America cannot truly address gun violence unless it is prepared to address the root causes of gun violence.
by Nadin Abbott
Since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Connecticut, we have had many discussions on the sources of gun violence in our country. We were all shocked. Many fingers are pointing at both Hollywood and the video game industry. If we are to believe them, all this would go away if we removed the glorification of violence from the media.
I will be the first to admit this: Call of Duty is violent. It simulates war. We would be surprised if it wasn’t. It is also rated M by the ESRB, that would be for seventeen year olds and older. It’s not meant for kids. Ratings work, only if we use them as a guide.
I will also admit that a James Bond movie is pure schlock with quite a bit of violence. There are many other titles out there that include explosions, gun play, and bloody gore. Need I mention the Die Hard series? Argue all you want about how video games and movies encourage violent acts. But that’s merely scratching the surface and doesn’t get to the root of the real problem.
Fingers, in other words, are being pointed at popular culture, as if pop culture is the root of all of our problems.
Yesterday the Unions gave Christmas fixings and toys to five hundred families at Qualcomm Stadium. These people are suffering from chronic food insecurity. They are unemployed, or under employed. You see them often. They drive our transit buses and cannot get enough hours to make ends meet. They are low paid workers, many making under $20,000 a year. Some are quite bluntly unemployed. They are suffering from great stress. Oftentimes they don’t know where their next meal will come from.
The other day I covered another story of great violence: People making $17,000 a year who are being asked to pay $2,000 in health insurance for the year. They are the heads of their families and work at a hospital. You might as well ask them to travel to the other side of the moon. The health insurance is just as reachable.
This is crushing poverty, and this too, is violence. This is the kind of violence that at times leads to suicide–sometimes murder-suicide–often via the use of a gun.
When an inner city school comes out of lockdown after a shooting just outside the school grounds and the body remains on the other side of the fence, that is a form of scarring violence. When a kid is shot in the arm, and the police have to fight EMS to get that kid taken to the ER because they don’t have insurance, that is violence.
When the kids have to know to drop when they hear popping sounds because it happens so often in their low income neighborhood, that is violence.
Here is more real violence: A young teen, runaway, taken to the other side of the country–rarely across international borders–where he is used for sex and forced to have sex upwards of fifty times a day. When the authorities finally rescued him, he was a shell. That is violence.
The younger man, begging for money on the corner, while still very much “in country” with no treatment for the PTSD caused from being sent over there, that is violence. The older woman standing on the corner begging for money, that is real violence.
When you cannot get mental health care and you are treated like a disposable entity that is somehow less than human–that is violence. When an adult is next to impossible to commit if need be, that is violence. The almost non-existent mental health system in this country is simply not acceptable.
So tell me, when are we doing something real to stop that violence? Perhaps a good first step would be the enactment of strong living wage laws. Notice I did not say minimum wage. I said living wage. People who are not on the edge are less likely to commit violence themselves, with or without guns.
Prattling about popular culture is a nice distraction coming from the comfortable middle class. And it happens after every mass shooting. Not merely every shooting, but every mass shooting. The reality is that 34 Americans die by gun fire every day, and 34 thousand every year. Those are the grim statistics. So we need to also deal with the culture of violence and fear that encourages despair and violence.
Do we need to talk of what to do about the guns? Yes, but we also need a more global approach to what ails us as a culture.