Life as a First-Person Shooter
The world didn’t end. We went on. After the last of the murdered children was laid to rest, buried in the Connecticut dirt, it was time for life to get back to normal. To play our “first-person shooter” video games – “Assassin’s Creed” anyone? – and watch our TV programs – Criminal This and Criminal That — and go to the movies!
What’s playing? There’s Tom Cruise in his latest. My, he’s a handsome fellow. And what a big gun he carries!
And there’s Leonardo di Caprio and Jamie Foxx, also handsome fellows. How amusing it is to watch such handsome fellows shoot guns at each other! They’re directed by Quentin Tarantino, so you know all the violence is meant to serve a higher aesthetic.
How about Zero Dark Thirty? It’s based on true events, you know. About how our national heroes found and murdered Osama bin Laden. The depictions of violence here aren’t what anyone could call “gratuitous,” because it’s sort of a documentary about things that sort of happened as well as things that apparently really did happen, and you can’t leave stuff like waterboarding and stabbing and strangling out of the picture unless you’re making a very different kind of movie. The boring kind, with interviews and un-staged footage.
Many Americans will view Zero Dark Thirty as fact, and not because it opens with the words “based on first-hand accounts of actual events.” They’ll think so because the movie conforms to our national acceptance of How Life Really Is: brutal, cruel, and unjust, with intermittent respites from omnipresent harm. They’ll think so because deep down we all understand that the best defense is a good offense.
Never mind that the commoditizing and marketing of violence is one of the lynchpins of our economy (the armed forces, football, drones), the greatest accomplishment of Kathryn Bigelow’s latest war movie is that it reinforces the powerful and pervasive notion that torturing human beings is a useful way to cull important information – like the name of Osama’s courier. Did this happen in real life? No, it did not, and several Senators have asked the filmmakers to state that the role of torture in the hunt is not based on facts. But that’s not the point. The point is to tell our favorite story over and over again, the one about how you don’t screw with the U.S. of A. and get away with it.
We unilaterally “eliminate” (i.e., murder) American citizens on foreign soil with our drone-fired missiles and then treat those we’ve trespassed against as ungrateful hosts. We put our bullies and thugs in law enforcement uniforms and then lionize them as “first-responders” when the inevitable happens. We intuitively understand that might doesn’t just make right, it defines what’s right.
Sure, let’s arm our kindergarten teachers with handguns, and let’s form exploratory commissions, and let’s continue to argue about the meaning of the 2nd Amendment to our Constitution. None of it will make a difference. We’ll continue to get the bloody, gruesome results our culture enjoys in every realm except our children’s classroom.
There will be more massacres, large and small, and we’ll be powerless to prevent them. For how can you identify the sick minds in a society that’s comprehensively diseased?