St. Charles Herald-Guide

By the time your child is 18, he’ll have witnessed 40,000 murders - on your TV

By John Whitehead - May 2, 2007

America is a nation plagued by violence in our homes, in our schools, on our streets and in our affairs of state, both foreign and domestic. Violence permeates our entertainment culture with its glamorization of death and destruction in movies and video games.

Indeed, it is estimated that by the time a child reaches 18, he or she will have witnessed 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders on television.

Our nation has one of the highest murder rates and levels of incarceration of all industrialized nations in the world.

We even export violence, with one of this country’s most profitable exports being weapons. But why is America so violent?

Starting with the genocide practiced against millions of Native Americans and continuing through the era of black slavery, the Civil War and onward to the present-day conflicts in the Middle East, our nation’s collective history has been indelibly stained with blood.

Some suggest that this failure to resolve our violent past has predisposed us to continuing along a path of violence.

Others point the finger at a proliferation of weapons, increasingly impersonal technologies, a disparate distribution of wealth, materialism, the erosion of families, isolationism and so on. Certainly, these are all factors.

But in the words of the Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, we have forgotten God in the equation.

A basic premise in the founding of America was that human beings were created by God.

People as such were seen as special, and life was considered precious. However, this view of God and ourselves is increasingly being set aside.

There’s no such thing as right and wrong because there are no categories anymore.

Community is a spiritual thing, and we’ve largely lost that as well. We’ve become isolationists, caught up in our own private worlds where no one communicates. We turn away from the homeless, the suffering and those in pain.

The American community that once bound us together has been shattered. The loving relationship between parent and child is now separated by mom and dad’s 24/7 connection to work in the form of a BlackBerry, computer or their maniacal attachment to a cell phone.

Unless something drastically changes, America’s future is violence. The answer does not lie in gun control; nor is it metal detectors in the schools. What must change is the way we think about and relate to one another. It’s time to get our children away from headphones and televisions, get parents away from cell phones, stop hiding behind technology and be human again.