As America reels from yet another devastating tragedy, the message of the ancient Hebrew prophets speaks to us afresh: A nation that is filled with violence is a nation on the verge of collapse. Consider where we stand today.
While grieving families in Aurora, CO come to grips with their agonizing losses, it is sobering to realize that the movie theater massacre was actually the sixth multiple-victim shooting in America so far in July, with a total of 24 killed and almost 100 wounded (again, this represents multiple-victim shootings only).
As we look back over the last five years, the roll-call of horror and pain is overwhelming, especially when we remember that each of these “statistics” represents a precious, irreplaceable, human life (and note that I’m not listing the large number of people who were wounded):
• Jan. 8, 2011, Tuscon, AZ: 6 dead (at a political rally)
• Nov. 5, 2009, Ft. Hood, TX: 13 dead (at an army base)
• Apr. 3, 2009, Binghamton, NY: 13 dead (at an immigration center)
• Mar. 30, 2009, Carthage, NC: 8 dead (at a nursing home)
• Mar. 29, 2009, Santa Clara, CA: 6 dead (family members)
• Mar. 10, 2009, Samson, AL: 10 dead (including the killer’s mother and grandparents)
• Dec. 24, 2008, Covina, CA: 9 dead (at a family Christmas party)
• Sept. 2, 2008: Alger, WA: 6 dead (at several locations)
• Feb. 14, 2008: Dekalb, IL: 6 dead (at a college campus)
• Feb. 2, 2008: Chicago, IL: 5 dead (at a store)
• Dec. 24, 2007: Carnation, WA: 6 dead (family members)
• April 16, 2007, Blacksburg, VA: 33 dead (at a college campus)
And can we ever forget April 20, 1999, the Columbine High School massacre, where the teenage murderers were reported to be laughing as they mowed down their fellow-students and teachers at close range and in cold blood?
Added to this – and perhaps related to this – is the ever intensifying culture of violence in TV and movies and video games, with a whole generation becoming increasingly desensitized to blood and gore. According to a report posted by the University of Michigan Health System,
• An average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18.
• Two-thirds of all programming contains violence.
• Most violent acts go unpunished on TV and are often accompanied by humor. The consequences of human suffering and loss are rarely depicted.
• Many shows glamorize violence. TV often promotes violent acts as a fun and effective way to get what you want, without consequences
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.