Desensitization to violence raises questions for gun control in America
Guns are all over America. In practically everyone’s homes (mine included), in movies, sold in the toy aisle, enmeshed into our cultural values and norms and prominently shown on our TVs.
America’s obsession with the crime fiction and true crime genre is clear in the ample amount of crime and cop shows that overwhelm our televisions. All of these shows frequently feature gun violence, and it seems that at least one person is shot or a gun is used in every episode.
For the longest time I did all I could to avoid catching even the slightest glimpse of a show that featured a true crime case or talked about serial murderers. I never even could watch “Law and Order SVU,” a show that downright terrified me and frankly still does. I rarely even watched cop shows. I did not want to take any part in the very elements which made shows in this crime genre appealing to so many others. I used to get so scared watching these shows because it was all too easy for me to imagine what was happening on these shows to happen in real life. Eventually, I did not have to imagine. Our reality started to imitate fiction.
After a while, I became so inundated with this violence heavy genre that I began to not even feel scared anymore. I became utterly unaffected by what I was seeing on TV. I was desensitized to it all. It does not help that as TV was becoming increasingly more violent, America had been getting increasingly more violent as well.
In my almost 22 years on this planet, there has been at least one mass shooting every year since I was born. This is according to data compiled in a Mother Jones’ investigation of the number of U.S. mass shootings since 1982.
When I awoke on Monday morning and saw what had happened the night before in Las Vegas, I could not hide the fact that the devastating news was also not shocking to me. The video of the steady pops of bullets flying through the air, the screams and yells, and the shrill sounds of sirens in the background were nothing new. I see video footage like this on the news all the time now. The pictures of cowboy-boot-wearing people clutching each other, their faces frozen in fear and grief are not unique anymore. Violence and murder are the norm now- on TV and in life.
I guess from this immense history of mass shooting in America, I am starting to see the appeal of crime shows now. On crime shows, it is clear that what I am seeing is not real life. I always know that I have one hour to watch the crime take place, for the “heroes” to come in and solve the case and save the day. At the end of that hour, the criminal is caught, confesses and is dealt swift and righteous justice. The “heroes” get to congratulate themselves on a job well done, and we, the viewer, feel quite satisfied because nothing is a mystery anymore and all the loose ends are tied. The problem is solved, the fight is over and taken care of.
Unfortunately, the reality we are all living in right now won’t take just an hour to solve. We might never get a clear answer or rationale to help us understand how and why such an act of terrorism could take place. I may never understand how we have all let this kind of terrorism happen to us over and over again. There is no way we can change channels to avoid seeing this repetitive tragedy of murder and violence in our lives. I have had enough of being numb to repeated acts of terrorism and mass shootings. I want to see swift and righteous action in how guns are regulated and controlled in our country.
Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.