Many of the the progressive and liberal responses to the gun violence atrocities we have seen lately are directed at violent video games, movies or even hip hop music. Humbly  I would like to suggest that they are the wrong target. For this stand you can pick your own metaphor: swimming against the tide, marching to one’s own drummer, going against the grain, walking in the wrong direction. First I would like to admit that when it comes to violence I am something of a wimp.  I do not own any first person shooter video games; I am not a fan of horror or zombie movies; I have a limited tolerance for violence in movies (although I did see Django Unchained and my son claims that Tarentino’s cartoon hyper-violence is to sate you and then overload you with violence until it becomes intolerable); and I deplore and worry about what the violence and misogyny in hip hop indicate about our African American communities. Yet, I see no problem to which censorship is the answer.

I must admit that this is partly because of my knee-jerk reaction that grows out of the knowledge that African Americans were  (and given the school systems in minority areas) are being subjugated by withholding the ability to read  books and ideas. The common occurrence of linking censorship to subjugation throughout history should give all of us pause before we advocate it. Feeling that we are are pure and righteous while doing it is no excuse. Totalitarian regimes everywhere also claim such righteousness. There is also an air of sympathetic magic to it.  If we censor something the censors believe the problem associated with it will also disappear.  Arizona believes that if we stop ethnic studies programs from talking about America’s history then the ethnic struggles in their state will somehow be eliminated.  If we stop students from reading the n-word in Huckleberry Finn, race relations will be better.  If we stop teaching youngsters about their bodies and feelings during puberty, teen sex and pregnancy will disappear. Finally censorship concentrates on stopping an idea in a certain kind of media rather than the idea itself.  It leads to a whack-a-mole strategy in which one tries to whack it when the idea rears its head.  The problem is that even if you subdued it, it will pop up again in another place, among another group or in a different media.  If people were not able to do it when the highest evolved media producer was the printing press, how on earth are we to do it in an era of cell phone cameras, cheap and small video/audio recorders, blogs, Instagram and You Tube? The current call to limit the availability of violent media is another one of these futile, self righteous, sympathetic magic, whack-a-mole endeavors.

Lest one fear that I have become a libertarian in my old age. let me add that I am in favor of an assault weapons ban, expanded gun licensing checks and limits on clip sizes.  Assault weapons are designed to shoot at armed bands of humans not unarmed herds of deer.  There is nothing “sporting” about them. Obese males may get their “jollies” from annihilating targets with them but the positives do not outweigh the negatives when they are used for more nefarious activities.  I do not see how allowing private ownership of them benefits our society.  For any who argue that they protect against the government, history shows that there has not been a successful American armed insurrection against the government since the South won a few battles in the Civil War.  Spoiler alert, they lost the war. I support most of the gun control measures mentioned by the President in his speech today. With so many guns already in circulation it is going to take years for these measures to produce tangible effects. It is therefore better to start now than later.

These gun control measures however are really nothing more than a band-aid on the cancer that is eating up our society from the inside. The atrocities occur when the easy acquisition of these means of destruction meet individuals consumed by the fear, anger or alienation created in our society. To be fair we are talking about a tiny minority in our society who have turned such feelings into public actions.  The determined loners, political fanatics, gang members and others who feel they have been wronged, are those who have been driven to perpetrate these atrocities. For them other people have stopped being human beings with families and people who love them to become nothing more than the collateral damage of an individual’s outpouring of rage.  There are no shortage of candidates for causes of this fear, anger and alienation: late stage capitalism, the breakdown of family and community, the decline of religion, the rise of religion, racism, materialism, the lack of spirituality, individualism, liberalism, conservatism, isolationism, world domination.  Take your pick or create your own. I know only that until we solve this real crisis in our society we will remain the most violent society on the face of the planet.

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