This post has little to do with my usual blog topics; instead it piggy-backs on a post my good friend and fellow writer David Frauenfelder wrote for his blog, Breakfast With Pandora, two days ago concerning the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. You can find more about Dave and this post here.
This post of Dave's is so rich in meaning and understanding (something we need truckloads of these days) that I couldn't help but talk it over as we waited for the rain clouds to lift from over the Durham Bulls this weekend (they didn't), and I promised this hopefully complementary post.
After the anger passes at the person who perpetrated this crime (a person I refuse to name), we're going to sit down and wonder what brought about this horrible event.
Toward that end, I largely agree with Dave, and with Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, who both write that we as a society have all but lost what LaSalle calls the Female Principle, i.e., the ability to internalize experience and to summon values from it. When we simply react to events, this isn't the positive catharsis that comes from internalization (the inward search for meaning and understanding) that allows us not only to move on but to correct those things in the society, so that we can move on. Not just stick our heads in the sand.
It should be clear by now that we have something of a national neurosis, a mental affliction, that can and occasionally does erupt in a single person. What can we say, then, about both such a person and the national psyche?
First, it seems to be part of the human condition that one group of "heroes," if we stick to Frauenfelder's topic of myth, has always been there for us to perhaps commit acts of violence so that the rest of us can live in peace and serenity. As police do. As soldiers do. As Firemen do. As Cory Booker recently did in New Jersey (look it up).
But we've "democratized" violence to the point that it pervades the world stage, leaving none of us untouched. If you don't believe this, think about the computer games, the fascination with weapons, the urge to act violently to everything in our society, even toward others driving on our highways. And such violence is present even in speech- political and artistic – even in conversations on Facebook.
So if some insecure and misguided soul wants to be noticed? He/she can be damned sure that an act of unspeakable violence will do what donations to the poor, helping a fallen elderly person, or sacrificing a given person's wants to the needs of children and family, won't do to get him/her noticed these days.
The second thing is built on the first, really. Our mythic heroes in story and on stage these days must react with commensurate violence, or we'll say this "hero" isn't one at all, but a milquetoast wimp. Think about that, what that says about the rest of us!
And this is a fairly recent position to put our violence-stemming heroes in. To take a pop-culture example (the most obvious example to make here, I suspect), think back to the 1950s and 60s and Andy Griffith. This may seem an asinine comparison, but it's really not. We were all more accommodating and understanding back then (at least superficially), less addicted to the showmanship of violence, which meant Andy could stanch whatever upset his town underwent with a cagey move, a few wise words, or a very gentle, non-violent threat.
This is not to say that we should relish that era, when so many things in the national psyche were repressed or ignored, because we won't – and shouldn't – go back that way again. But we do need to bring a whole lot more civility to the social arena, realize that understanding and accommodation, even in these tumultuous times of ours, are the only things that can make our society easier to live within.
One more thing:
Dave Frauenfelder is a talented writer and reviewer. Seek out his stuff, and urge him to publish that trove of work he's sitting on.