Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What is Going On?

When I was 19, I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah for a few months. My plan was to establish residency in Utah and eventually pay in-state tuition at the University of Utah.

I worked at a little place called Fendall's Ice Cream. It was pretty cool-- I divided my time there working in their factory, and then as a waiter in their restaurant in front of the factory. I made ice cream. I was the envy of all my friends.

A lot happened in the few short months I lived there, before I decided to return to Illinois and go back to school. I came home one night from closing the restaurant to find my roommmates in a state of shock-- John Lennon had been shot to death in front of his own home. A few weeks later, we were nearly as stunned as the nation elected Ronald Reagan as President.

One of my jobs when I worked in the restaurant portion of Fendall's was to watch the owners' two-year-old son Ricky. I liked Ricky-- he was a sunny, friendly kid. His mother had taken him to the mall down the street, a converted trolley barn, to see the Disney film "The Song of the South." It was pretty comical-- Ricky would spend the day singing "Zippity Doo Dah."

The mall, The Trolley Square Mall, was about a ten minute walk from my house. It was a maze of kitschy little shops-- very charming. I recently alluded to a favorite memory of living in Salt Lake City on Toccata's blog-- remembering a busker in the mall singing Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row." Me and Cindy, my best friend from high school, loved to go down there to explore the shops. One time she dragged me to the movie theater there to see an awful chick flick, Somewhere in Time.

Yesterday, some 18-year-old kid with a backpack full of weapons shot the the place up, killing five people before the police gunned him down. I'm at a loss. What the fuck is wrong with our society? Why are our children turning into murderers?

4 comments:

Erik Donald France said...

Excellent post. Creepy, that (and another one in Philly, but an adult). My father woke me up on my birthday to tell me about John Lennon.

Natalie said...

THat is so sad. It always shocks me, and then doesn't, when stuff like that happens. I watched Somewhere in Time on demand a few months ago. It was so bad it was good.

Bubs said...

Have you ever read anything by Dave Grossman, especially "On Killing"? Unfortunately he's kind of gone on the circuit blaming violent media and video games for youth violence, but before he did that he had some good points. He basically says that the techniques used by the military to desensitize recruits to killing, and make them effective killers, are unintentionally duplicated in our society for some young people.

Johnny Yen said...

Erik--
Thanks. I saw about the one in Philly, as well-- the guy tied up people and killed them. Apparently he blamed them for some investment losses. Equally disturbing.

One of my oldest friends, who is African-American, remembers his fifth birthday distinctly. It was April 4, 1968. His birthday party ended as news came of Dr. King's death.

Natalie-
It happens so frequently now, but it never ceases to upset me-- this one struck me especially because I had a personal connection to the place it happened.

I remember my friend crying at the movie. I had to struggle to keep from giggling about it.

Bubs-
Thanks for the recommendation-- I just checked and they've got it at a library branch near my house.

I agree with you on the "easy" blame. You can blame video games and movies, yet, 99.9999% of kids who are exposed to these things don't commit actual violence. My son, who loves playing a sniper in his Playstation 2 Star Wars games, is repulsed by the idea of actual guns and killing. I don't think it's desensitized him to people in the least. He makes the distinction between electronic people and real ones.

My brother, who was a Marine for over 14 years did kill people, in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983. He also had friends killed-- he was there during the baracks bombing. He may have killed in Somalia ten years later, as well. These things have profoundly fucked him up.

I'm very curious to see how the training that got him to do this in the first is duplicated in society at large.