In the early Martin Scorsese movie Taxi Driver, a mentally unstable Robert De Niro, armed to the teeth, stalks out a candidate’s political rally but is chased off by alert security people.
The massacre in Tuscon, Arizona seems to be almost a tragic reenactment of that scene in real life. Six people were killed and 12 others wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, when a gunman opened fire in front of a Safeway supermarket. The congresswoman had been hosting a meeting with constituents Saturday morning when the attack began.
This sort of symbolizes what has been happening to American youth for decades…the gradual numbing of the senses to senseless violence, first in films, then on TV and now is virtual reality video computer games…all in the name of free expression and making lots of money.
In a Puritanical nation where sex and skin is taboo on television, yet violence and mayhem isn’t, our youth are imbued with an ever-growing sense of normality associated with murder by firearms. This is not to say that most youths will become murderers. But, we can see how it only takes one nut case to cause a tragedy. One can say the same about terrorists. It only takes one extremist imbued with religious zealotry to perpetrate a disaster.
In the case of the Tuscon shooting, a young man with reported mental problems, as was protagonist Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, possibly being assisted by brutal computer games, shows up at a rally and starts shooting as if he were acting out a scene from of his games or videos.
I would like to think this tragedy was a one-off, but we have seen them before in America. And we may see them again as the middle class veneer of US society fades and young people, in particular, become more desperate for a future and meaning to their lives that have revolved around electronic conveniences and mind numbing entertainment.
So, as we gradually lose our middle class and move towards a low wage economy the conditions become greater and greater for social meltdown and individual acts of violence.
What we will need to prevent this is a society similar to pre WW2 Britain, were everyone knew his or her place and no one spoke out of turn. It will be a nation where below the surface we may despise other people, but on the surface we never reveal our true feelings.
Yet, this still won’t prevent pent up emotions from boiling over in further acts of violence. In the case of political rallies, the Tuscon massacre will only force our politicians becoming even more remote from the public than they have been for some time, beginning with the 1963 JFK assassination.