I am a baby boomer. Baby boomers are the generation that are now grandpas and grandmas. We are an easily recognizable bunch. The gray thinning hair, wrinkles in places you never knew could wrinkle; well, you get the picture. We are never mistaken for Gen X’ers, Y’ers, or any other generation. We are also the generation from whom kids expect to receive large birthday and Chrismas presents.
I am proud to say that, in recent history, no mass killings have been committed in the United States by baby boomers. That is not to say we did not have our usual assortment of “nut cases” and murderers. It is the younger generation committing these heinous crimes, such as shooting grade school children, innocent moviegoers, or people in Washington, D.C.
My theory about why these tragic events are occurring today is based on cowardice and the media. Let me explain.
When growing up in the small town of Soft Rock, (population 969) we had a movie theater. As a matter of fact, the name of the theater was the Soft Rock Family Theater. Our little theater had about 200 seats. Movies were 25 cents, and popcorn and a soda were a dime each. The theater ran two different movies each week. One movie ran Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The second movie would run Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. So, in the early 60s when my parents wanted the kids out of the house, we would use our weekly allowance of fifty cents. We would be dropped off at the door of the theater. Now here is how life was very different from today. My parents would drop me off without even looking at the marquee to see what movie was playing. They knew that no movie would be shown at the Soft Rock Family Theater that was inappropriate for children. There wasn’t any PG, PG-13, R, or any other designation. There weren’t any warnings regarding language, nudity, sexually explicitness, extreme violence, etc. Warnings were not needed.
Our parents never had to worry about what was on nighttime television. It was appropriate for all ages. Sunday night was family night in front of the TV, a tradition that is sorely lacking today. Everyone was home. There were no acceptable excuses for not being home on Sunday night. The shows included Ed Sullivan, Bonanza, a host of variety shows, and my very favorite, the Wonderful World of Disney. Walt Disney provided some of the best programming anywhere and at any time. Today Disney is known for their theme parks, but their entertainment during the golden age of television was so much more impressive.
We also had Saturday morning television with shows featuring real people actors. Our shows had people like Roy Rogers (my personal favorite), Hoppalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Zorro, The Lone Ranger, Sky King, Pinky Lee, Superman, Wild Bill Hickok, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody. We even had animal shows like Fury and Rin Tin Tin. I don’t know how they did it, but that horse and dog either saved a kid, or they assisted in capturing a bad guy in every episode. Amazing!
At 6:00AM on Saturdays, while the parents were sleeping, I would sneak downstairs and turn on that cherished 19″ black and white TV, wait for that baby to warm up (about 30-45 seconds), and watch an hour of cartoons before my real live heroes came on the air. And when they came on, I was excited. I knew that good was going to triumph over evil, and the world was going to be a safer place because of the efforts of my heroes. Never mind the fact that most of them were westerns taking place in the 1800s, I just knew that they made America safe for me today.
My heroes were my role models. The bad guys always got what they deserved. And, if one of my heroes had to pull out a gun to bring him to justice, he shot to “wing” him. The hero was always an excellent shot, only shooting the villians in the shoulder, and occasionally, a leg. No hero ever shot a “baddie” in the head or torso. Apparently in the Old West this was not allowed, either on purpose or by accident. My heroes were so considerate that even when they had to shoot the villian, my heroes would not let him bleed. Obviously, there was no blood in those bad guys.
You could say that our entertaiment was “white-washed.” Many people would argue that it was not realistic. But to us baby boomers, it was entertainment!
There is a reason why it was whitewashed. Our parents, what Tom Brokaw calls the “greatest generation”, were the responsible parties for this whitewashing. They had lived through the Depression, lived in houses without electricity and indoor plumbing, and had won World War II. They were a tough, hardworking generation that lived at a time when you really did “eat what you killed.” And, they saw, lived in, and experienced the horrors associated with World War II. The returning service members lived in the mud and saw the blood and the death that is inherent to warfare.
Now that the war was over, the returning servicemen made bowling the second most popular indoor sport. The baby boomer generation was the result. “And by God, no kid of mine was going to experience what I did during the Depression and during the War!” Thus, television and movies were entertaining, upbeat, and bloodless. And, as a result, there were no shortage of role models for any of us young boomers.
The “greatest generation” had WWII, and the baby boomers had a country and a war called Viet Nam.
Viet Nam. The first time in our history that television reporting could be reported instantaneously. And the media, particularly television, did not pass up that opportunity. For the first time, the horrors of warfare were brought to the American public. It was dubbed the “living room” war because pictures of dead and dying enemies, dead and wounded civilians, and the carnage of war were shown up front and personal. The opportunity to show a dying American serviceman drawing his last breath while medics and doctors were frantically attempting to save him was also not wasted.
At first, Americans were appalled. But as the war lingered, and the casualties and carnage increased, the American public became “desensitized” by the whole affair. After seeing so much blood, so many bodies, and cities and towns destroyed, it just did not affect the public as did the initial onset of the war. (I quit watching television news during the Viet Nam war. I was a young Army officer not in the war, who’d lost too many friends and quit watching. I currently read newspapers and peruse news sites on the internet, and I can choose what I want to read.)
The gloves came off of our media, particularly television and movies. Nothing was off-limits. The “whitewashing” done by the media in the 50s was gone in the 70s.
We needed rating systems not only for the movies, but also for television. These ratings were to warn of: sexually explicit language, nudity, adult situations, graphic violence, and any one of numerous other reasons. So much for “whitewashing.”
Then, as technology advanced, we were subjected to computers and video games. The video games require a rating also. And one of the ratings is “not advised for people under 18.”
So here we are. With all of our technological advances we finally arrived at the “Freddy Kruger” generation. I know this is not the technical term, but it does signify that we left my Roy Rogers era and came to grips with a whole new era where the parents are not protecting their children from the crap that is now being pandered as entertainment. Now there is even a “Chain Saw Massacre” sequel. It astounds me that this stuff is both popular and profitable enough to continue with sequels.
It has also spilled into television. During my childhood, there was no lack of entertaining comedy. Now, it is difficult to find comedy that should really be seen by children. But there it is! There is no lack of blood and gore. Moreover, the plot takes a backseat to the gratuitous blood and gore.
I want to be entertained and relaxed while watching television. I do not want to see pedofilia on Criminal Minds, or 15 different ways to decompose a body on Bones. Have you seen the warnings preceding Bones? It baffles me that it can be shown during family prime time. Grandma and I quit watching both shows, because they went from educating to sensationalizing.
Now kids play video games loaded with violence.
Last weekend, a group whose objective is to clean up media, sent people to audit the violence shown in the 5 biggest box office drawing movies. Between these 5 movies, there were 185 incidents of violence, with many of them being murder. Apparently, this is what sells, and this is what the public wants.
My heroes used a six-shooter to bring the bad guys to justice. The modern protagonists (not heroes, by my standards) use a sixty shooter to eliminate the bad guys. Every person appears to have an assault rifle. My heroes were intelligent and attempted to minimize harm to everyone, including the villians. The modern protagonist is idolized for his strength and weaponry, and ability to cause mass destruction and carnage. In retrospect, I realize my heroes were actors playing a part. The characters being portrayed were good. In my young mind, they were real. I wanted to emulate them.
Who are the role models today? Cartoons do not qualify as a role model. Can you think of five people who are providing our youth with positive role models from the media? Someone a child can look up to and say,” I want to be like him.” And you would be proud.
The current crop movie and TV producers, as well as the video game makers, claim that they are in no way responsible for any of these mass killings. They may not be the “reapers” of their products, but common sense tells me that they have “sown” the seeds of heinous crimes with their products. When young, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. My heroes were real to me. Some people do not mature past that level. They may be unbalanced. They are provided with many media “field manuals” to violent behavior. Our children have been desensitized by all the blood, gore, violence and killing from which they have been exposed. And as long as we, the public, keep buying it, they will continue to make it.
During the 50s, a school yard fight usually entailed two fifth-graders slugging it out. The damage done by these fisticuffs was minimal. It was just the way all disagreements were settled. In Medieval warfare, one combatant stood face to face with his foe.
Both of these scenarios have one thing in common; both combatants were within arms’ reach.
It takes a lot of “guts” to stand in a fist fight and fight within arms’ reach of your opponent. It takes a coward to gun down and murder unarmed, defenseless people.
I wondered why the Colorado theater shooter was not shot during his spree? The answer is that he picked a theater that did not allow guns. He passed two theaters that did allow guns to get to the theater that did not allow guns. Thus he was unmolested during his killing spree. If there were three or four guns in the theater, there would surely have been fewer innocent victims, and possibly one shooter victim. The coward went to a theater where he would be unmolested while committing his heinous act. (His trial has been delayed, because his attorneys are not prepared to enter a plea. Three hundred witnesses, and he has not stood trial.)
Do you think the Fort Hood psychiatrist would have had a chance if any of his soldier victims had their weapons? You can surmise that there may have been two or three victims, and he surely would have been one of them. But this coward also chose to shoot people who could not retaliate. His trial has not begun, even though the crime took place over a year ago.
It appears the Sandy Hook elementary school shooter was mentally unbalanced. His crime was the most vile and heinous of any, as he targeted elementary school children. Unfortunately, this is the crime that is causing knee jerk reactions in cities, in states, and in Washington D.C. Enough bad legislation cannot be written and passed quickly enough by our politicians. All of this done to convince their voting public that they are on top of the current situation.
These cowards would not have done their deeds, had they not thought they could get away with doing so.
And our media? They have provided these surviving killers, and any future copycats with more press coverage and television time than they could ever had hoped, yet they cleanse themselves of any responsibility.