07 November 2013

Enough is Enough

(NOTE:  I'm sorry if I haven't responded to anything this week, but we upgraded computers, e-mail, and everything else.  Cyber-chaos at our place.  Back up and running.  I think...  And now, on with the blog:)
We've all said it:  "Enough is enough!"  And sometimes we've even followed through on it.  The question is, what triggers it?  I'm raising this question primarily because I just changed my email address for the first time in 17 years, but I think it has application for other things, like changing brands, leaving relationships, killing someone, going on a fiery rampage ending in death, doom and destruction...

Here's what happened with the email:  I'd been with Yahoo mail from the get-go, and it was fine, great, etc. - but then things started changing.  They tweaked here, tweaked there, and it seemed like every time I turned around there was a new feature that I had to learn (which I did), or if I wanted a mail without ads, or mail with lots of memory I had to pay for it (which I did), and then they changed the format and I had to get used to it (which I did), and it got slower and slower and froze up a lot, and I had to cope with that (which I did) and then, a member of this respected body and I exchanged a couple of e-mails and Yahoo somehow managed to conflate emails from someone else with ours into a senseless spam-like screed that was, frankly, the last straw.  So I changed my e-mail to g-mail.  I'm having to learn a whole new system - if anyone has a cheat-sheet on keyboard shortcuts for g-mail I'd appreciate it - but it's worth it because I'm done with the old system.  I am loyal through an amazing amount of thick and thin, but when I finally do get fed up and quit, I am not coming back...

But some people make other choices.  Like murder.  One of the things that has always interested me is when people decide they've had enough and have to kill someone.  The long slow burn...  which finally explodes.  The classic example is a murder that took place here in Madison a couple of years ago.  An old guy, a farmer in his 70's, came back to the town where he grew up and started knocking on doors.  The first door he knocked on was his brother's, but he was at a basketball game.  The second door he knocked on was a former high school classmate, retired English teacher, and when he answered the door, the old guy shot him in the face and killed him.  The reason?  Fifty-five years before, the teacher and the farmer had had a fight in the locker room of the gym, and the future teacher had thrown a dirty jockstrap at the future farmer and hit him in the face.  Everyone laughed.  The future farmer fumed.  And 55 years later...

But why did it take so long?  I have no idea.  I don't know what sparked it off.  I do know that he came intending to kill someone - he would have killed his brother if he was home, it seems out of pure jealousy and envy.  And if he had managed that, would he have gone on to the teacher's house?  Hard to say.  After he shot the teacher to death, he got in his car and headed out of town, back home, where he holed up until the police came for him.

That one, as I say, is a mystery to me, because it took so long.  Not so adolescent shooters - the Eric Harrises and Dylan Klebolds of the world - they're fairly easy (for me) to understand.  Adolescents live in a world of such terrible urgency:  if they do not have this (whatever or whoever it is), they will die.  If someone laughs at them, the humiliation will last forever.  And, since they know they are bulletproof, invincible, and resurrectible (the Tom Sawyer fantasy of being at his own funeral and surprising everyone afterwards is pretty universal), to take up arms against a sea of troubles - literally - is an tragically unsurprising solution.  I'm waiting to see if the LAX shooter - 23 years old these days can be just as adolescent as 14 - is of that ilk or is one of the militia types who have decided that war has been declared, and is going to fire the first shot.

File:Turnerdiariescover.jpgI've met a lot of militia types, here and elsewhere, thanks to my work in various court systems.  They are very chilling.  As one told me after the Timothy McVeigh bombing, "War has been declared."  When I said the children in the day-care weren't soldiers, he replied, "There are no innocent victims."  Their literature (see "The Turner Diaries") is all about killing everyone who doesn't meet their standards, to the point where you wonder if even in our weapons-rich environment, there really are enough bullets to get that job done.  I've read "The Turner Diaries" and other works, and the basic idea is that you have to arm, arm, arm yourself, and get ready to kill, kill, kill, because - as one survivalist screed said - "who would want to die in such a world"?  The logical fallacy being, of course, that somehow you're never going to die.  Ever.  You'll "win", and live forever, master of all you survey.  Again, adolescent thinking.

And that perhaps is the trouble.  So much of our media - video games, television shows, movies, websites - is all about marketing to teens, and has been for quite a while.  Facebook is in trouble because its teen share is dropping, but Twitter is rising.  Every business has to get that all-important teen audience.  Because they have money, and it burns a hole in their pockets.  (I remember the feeling...)  But if you market to adolescents, if all your entertainment and information is targeted specifically to lure, entertain, and keep adolescents as they are...  isn't what you get, more adolescents?  Perpetual adolescents?  Whose only solutions to life's many problems are those provided by a media that is keeping them perpetually adolescent?

When will we say enough is enough?


  1. Fantastic, Eve, and thought-provoking.

  2. My guess is never. Good post, Eve.

  3. Good column.
    It has struck me lately how few genuine adults are shown in media of any type as opposed to the adult men and women of the 40's and 50's films.

  4. Thoughtful piece, Eve.

    It seems that we've written adult men, in particular, out of the picture. In many, if not most, films and tv programs (even commercials) these days, the adult male is depicted as something of a childish buffoon, or conversely, a violent threat. While at the same time, males have increasingly absented themselves from homes and child-rearing responsibilities. Young males grow up without mature male guidance or a clear sense of limits or self-restraint. Unfortunately, they have Hollywood to fill the gap for them with uber-violent heroes. The result is another generation of perpetual adolescents unable to cope beyond withdrawal or a violent acting-out. These young men make great recruiting fodder for all kinds of violent endeavors from drug gangs to militias to Al-Qaida. It's a damn shame.

  5. I agree, David, the adult male is horribly depicted in most entertainment today. We were watching the news this morning, and they were talking about the steady increase of lone shooters - and saying there is no common denominator. I turned to my husband and said, "yes, there is - they're all men. They just don't want to say it." Because then they might have to look at how men are portrayed today. Yes, I miss the adults that used to be on TV, in movies... The perpetual adolescents don't entertain me at all.

  6. Back in the day (don't you love that term?)movies were regulated, particularly for sex, but to a lesser degree violence. People were killed, but usually off screen or "cleanly". No blood and guts to look at and, eventually, accept as part of living. Cowboy movies never shed a drop of blood. The hero seldom lost his hat (white) in a fight. Unrealistic, of course. But I personally prefer it to the realism portrayed today. I don't know how pertinent these comments are to the subject at hand. But it doesn't portray a very positive image of men--and oftentimes women. I grew up in the era of non-violent violence. And for that matter, non-sexual sex (twin beds for married couples). Perhaps it didn't portray life as realistically as it does today, but it didn't promote the dark side either. There is something to be said for that. How many lone shooters were influenced by today's "entertainment"? We'll never know.

  7. Eve, we were a few miles up the road in Brookings when that 70 year old farmer shot the teacher. At first it was "who did this?" Then it became "what happened?" Finally it was "that's a long time to carry a grudge for something so silly."
    I've long been amazed at how much different some people can think and rationalize than the rest of us. Not sure what trips that trigger in their mind and pushes them over the emotional cliff to irrational action. And worse, I don't know how the rest of us can protect ourselves from this type of individual.

  8. Herschel, I entirely agree. I am sick to death of people saying, "media doesn't influence behavior". Well, if it doesn't, then every corporation who buys ads is an idiot. Either the 30-second spot works, and media influences behavior, or it doesn't, and the Super Bowl is the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. Which is it?
    And R.T., I was babysitting one of the law enforcement officers while he went looking for the shooter that night. Everyone in town agreed, a long time to carry a grudge... And there isn't anything that I can think of to protect us from someone like that.


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