Why People Are Getting More and More Neurotic

I spent most of my life just accepting everything in the world. I didn’t think I had any other choice. After all, it was created by adults, and I was just a punk kid taking up space. Then it dawned on me one day that much of what we consider to be normal is not, at all.

Part of the problem is human beings adapt to change very well. We can get used to just about anything. If a fleet of flying saucers landed on the White House lawn tomorrow morning and a bunch of slimy aliens with hundreds of eyeballs got out and said hello, we’d all freak out for a day or two, but then we’d go back to talking about the usual crap. We would move on. The same is true of the following stuff that makes us neurotic but we’ve come to accept as “normal” – – 

FAMILY PHOTOS AND HOME MOVIES

Up until 100 years or so ago, only the wealthy could afford to hire a photographer to get a personal portrait or family photo taken. Before that, people had to be even more wealthy to afford to hire an artist to paint their rough likeness. Before that, if you wanted to see yourself, you had to look into a puddle of water and risk getting your nose bit off by a snapping turtle. As time passed, photography became cheaper and easier. Now that we don’t have to buy film anymore, even the most mundane moments are chronicled – photos of lunch, for example.

But what really makes us neurotic are two things – seeing hundreds of photos and videos of ourselves in the prime of our youths makes getting older harder than ever before, and seeing photos and videos of friends and family who have passed away makes getting over their loss harder than ever before. How many people are out there right now in dark rooms with curtains drawn, longing for the glory days of their youth and/or watching home movies of deceased loved ones for the thousandth time, trapped in the past?  

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BIG CITY LIVING

Human spirits are more suited to village life, walking everywhere, knowing the same few hundred people from birth to death, people who will notice if we friggin’ die in our sleep. In the city, nobody notices somebody is missing until they notice an odor while walking by the house. There is also a lack of accountability in being able to be a total bastard and never get called on it because nobody ever sees anybody twice anyway. It’s the best place to be a prick (or criminal) for those who are so inclined.

POLITICAL DIVISIONS

The division between Republicans and Democrats has never been deeper or more caustic. It seems we’ve lost the ability to talk and maintain some emotional detachment from those who disagree with us. There have always been political differences – some Romans hated Caesar (and kept it to themselves!) and some loved him, and up until recently, people could disagree without hating or wanting to hurt each other. Presidential candidate Ben Carson nailed it when he said, “You can read the public comments under any news story on the internet, and no matter what it’s about, it won’t take long before you see people cursing and threatening each other. Where did this spirit come from? Definitely not from our Judeo-Christian background. Something is wrong in America.” Again, the easiest thing to do (calling people names) is the worst thing to do. If the goal is to truly influence people, we must be respectful. 

RACIAL DIVISIONS

The Civil Rights Movement was a huge success. Ask any eighty-year old black person how their childhood was compared to the lives of the average black child today. A lot of whites got their heads busted open by police batons and got bitten by police dogs during those marches, too. A lot of whites died to end slavery. Most whites are still basically good, as are most members of every race. In fact, most whites bend over backwards to prove how non-racist they are.

But if you watch the news, which seems hellbent on driving us all into a murderous rage, especially if you’re black, you would think nothing had improved. This is because the news is run by the same corporations that regular TV shows are, and they notice a spike in ratings and viewership when they sensationalize and exaggerate stories, and make us all sick and suspicious of each other. People being nice to each other doesn’t make the news, but when someone punches, stabs or shoots someone, they’re all over it. So 99% of the world is getting along great but the other 1% gets all the attention, which gives us a skewed version of reality every day, especially for those who don’t get out of the house much, or don’t get out of their own group much.

Victor Fankl wrote, “There are two races – the decent and the indecent. The best way to end racism is stop thinking and talking about it, for each of us to stop seeing skin color and look to the heart of each person we meet. Again, that’s harder than just categorizing people into groups – black, white, brown, yellow, red, liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, rich, poor, etc.

Morgan Freeman said it best in this interview – 

 

BLOGGING

The irony of bloggers spending countless hours alone for the purpose of “communication” is lost on most people. Most people in today’s internet generation actually think Facebook posts are human interaction. They gain confidence when strangers “like” their posts and lose it when followers fall away. Strangers who could be mildly insane for all they know. Strangers they wouldn’t even want to talk to if they met them on the street.

If we insist on pursuing blogging, we should look at losing followers as refining our base, shedding dead weight, separating the grain from the chaff. That is, building a community, albeit digital, of like-minded, like-souled human beings. We should be pleased when someone stops following us the same way we would be happy if someone we didn’t like and who didn’t like us left a party we were attending.

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SOCIAL MEDIA

A friend once posted on Facebook that he couldn’t care less if anybody likes his posts, then I saw him check and re-check that post repeatedly to see how many people had liked and commented on it. Oh, the irony!

Like blogging, especially for teenagers, our self-worth depends far too much on how many “friends” (again, 98% of which we haven’t met and will never meet) we have, how many likes or comments our posts get, etc., and we stare at our iPhones when living human beings who we could actually talk and laugh with are sitting right next to us. So many missed opportunities for real conversations with real people, for the sake of typed, brief comments from strangers on the internet. Who hasn’t seen a couple on a date in a restaurant, both of them staring at their phones? I mean, really, what is happening to us? Are we really going to allow ourselves to be led by the nose like this? Apparently, yes.

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(Find the person with the most peace of mind in this photograph.)

I’m not saying we should all throw away our phones, but for the love of God, can we ignore them while we’re having dinner with family or on a date? Can we resist peeking at every text that comes in for one hour before we rush back to it like a junkie to a needle as soon as our friend or family member says goodbye?

CHANGING SOCIETAL NORMS ABOUT BEAUTY/MASCULINITY

Until the last thirty years or so, men could be thin and women could be a bit chunky, and both found the other wildly attractive anyway. Consider the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello beach movies. The butts on some of the women in those movies would be ridiculed today, and the guys, even the ones who were supposed to be “tough”, were wimps by modern standards. 


Nowadays, however, men are supposed to look like Conan the Barbarian and women are supposed to be thin and athletic, but somehow still with large breasts, which consist mainly of fat. Of course, the only people who have absolutely no problem with these impossibly high standards are plastic surgeons and peddlers of fitness programs and equipment. 

CARS

We can’t live without them, but car crashes take over 300 lives a day in America alone. That’s the equivalent of one commercial plane crashing every day. But we accept it because we love the convenience, privacy and sometimes the prestige of our cars. The fact is, however, the human body is not supposed to sit in a steel contraption traveling at high rates of speed. The human mind is not supposed to sit in traffic for hours a day, either. This is why people are so much nicer outside of their cars than inside them.

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PORNOGRAPHY AND VIOLENT IMAGERY

“Oh, God. He’s gonna get all puritanical now. What a sanctimonious pain in the ass.”

 Have you ever watched one of those shows from the 1950’s or 60’s like Leave it to Beaver or The Andy Griffith Show? If you’re like most people, part of you probably thought it was quaint or cute, a little boring compared to modern shows due to the lack of swearing and violence, and you saw the characters as somewhat simple-minded and dull.

But were they? The people of the 1950’s had survived two world wars, Korea, the Great Depression, and diseases there was no cure for such as polio. In other words, they saw a lot of death and misery. They weren’t naive and simple, they chose to be wholesome because they had seen so much that wasn’t. Yet despite all that, their minds were pure compared to the average person’s mind today, untainted by the thousands of murders the average TV viewer sees in his or her lifetime, or the sordid and depraved acts the unfortunate patrons of pornography subject their minds to. Porn is not about sex, it’s about domination. It’s customers are men who resent and objectify women, and enjoy seeing them degraded. 

When I was about twenty-one, I went to a friend’s house on a Saturday night. He was having a get-together because his mother (who was divorced) was out of town for the weekend. When I got there, his younger stepbrother had five of his high school friends over. My friend, who was a little older than me, said “watch this” and put a porno movie in the VCR. A montage of graphic sex scenes started to play. I wasn’t the most mature 21-year old in the world but even I could see the irresponsibility in showing children porno. Most of them were quiet as they watched, probably stunned silent, but one of them kept saying, with wide eyes, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God” the same way he might have if he saw something horribly violent. I knew I was watching a brain being re-wired. I knew he was being damaged. It was all in his voice and on his face. Innocence was being smashed. I got up and turned it off. Somebody had to be the adult in the room. But it was too late for all of them.

This is why pornographers intentionally market their “product” to children. There was even a porn site once (before it got shut down) with the address fisney.com because they knew children would accidentally hit the F key next to the D key while typing disney.com. They would immediately see explicit images. Advertisers hired by pornographers consult psychologists the way any other ad agency does. They exploit the natural curiosity children and teenagers have about sexuality and what adults do behind closed doors. Like the Catholic church, they know if they get them as a child, they’ll own them for life.

Most of us are more careful about what we eat than what we feed our mind, then we expect it to have no lasting effect on us. Personally, when I watch an old movie, I envy how childlike and pure their minds were, and I miss how childlike and pure America (and I) used to be. I sometimes feel that America and I lost our innocence at the same time, starting mainly with the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam war. What was left our innocence crashed and burned during the 60’s.

Conflict is the essence of drama, so there’s no way around violence, physical or psychological. We’ve got to wade through the bad to get to the good. (Seeing the bad guys get punished and the good guys rewarded.) But it’s a matter of sophistication. A good example of this is the movie Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock. A woman is killed in a shower but we never see the knife piercing her skin. We see a shadowy figure, a knife being raised, see and hear her screaming, the curtain hooks being pulled off one by one as she falls, and blood running down the drain. It was horrifying for its time but extremely tame by today’s standards, even for TV.

In ancient Roman theater, if an actor got an arm cut off in the script, he got an arm cut off. If he died, he actually died. Talk about commitment to the craft! As the centuries passed, we became more civilized. By the time “talking pictures” (movies) were invented, murders were sanitized. Censorship extended this custom. When censorship was lifted, movies gradually became what Bob Dole correctly called “nightmares of depravity and violence.”

Do we really need to see the brains or entrails spill out? Isn’t that what imagination is for? The same is true of sex. In old movies, the couple got into bed, smiled at each other, then pulled the chain on the lamp by the bed. We all knew what happened next. Now we see it all in lurid detail. As the poet Charles Bukowski once wrote, “Show me a well-turned ankle in a white sundress and I’m ready to go. Show me everything at once and it’s hamburger on a plate. I’m not interested.” (Paraphrased.)

I love movies. I love seeing bad guys get taken out. It’s in our blood as human beings to tell stories. But what does it do to the mind to see endless representations of the worst of humanity, even if the movie ends with the good guys winning? Does it help us advance as a species to constantly set the bar so low? Some movies inspire and remind us of the power of cinema to transform minds/hearts, but most are just mental junk food. i.e., “They killed his family. Now he’s out for revenge.” 

So what’s the answer? I’m not moving to a cave in the Himalayas anytime soon, so all I or any of us can do is be careful about what we put in our minds because we become what we think about, be careful not to confuse who we are online with who we really are, and have just a little respect for the sanctity and purity of our inner world. What else do we really own, after all?

The degree to which one scoffs at this idea or writes it off as naive marks two distances – how far they have traveled from their original childlike (some might say God-like) purity, and how far they need to travel from this polluted world to the time when their mind was clean and their heart was happy, before the poisons were willingly and repeatedly ingested. 

There’s no way to say any of the above without sounding preachy. That’s not my intent. In my own life, my intent is to purify my mind/heart/soul because I’ve seen enough of the darkness. I’ve seen people killed up close. A man died in my arms as the blood from a bullet wound in his chest squirted through my fingers. I put my hand on a blood stain on the ground and prayed for the soul of a child who had died there the day before. I’ve walked through murder scenes and scraped coagulated blood off my shoes. I’ve beaten the hell out of two would-be rapists. And I’m not even a soldier or a cop. I’ve just lived in Los Angeles too long.

When I was a teenager, I actually thought I needed to see violent movies and horror movies to prepare myself for this world. As a father now of two girls, I realize, as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “Violence is not strength, compassion is not weakness.” As James Garner’s character in Murphy’s Romance (the kind of movie that uses conflict wisely) said after walking out of a slasher flick, “I saw that up close in Korea. I’m not going to pay good money to see it again.”

I’ve always had questions and doubts about faith, so it’s difficult for me to be impressed or moved by sermons. But one Sunday something the pastor said rang true for me. He said, “A lot of people think the commandments and other rules Christians strive to live by are meant to take away their fun. But they’re really like street signs and traffic laws. They weren’t created to keep you from driving, they were created to keep you alive and out of trouble.” 

Should we give in to lower impulses or live in an old-fashioned way, like the 1950’s when people still expected something from each other? When no man left the house at night without a suit and hat? When every man carried a handkerchief in his breast pocket, not for himself but for a lady who might need one. When it was shameful for anyone to curse, especially women. When a man who cursed around a woman was guaranteed a punch in the mouth.

Lazy thinking and living is easier, of course, but the bad choices always are. It’s hard to do the right thing, to say no to anything we know will hurt our mind/heart/spirit, just as it’s hard to turn down the slop burger and fries everyone else is eating when we’re trying to get our bodies in shape. So I suppose it’s just a matter of discipline. Nobody ever said being a holy man/woman was easy.

I miss the purity of the 1950’s, and of my own childhood. I guess I always will. I’ve learned all I can learn from the night. From here on in, I’ll take the morning, when the day is as innocent as the baby blue sky, and anything is still possible.

agori

 

Mister Rogers Gets a Twenty Million Dollar Grant from Congress – with a POEM.

Everything about Mister Rogers was as warm and magical as his show was. He knew how to communicate effectively with children and adults because he did it without bluster, ego, machismo, or any of the other qualities that seem to define many celebrities today. He did it with kindness and love as pure as the driven snow. He emanated goodness. He was a strong enough man to allow himself to be soft. That’s why this tough congressman loved him and didn’t feel embarrassed to tell him he gave him “goose bumps.” Most men are desperate to stop being so damn strong all the time. Mr. Rogers spoke to children in a way they understood, and he spoke to the child in all of us world-weary adults, too. I wonder what he would say about the condition of childhood in America today if he were still alive.

What do you do with the mad that you feel?
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong
and nothing you do seems very right?
What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag
or see how fast you can go?
It’s great to be able to stop
when you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong
and be able to do something else instead
and think this song . . .
I can stop when I want to.
I can stop when I wish.
I can stop stop stop anytime.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
and know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
that helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a lady
and a boy can be someday a man.

17 Children This Time

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I don’t expect very many people to read this. It’s going to be long. It will take a while to vent about this latest mass murder of our children by another recent child who decided being a monster was preferable to whatever he was experiencing. 

I was bullied terribly in school. I moved fifteen times before I was fifteen years old so I was perpetually “the new kid”, being tested over and over at each new school by children modeling unbalanced, cruel behavior they had probably learned from unbalanced, cruel parents or other relatives. The problem was I had no violence in me. I was born without an aggressive instinct or the need to dominate others to make myself feel strong, as children should be.

I don’t know why I was so passive. My father was a great provider and could be very loving, but there was also an insecure side of him that told stories of old fights in his youth on the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland, as if he were describing some happy event. My older brother wasn’t naturally aggressive, either, but his desperation to win over my father was so strong, he begged him to teach him how to box in the back yard and would get into fights at school on an almost weekly basis. When he would come home with another black eye, our father would say he shouldn’t do that (because he knew he was supposed to) but then he would ask what happened and his eyes would light up when he told him he won. The message was clear – violence is manly. 

God in heaven, it took me a long time to shake that belief. It took me a long time to realize that violence is not strength and compassion is not weakness.

When I was thirteen, again the new kid at a new junior high school, I was in P.E. class playing ping-pong when our ball jumped off the table and was picked up by a kid I didn’t know. I walked over and asked him for the ball. He didn’t give it to me. I asked him again. He said, “Why don’t you try to take it?”, then looked at his friends and laughed. When he looked away, I took it out of his hand, said thanks and walked away. He yelled “Hey!” and punched me as I turned around, all for taking a ping-pong ball that was mine to begin with. His equally disturbed friends then targeted me and the bullying began. The usual stuff – name-calling, knocking my books out of my hands in the halls, bumping shoulders, etc. Eventually, another one punched me for some made-up offense. 

Being a sensitive kid, I had not yet built up the rage necessary to learn to fight and walk around guarded, so I just took it. The truth is I was also scared. I didn’t understand these kids who so easily punched other kids in the face, and even seemed to take great pride and glee in it. I remember thinking I was glad it was they that were able to do that and not me, even as the cuts were healing and the bruises were yellowing.

I had taken an experimental sojourn into the world of bullying earlier in my childhood, sort of like trying on a costume. Fortunately, the costume didn’t fit me and I knew it right away. A classmate in fourth grade named Ward had told on me for talking in class and I punched him in the stomach by the bike racks after school. It was so against my nature to be cruel, I made myself physically ill from the guilt I felt about it. I tried to apologize to him the next day but he walked right by me. 

My best friend in sixth grade lived with a neglectful mother and had a father who was ex-military and stricken with the worst case of short-man’s complex I had ever witnessed before or since. The problem was he wasn’t short to me then, and seemed very manly. He was always bragging over beers about some poor, probably passive guy he had just pummeled, and would tell my friend to beat up a bully at school or don’t ever visit him again. He never spent a minute of quality time with my friend, but he was so desperate to connect with his father, we would walk across town to visit him where he lived with his new family. Of course, he would ask my friend to “make a muscle” and tell him about any fights he got into at school, beaming proudly when he said he won, just like my dad did. My friend became a bully. I didn’t. But then, my parents were together, and my father was a hell of a lot more loving, with a great sense of humor that balanced out the bad stuff. My mother was also more loving than his was. I just caught more breaks, and they saved me from becoming angry, bitter and resentful – all the precursors to psychotic.

I was bullied so badly at the new place we moved to when I was a very awkward thirteen year-old, I pretended to be sick to avoid school, or when I did go, I would walk toward the school until my mother drove away, then turn around and walk around town all day, returning home eight hours later as if I had been in school all day.

The stress a bullied child feels, to their minds, is equal to the stress any soldier feels going into battle. It’s all relative. A child who gets a giant zit on his/her nose on prom night is just as stressed as someone waking up in a hospital with a leg missing. Emotions are bigger to children because the world is new to them – life is new – and they are experiencing them for the first time. They don’t yet have the equal parts benefit and curse of experience and the comparative boredom that accompanies it. Some kids, anyway. A blessed few are somehow given that magical blend of wisdom that insulates them from the nonsense of high school cliques and head games. 

Despite all the bullying, though, the thought of murdering someone never crossed my mind back then. Not once. It wasn’t that the stress wasn’t there. It wasn’t that I didn’t hate them. So what was it? I have plenty of theories I could pontificate about, but what would be the use? Very few people will possess the required attention span to read a long post like this, and those that do are probably not going to be troubled enough to contemplate such horror and steered away from it by something I wrote. Nor will this post influence government policy. This is writing as pressure relief. Narcissistic in a way, because I don’t know what else to do. 

I have two daughters – four and six years old. I read to them and pray with them every night. My wife and I sleep in the same room with them. There are two beds side-by-side so the room is basically one big bed except for the dresser, which is bolted to the wall in the event of the California earthquake everyone says could strike at any minute. When I take them to school, I wait until the doors close and lock before I leave. I’m usually the last parent there. Some call it paranoia. I call it heightened awareness. I wish I didn’t have to worry, but how can’t I in a world with so many people hoping to become famous not by accomplishing something great but by becoming a monster. 

I couldn’t sleep last night, thinking about those seventeen kids who went to school yesterday morning like any other day, waved goodbye to their parents, then ended up being murdered by somebody most of them probably didn’t even know. I held my girls a little tighter and prayed harder that they would be protected from the craziness of this world when I can’t be with them. I kissed my youngest daughters little hand as she slept. It smelled like a cookie she had eaten earlier that evening. 

So here’s my list of why mass shootings happen. All equally irrelevant and uncorrectable. 

  1. Absent or disinterested parents.
  2. Overworked teachers.
  3. Mean classmates.
  4. Complacent social media platforms and friends (who don’t report threats.)
  5. Violent movies and video games that inspire real-life experience, the way a drug dosage must be increased to achieve the same high.
  6. The general kindness in our culture, or lack thereof. 
  7. Celebration of the wrong things – celebrity and wealth vs. kindness and service to others.
  8. Incivility of speech and action. Look at the comments under any news story on the internet, even the most seemingly benign ones, and it doesn’t take long to find one with someone (usually operating under a nickname) verbally abusing someone else. Where did this lack of civility and respect come from? Certainly not from America’s Judeo-Christian background. People are getting uglier, meaner, less tolerant.
  9. The Internet. We tell our kids not to walk down dark alleys at night, but let their minds wander through a virtual one every day.
  10. Mental pollution. Watch any movie, documentary or home video prior to 1960 and you will see a different America populated by people whose minds had not been polluted by craven, ungodly imaged of depravity and violence, or the total degradation of the female that we call pornography. We accept these things as a natural part of modern life, but how natural are they, really? We’re all taking part in the largest mass experiment in history – to see what the effects of the constant exposure to depraved, violent imagery is on the human mind, particularly the adolescent mind. Have you ever wondered what your mind would be like if you had never seen a single, simulated murder? (The average American witnesses thousands of murders on TV, in movies and in video games before the age of 18.) Personally, I envy those who lived before 1960 for how pure their minds and spirits must have been. Childlike, as that word used to be defined. Many of them had survived world wars, which only made them even more committed to kindness and moral purity. Those who have seen the worst of humanity are most likely to celebrate the best of it. 
  11. Overpopulation and the lack of accountability it causes. People think they can treat anyone and everyone like dirt, blend back into the crowd, and never be questioned about it again. The human mind is better suited to life in small villages and feels small, insignificant and unimportant in giant crowds.
  12. Guns. The weapon of choice of the Florida killer and the Vegas killer was the AR-15 assault rifle, to ensure the largest number of murders. No civilian needs to own one of these to protect his home. The necessary evil of pistols in this increasingly violent and psychotic world is enough for anyone.
  13. More federal funding for mental health and mental health awareness.
  14. A greater emphasis on compassion from every conceivable angle – arts and politics – even with those we disagree with politically. The greater the divide is between each other, the easier it is to justify doing harm to others. 
  15. Pharmaceutical drugs. In the old days, kids were just called wild, spirited, or hyperactive, but the drug companies needed to name these conditions diseases, syndromes and disorders because you can’t sell a drug for something that doesn’t have a name. As a result, kids who are just different and will probably grow out of it are labeled so the pharmaceutical industry can sell them a drug. These drugs often causes “thoughts of suicide” – the TV ads for these drugs often say so – but you never hear “homicidal thoughts” for some reason, even though a lot of these homicidal kids were medicated. I don’t wonder why. It’s because Big Pharma has a stranglehold on us, in more ways than one. Any industry billions of dollars run through is rife with corruption. Some kids benefit from medication, but most can do without it. We are turning our kids into medicine cabinets and letting drug companies convince us that’s what they need – not time, love, spirituality, being heard. Nope, diagnosing them with some disorder and popping pills into their little yaps is much easier for today’s working parents.
  16. Severing of attachment to one or both parents through divorce, or just never having one to begin with because the parents are too self-centered to bother. A feeling of abandonment and isolation is possibly the root of all evil. My friend Amy Chesler taught me that. Her brother felt that way and ended up murdering their mother. Kids often act out the anger they feel at being cast aside. 
  17. Removal of God from school and just about everything else. It’s healthy for kids to believe their actions matter, even when nobody (mortal) is watching.

Okay, I’m putting the soapbox away. And that’s what it is. I mean, who cares about some little blog post? The kid who is developing a murderous rage or just the desire to be famous – to go from feeling like an insignificant nobody to a horrible somebody – will probably never read this blog. They’ll probably never read anything because that would take time away from playing Bulletstorm or Dead By Daylight.

Someone once argued with me that people have always been violent. For instance, the Nazi’s never played video games. Neither did the Japanese fascists. Most Muslim fanatics never did, either. I argued that the people they’re referring to were adults, and children didn’t start becoming mass murderers until recently. When children start to act in ways that have been the unfortunate domain of only adults for centuries, we are in deep trouble. Common sense tells me filling the minds of children with depraved images isn’t very good for them.

A quick Google search of “violent video game images” immediately demonstrates how psychologically unhealthy the world of “entertainment” has become over the past fifty years. 

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We’re supposed to be leading and guiding them wisely, not letting greedy corporations sell psychologically damaging products to them. We’re dying at the altars of freedom (“creative expression”) and profit. The people who make these games would make a movie or video game about eating babies if they thought they could profit from it. Who will care about the minds of our children if we don’t? Certainly not them.

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 In my late 20s, I saw a robbery victim murdered. He died in my arms. I put pressure on the wound but couldn’t stop the bleeding. He was shot in the chest and his windpipe was obliterated. With his dying breaths, he looked at me with the same question in  his eyes that all victims of violent crime ask – “Why me?”

For several years after that, I carried weapons and threw myself into my martial arts training so that I could kill anybody who would do such a thing to someone else if I ever crossed paths with a monster again. I was finally angry enough to be violent. The fact that the bullied kid still existed in me didn’t help. The kid was now a two-hundred pound black belt who hated thugs or anyone who looked, dressed or acted like them.

It took concentrated effort to purge that rage from my soul so I could be happy again. I still have resentment for anyone who could do harm to others and I’m willing and able to stop them but I don’t allow them to pollute my thoughts or disrupt my peace anymore.

I own two guns in case the craziness of this world comes to my door. I’m overprotective of my daughters because of my past, rising crime, and mass murders like the one that happened yesterday. That includes what I allow or don’t allow to enter their minds. The bubble of innocence will pop soon enough. I’ll protect it as long as I can. 

But again, no matter what I think, those seventeen kids are gone and they’re never coming back. Seventeen kids with heartbroken parents whose worst nightmare came true yesterday. Seventeen kids who, just ten years ago, had hands that smelled like cookies.

Maybe the lesson to be learned from all this, if there is one, and if we’re capable of learning as a culture, is to be kinder, more attentive, to reach out to troubled people, to report suspicious comments or behavior. A few lines from two now obscure songs come to mind –

“Oh, people, look around you, the signs are everywhere – you’ve left it for somebody other than you to be the one to care.” (Jackson Browne)

“I’d like to change the world, but I don’t know what to do, so I’ll leave it up to you.” (Ten Years After) 

After the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school, I posted the poem below. I don’t know why I persist in thinking words will help me or anyone else. Again, I suppose it’s just pressure relief. For what it’s worth, here it is again – 

The Open Window

The old house by the lindens
   Stood silent in the shade,
And on the gravelled pathway
   The light and shadow played.

I saw the nursery windows
   Wide open to the air;
But the faces of the children,
   They were no longer there.

The large Newfoundland house-dog
   Was standing by the door;
He looked for his little playmates,
   Who would return no more.

They walked not under the lindens,
   They played not in the hall;
But shadow, and silence, and sadness
   Were hanging over all.

The birds sang in the branches,
   With sweet, familiar tone;
But the voices of the children
   Will be heard in dreams alone!

And the boy that walked beside me,
   He could not understand
Why closer in mine, ah! closer,
   I pressed his warm, soft hand!

  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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