We live in a country permeated by violence -- and we badly need to admit this to ourselves.
We should not be surprised by the Sandy Hook killings. Only a few days earlier, there had been a shooting in a Colorado mall.
What else is new? We live in a country rife with, suffused with, permeated by violence -- and we badly need to admit this to ourselves.
For years, I, too, thought the problem was guns -- too many and too easily obtained. Control access, I thought, and we'd see this insanity diminish. But something else is happening here, something deeper, more sinister.
We have become violence addicts. We're exposed to it at nearly every turn, but primarily on television. And before denying this out of hand, note the following, according to the A.C. Nielsen Co:
• Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5.
• Approximate number of studies examining TV's effects on children: 4,000.
• Number of hours per week that the average child watches television: 28.
• Percentage of day-care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70.
• Percentage of 4- to 6-year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54.
• Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900.
• Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1,500.
And what do we see on television?
By the time an average child finishes elementary school, he or she will have seen 8,000 murders on TV, along with 200,000 violent acts by age 18.
Not only are we are modeling violence every day to millions of our citizens -- both children and adults -- but the percentage of Americans who believe TV violence helps precipitate real-life mayhem is 79 percent.
At a meeting in Nashville last July, Dr. John Nelson of the American Medical Association (an endorser of National TV-Turnoff Week) said that if 2,888 out of 3,000 studies show that TV violence is a casual factor in real-life mayhem, "it's a public health problem."
The American Psychiatric Association addressed this problem in its endorsement of National TV-Turnoff Week, stating, "We have had a longstanding concern with the impact of television on behavior, especially among children."
Given all this evidence regarding violence in our culture, we nevertheless wail, scream, shed tears and act shocked when events like Sandy Hook keep happening. This just shouldn't surprise us. In ways blatant and subtle, we are simply reaping what we've been sowing for many years.
If you're addicted to using alcohol or other drugs, eventually you're going to hurt or kill yourself or someone else unless you stop using. Violence is our national "drug," and we just keep on killing ourselves with it.
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Joseph Moriarity is a writer in Forest Lake.
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