MERIDIAN — "Life doesn't imitate art; it imitates bad television" — Woody Allen
Doesn't it make you laugh to hear people who are vehemently against gun control, follow that up with claims that somehow music, or video games, or movies, or even the media is really to blame for violence in our society?
The most recent example of this I saw first-hand was when our U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper spoke at a Business and industry Appreciation Luncheon at Meridian Community College.
He said he didn't think any gun control laws could have prevented the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December. I agree with him.
He said the guy that killed all those little children and adults was obviously mentally ill. I agree with that, too.
But then he said that we need to try to figure out why our society devalues life, and I thought: "Wait! What!? How did society get dragged into this?"
Then he said we need to be taking a look at Hollywood and video games. I don't know exactly what he meant by that because he didn't elaborate.
"Look at what?" I wondered. "Does he think video games and movies made that creep a mentally ill killer?"
I think our society, and all societies worldwide have come a long way in terms of valuing human life. Ancient civilizations regularly offered up human sacrifices, often children. The Aztecs did it. The Mayans did it. The Celts, the Gauls, the Greeks and many others did it. The Romans really did it right, with lions, tigers, bears and crocodiles eating people before cheering crowds in a coliseum! It kinda makes you glad we have video games and movies now to take the place of all that real life entertainment people used to enjoy, doesn't it?
Life is more valued today. There was a time when if anyone accused you of being a witch anywhere in the world you were as good as dead, and we all know who was publicly crucified on a cross for saying things that made the most religious people of his day a tad uncomfortable. And, there've been so many good tries at genocide throughout the world, century after century. The United States took a pretty good stab at it with the Native Americans. Luckily for all the Europeans who decided to settle here — with their guns — they weren't required to show any papers.
Just 50 years ago our society was comfortable enforcing segregation, and making it illegal to marry someone who was a different race than you. People got killed over challenging those ideas, as well as trying to exercise their right to vote.
In the U.S. 100 years ago people were losing their lives in labor disputes, and children who should have been in school were being maimed and killed on farms and in factories where they worked. Our society didn't value women as having the sense to vote, either.
One hundred fifty years ago people were allowed to own other people in this country, and we were in the middle of a civil war because of our political differences. We didn't have any movies or video games then. There was music, however, and literature, newspapers, and theater ... and guns. Don't forget guns ... lots of guns.
I'll grant you this. I'm sure if Abraham Lincoln could get a do-over of his last day on Earth, he'd probably say: "Yeah ... I think I'll skip the play tonight." He goes to Ford's Theater, and he gets shot in the back of the head — by an actor of all things — while watching a stupid comedy on stage. I know on the surface it looks like a good case for blaming "the arts" as the real cause for the violence, but I promise you, the entertainment had nothing to do with it.
Steve Gillespie is managing editor of
The Meridian Star. E-mail him at