fill the bucket, but it will fill eventually.   Perhaps we can get our children to talk about what frightens them and why they feel so alienated, instead of writing their behavior off as typical teen angst.

I do not have the answers.  I know alone I cannot make a difference.  I do know, we as a community, locally, nationally and internationally can make a difference and begin to find answers.  It is not a Red vs. Blue problem, it is not a liberal vs. conservative problem and it is not a them vs. us problem.  The culture of violence and, in particular, gun violence is our problem.  It is high time we started looking to ourselves to do something positive to stop it.  Talking is the first step, action the second.

I sign off with the lyrics from I Don’t Like Mondays and the question, How many more “Mondays” will we have to endure?

The silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload.
And nobody’s gonna go to school today,
She’s going to make them stay at home.
And daddy doesn’t understand it,
He always said she was as good as gold.
And he can see no reason
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be shown?

 Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
I want to shoot
The whole day down.

 The telex machine is kept so clean
As it types to a waiting world.
And mother feels so shocked,
Father’s world is rocked,
And their thoughts turn to
Their own little girl.
Sweet 16 ain’t so peachy keen,
No, it ain’t so neat to admit defeat.
They can see no reasons
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be shown?

Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
I want to shoot
The whole day down.

All the playing’s stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with her toys a while.
And school’s out early and soon we’ll be learning
And the lesson today is how to die.
And then the bullhorn crackles,
And the captain crackles,
With the problems and the how’s and why’s.
And he can see no reasons
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to die?

Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
I want to shoot
The whole day down.

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Jack Hamlin

Scratchy curmudgeon with a reflective side, my students call me Lao Xu Long (Old Snow Dragon). Surfer, teacher, facilitator, recovering attorney (I’ve had all my shots), cook, canine steward and writer, I proudly maintain dual citizenship with the People’s Republic of O.B. and Planet Earth. Opening a can of worms is only the beginning of a good time and don’t change the subject to avoid doing so. Peace be with you and Namaste…
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avatar John Lawrence December 16, 2012 at 10:14 am

An excellent piece. The culture of gun violence is pervasive on TV and in the movies. You cannot rapidly flip channels without seeing episodes of gun violence in the split second you’re resting on any channel.

Here are two facts:
1) None of the guns mass murderers used were bought illegally.
2) None of the perpetrators had prior records of mental problems

Yeah, you can say after the fact they had mental problems.

So I say It’s not enough to do background checks, do away with assault rifles etc.

I say do away with guns entirely. Guns in and of themselves are the problem.

What other advanced society has a “right” to own a gun and what other advanced society does not have a “right” to health care.

Other societies have changed their constitutions, some many times. I say get rid of the second amendment and replace it by one giving citizens a right to health care. Make it very difficult if not impossible to own a gun. In societies like Canada where they have gun control, there is very little gun violence. I think there were 150 deaths from guns there last year. In the US there were 30,000.

It’s ridiculous man.

avatar Anna Daniels December 16, 2012 at 10:18 am

Jack- you did a beautiful job of pulling all the disparate parts together. A few years ago, my bright wonderful 13 year old great nephew wanted to attend an expensive computer camp on a university campus. He wanted to learn how to develop video games. What proud loving aunt wouldn’t want to support that interest if she could? I talked to Alex at length about the video game class and honestly expressed my concern about the violence in those games. I know that he thought about my remarks- adult approval was important to him at the time. The best way to assure that Alex’s (and other young people’s) violent video game experiences go no farther than a game is to eliminate the current access to military weapons and the ammunition they fire. And of course, to keep talking to him and listening to him.

avatar Jack December 16, 2012 at 10:35 am

John and Anna

Thank you for your comments and reflection. As I thought about this essay and what I needed to say, I realized there are just so many variables, that we as individuals, and perhaps as a community just do not have the wherewithal to address them all…at least simultaneously. One thing for sure is that even if we take on one issue as a result of this most recent slaughter of innocents, it must be done radically and completely. It calls for a change in US in just how we are going to address these issues to begin rebuilding.

For today, pray, reflect, meditate…light a candle, send a balloon aloft, place a flower somewhere…remember those whose lives were lost and the destruction of so many other lives. My heart is broken and we must grieve as a nation first.

In Peace, and Namaste, Jack

avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman December 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm

While you’re lighting that candle of remembrance, don’t forget to light a fire underneath your elected representatives — state and federal — starting with President Obama, to renew the ban on assault weapons, to improve criminal history and mental health background checks on gun purchasers and to restrict the amounts and types of ammo a citizen can buy.
Elected officials’ contact info is on the internet. Don’t let this weekend pass without doing something pro-active. Counteract the soporific effects of an ABC “Sunday Morning” hour-long show today that never once mentioned the name of the National Rifle Association.

avatar John Anderson December 17, 2012 at 8:26 am

Jack – this song was one of the most prominent thoughts in my head on Friday. Thanks for sharing the history of the song and your thoughts on the many contributing factors to incidents like this.

avatar John Lawrence December 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm

” so we will never get the chance to ask him why or how he became so full of evil.”

We have other mass murderers in jail and I don’t believe any of them has ever provided any meaningful answer to this question. These people must feel so alienated and disenfranchised that they want to hurt others commensurate with the pain that they feel has been unjustly visited on them. If that were to be the case and I agree that this behaviour is existentially evil incarnate, we can have some sympathy for the perpetrator.

We need to change the culture as you so eleoquently state. There was an article today or yesterday in the New York Times to the effect that Newtown, before the shooting, was a veritable shooting range with so much shooting at legal and illegal shooting ranges that people were hearing gunshots and even house rattling explosions all day. It seems that you can legally purchase exploding targets and some people were shooting propane tanks just to see them explode. In this context the people of Newtown cannot be seen as entirely innocent. This orgy of shooting is what provided the background for what the perpetrator did.

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