Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Everyday Heroes: Solutions & More Questions

Last month I announced the Everyday Heroes Blogfest, where you can write a 500 word story about violence and help spread awareness that maybe we should like stop killing each other and stuff.  I know, controversial!  Other than me only 4 brave souls have signed up so far.

They are:

Cindy Borgne
Tony Laplume
Briane Pagel
Rusty Carl

Obviously more participation would be great.  If you're a chicken shit about talking about gun violence like one person who shall remain nameless, then don't talk about guns.  As I told him, you can talk about wombat violence for all I care.  You know, make it a parody.  Incidentally that's what I'm doing, only not with wombats.

Enrollment is still open, just let me know via a comment, email, Twitter, Facebook...I'm pretty easy to get a hold of.

Anyway, after the Newtown Massacre the cowardly NRA eventually came out with their usual spiel about how gun laws don't work and really the only way to solve the problem is to make sure everyone has guns.  To which I would say bullshit.  You don't solve the problem by introducing more of the cause of said problem.  I mean it'd be like my doctor telling me that to lose weight I need to eat more candy.  Or if we want to deal with drugs then let's get everyone hooked on heroin.  It's a patently absurd notion, yet one that a lot of people seem partial to.

I think there's another solution other than turning America into a Wild West amusement park.  If you want to get really serious about the problem then basically we need to throw a few billion to hire hundreds of thousands of more police officers.  Put cameras all over the place.  Make sure streets are adequately lit--a real problem in bankrupt cities like Detroit.  Tear down vacant structures.  I think it was on Bloomberg I watched a segment on how in Oakland they have sensors now that can detect when a bullet is fired and direct police to the location--throw a bunch of those in too.

Will that solve every problem?  No.  But it will make it a lot more difficult for maniacs to run around armed to the teeth.  Does it sound somewhat fascist?  Yes.  But the NRA alternative sounds anarchist.  So I guess you pick your poison.  My own preference is to have the guns in the hands of people trained to use them as opposed to every slack-jawed yokel running around with an AR-15 assault rifle.

But really the solution always has to come from within.  Think again of dieting.  You can pay for a personal trainer and a chef.  You can pay for some kind of food bodyguard to make sure you don't eat that pizza in the fridge.  You can get all the surgeries you want.  None of that is ever going to really work for long unless you decide you really, truly want to lose weight.  Trust me on that one.  It's the same with drugs, alcohol, and other addictions.

And in many ways I think we're addicted to violence.  I hate to sound like Tipper Gore, but jeez just look at movie theaters, video games, TV and even some forms of music.  It's all laden with violence.  I mean we're pretty much like Malcolm McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange" where they strap him to that chair and force him to watch all sorts of terrible imagery.  And while most of us still don't necessarily run out and buy a gun and shoot people, is it any wonder some people do?

Then it saddens me to think that I contribute to the problem.  Or I would if anyone read my books.  I mean superhero books like mine are filled with violence.  My story Chance of a Lifetime features a woman who goes on a vendetta against the mobsters who killed her, three of whom get shot and one of whom gets his throat slit.  Really all I can do is shrug and like Ahh-nold in "True Lies" say, "Yes but they were all bad."

Really since the dawn of time we've been fascinated by violent action stories.  Though back in Homer's day the violence might have been more implied.  There have always been action heroes like Achilles, Odysseus, and Herakles right on up to John MacLane in "Die Hard."  We probably enjoy those stories because most of us are not action heroes and are oppressed by The Man in its many forms.  So we like a little escapist fantasy to interrupt the drudgery of our lives.

The problem is that some people think fantasy is reality and take things too far.  And I don't think making sure everyone can have guns is going to solve that.  If anything, it will only make the problem even worse.  I mean everyone has those moments where they get pissed off and fly off the handle; those moments can become deadly if said person has a gun within reach.

Also since I'm a fan of Star Trek and the like, I think some of this problem could be overcome with better technology.  Really what we need are better nonlethal defenses.  So that instead of a carrying around an AR-15 "for protection" you could just have a really good Taser to incapacitate people instead of killing them.  Basically something like a phaser on Star Trek (only with no kill setting) would be awesome.  Then you've got "protection" without bloodshed.  Win-win!

Anyway, if we really want to have a discussion of this, here are some facts I wish the NRA would wake up to:
  • You don't need an assault rifle to hunt deer.  Or to hunt anything except people.
  • Unless you expect Seal Team 6 to storm your house you don't need an assault rifle and fifty clips of ammo for "protection."
  • We put common sense limits on freedom all the time, like laws that say you can't drive through residential zones at 90mph, you can't drive drunk, you can't vote until you're 18, and so forth.  Just because we have those laws doesn't mean we have a totalitarian regime.
  • If Israel, a country that routinely faces terrorist violence, can survive banning guns then I think we can survive banning assault rifles and giant clips.

Those are my rambling thoughts, what about you?


  1. Excellent post! It seems to me we're concentrating on everything EXCEPT the one thing that will do the most to prevent gun violence....getting guns out of the hands of the most hot headed, mentally ill, rage filled people in our society. We need to find a way to aggressively identify and then disarm those people who are most likely to go over the edge and start killing.

    How can those who have restraining orders against them have guns? Or those who have been convicted of spousal or child abuse? Or been under psychiatric care for serious stability issues, etc? Taking my gun away won't prevent any killing, because I'm not going to kill anyone unless I"m backed into a corner and it's my only way to survive. The drunk, screaming wife beater down the street....that's another story.


  2. Great post! I agree *applause*

    I have violence in my books too. It's simply no fun writing without some violence. But on the other hand, I don't like movies or books that go too extreme, and lately certain movies are just crazy with non-stop killing and/or torture.

    More is not always a good thing.

  3. Fantastic post, Patrick. I couldn't agree with you more.

  4. I don't think being "surrounded by violence" makes us violent.

    As I mentioned only half-jokingly, did corrupt hedge-fund traders play "Grand Theft Wall Street" when they were kids?

    Or did they learn to be criminals from something other than pop culture?

    I can't think of a single videogame or movie where the protagonists were charged with killing kids at a preschool. Even "The Matrix," before Columbine, didn't have that as a plot: In "The Matrix," Neo & Co. were storming a skyscraper, not a high school, and they were doing it to root out corrupt computer programs, not kids in gym class. The only influence that "The Matrix" had on Klebold and Harris was the style of dressing, but people dressed like that before "The Matrix," too.

    If there were any causation between violent videogames and violence in society, we'd know it AND we would expect an increase in mass killings as videogames increase in popularity and violence.

    "However, subsequent research into this topic has shown no link between video game violence and aggression levels (Durkin & Barber, 2002; Ferguson et al., 2008). In fact, some research has shown that playing violent video games actually decreases aggressive thoughts and behaviors (Unsworth, Devilly, & Ward, 2007)."

    Read more:

    I can google things; Congress & reporters apparently cannot.

    Here is a site that has "Famous Killers Of The 1800s."

    Champ Ferguson is the first one on the site; he was convicted of 53 murders, but suspected in 100. Apparently he was playing "Grand Theft Horse Buggy" on the back of a coal shovel in his log cabin.

    1. Agreed. Violent and antisocial tendencies are not informed by external sources but rather than irrational fears about those sources. W're still pretty primitive as a species. If Q were putting humanity on trial today, he'd have a pretty good case for our barbarism.

  5. PART TWO:

    Violence has always been around; exposure to violent themes has no causal, correlative link to increases in aggressiveness or violent behavior. But more people are dying? Maybe, maybe not.

    One thing that has changed is our ready awareness of these things. Mass media makes it easier to learn of mass killings. Remember Andrew Cunanan? He killed a couple people in a few days before disappearing for months and then killing that designer. But there wasn't wall-to-wall coverage of it as there is nowadays. The "Summer Of The Shark" is an example: that year, the news networks went nuts over the number of shark attacks... which was identical to the number of shark attacks in years before and years after.

    Another thing that has changed is the ease with which people kill, and that is where gun control comes in. It's a lot harder to be H.H. Harrison and kill dozens through poison and bludgeoning and the like. It's supereasy to have your "prepper" mom get assault weapons and then just unload. Literally. Before guns became so prevalent, it was harder to do just that. It's the easy availability of guns that is leading to mass killings.

    And another thing: Why do only CERTAIN media get blamed? If videogames like "Doom" and movies like "The Matrix" teach kids to kill with guns, why don't books like "Christine" teach kids to kill with cars? When was the last time you saw anyone demanding that "The Hitcher" and "Jeepers Creepers" not be so automobile-violent because kids run people down?

    Let alone the many many movies that involve people punching. And KUNG FU PANDA. Let's not forget that! We are raising a generation of kids who are going to mass kill people... panda style.

    Saying that violence in media is even partially to blame is letting the gun nuts off the hook. The Second Amendment was intended at keeping the federal government from taking away militias run by the states and is essentially an anachronism:

    It wasn't until the 1970s that the individual right to gun ownership theory came into vogue, which means "strict constructionists" are every bit the bleeding-heart liberal "living Constitution" justices they decry.

  6. I prefer my violence to be fantastical. I don't think your supporting violence in your writing than 1984 somehow inspires totalitarian regimes.

    Great stuff today. I'd forgotten about the blogfest. I'll try to get my post ready and schedule it so it won't matter if I forget.

  7. Yeah did a whole post on guns a while back, some gave me some flack, but I don't care, will say what I want at my lair. Need to get the guns away from the nuts.

  8. I love the idea of your blogfest and would certainly sign up to participate but for the fact that I'll be in India in March. When I return I'll be anxious to read what your followers have written.

  9. Great idea with the phasers especially if it's painless and just lets you nap for a bit until you calm down. I think I'd rather be shot in the head than tased, but that's just me. I'm taserphobic.

    I am overwhelmed with work and am trying to say no to blogfests and other commitments. But I love the idea of this. And maybe my story will make a difference. Actually, I could write three off the top of my head. I will do my best but won't sign up until I have a minute to write it.

    BTW, the idea of putting a gun in a teacher's hand is absurd. Teachers have no immunity to mental illness or anger issues in my experience.

    Instead, let's take the stigma off of mental illness (after all, we're all a little bit nuts) and get mental health services to people who need it before they act out.

    Apparently (and I've now used up all of my blogging time for the day) all the talk on gun control has caused a run on the gun counter at Walmart and applications for concealed carry permits where I live. Awesome. If my neighbors start acting up, I'm going to have to defend myself only with my well-practiced mother-glare-of-death. It's terrifying.

    1. Just read Briane's post. I don't there's any mass murders in Kung Fu Panda. Not sure if the bad guy actually dies in the end. The turtle dies, but I think that's of old age or something. If you do it panda-style, everyone lives and there's lots of noodles.

  10. Well, I did my gun thing already and, between you and Briane, I have nothing left to say about it today.
    There was an interesting piece about violent video games on NPR yesterday.

  11. PT,

    I'm gonna' forward your posting through all the various social sites and not so social sites. Let me just say from a British perspective and a perspective I know a lot of Canadians will share. It's time to have a total rethink about guns and the right to bear arms in America. The "Wild West" mentality is beyond a sick joke. Tighter controls, better and I will say this, universal mental health care for all who need it is another step in the right direction in America. What kind of country allows somebody to go into a store buy a case of beer and a shotgun, with minimal checks.



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