Editorial: Let’s stop the cycle
For over a year, I have been ruminating on the disheartening feeling that, as my children grow, they are more and more often being exposed to violence between persons as a form of entertainment. And sadly, I can now see not only how I was continuously exposed to the same thing – albeit in different ways – but also how it had an effect on my heart. An effect that, even as I write this, I am still slowly working to scrape away.
Violence between persons as a form of entertainment is not new. It dates back thousands of years, from Roman Empire stadiums of fans watching, cheering, jeering the gladiators — most of whom were slaves — as they fought each other to the death. Violence as entertainment was present when I was growing up as well, but today it has permeated even deeper, while we simultaneously seem to grow less aware of its presence.
Music, television, movies and video games glorify violence between persons. Kids are playing video games that have no purpose other than being “last man standing.” You win if you successfully killed everyone else in the game. Television and movies meant for young audiences contain more and more violence, sometimes now even making the villain the hero. Realistic or animated, the feeling and emotions created are the same.
We watch sports that have the sole purpose of defeating your opponent through physical violence. In sports such as MMA or boxing, the violence between persons is the primary goal. That violence is the entertainment. We have youth in our own community who line up boxing matches between each other, while other youth come to watch. Why? Many other sports can result in injuries, but deliberate violence is punished – not rewarded.
Violence between persons as entertainment seems to be just viewed as “normal.” But what is normal about it, any of it? Why are we taking pleasure in watching one person physically assault another?
We seem to overlook the base morality when it comes to violence between persons, whether real or imagined. Whatever we allow into our minds, we allow into our souls — whether or not we realize it at the time. When we allow ourselves to be entertained in such a way, we are setting ourselves up for an unintended hardening of our hearts.
Instead of being a culture of love, peace, charity, patience and kindness, we are perpetuating the millenia-old culture that enjoys and encourages violence between persons as a supreme form of entertainment. We are coupling that with a shallow consideration — if any consideration at all — of the consequences of this violence.
On Monday morning, my heart felt as though it was ripped into pieces when I read the news of the third high-profile suicide in one week. First we heard of one suicide of a student who survived the February 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting that left 17 dead, then of the suicide of a second student from the same school. And then, there was news of a third. This time, the father of a 6-year-old girl — one of 20 killed in the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting — took his own life. This father put on the face of someone who was relatively okay. He and his wife had set up a foundation in his daughter’s honor. Just a week ago, he had spoken about the foundation and his daughter’s memory to university students.
Whether it is a year later or years later, the violence of these acts is being perpetuated. And we have to stop putting our blinders on and letting it happen. Year after year, century after century, we just continue blindly walking the path of temptation that tells us it is “normal” to be entertained by violence between persons. This enjoyment at the expense of human dignity leads to the hardness of heart that we see reflected all around us.
I cannot and do not claim to be above any of this. I sometimes watch the wrong things, listen to the wrong things, do the wrong things, think the wrong things. But finally, I see it. I want to work on it, even if it is painful. Because what we’ve been doing for thousands of years really is not working. Why don’t we try something new?
Editor’s Note: We encourage readers to download the Columbia Protocol, which includes simple questions to ask loved ones – young and old – to assess whether they might be at risk of suicide. If you are having thoughts of suicide, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.