As a young child no more than seven years old, I went gift shopping with my mother in a department store named McCrory’s. The title, Psychological Seduction, comes from those memories. As I walked down aisles filled with toys, I was seduced by an M16 toy machine gun like the ones I had seen being used by soldiers in movies about the Vietnam War. I pleaded with my mother to purchase the toy gun, yet she had the sense to refuse. What could have gotten into my young mind to seduce me into wanting such an object?
To better understand this topic, let’s consider a 34-year-old man, five feet eleven inches tall, who has a chronic shortage of breath, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and is susceptible to a heart attack at any time. He is obviously an unhealthy person and must change his physical diet; his body’s vital alarm system has warned him. Forming a parallel to this example are the hundreds of thousands of young men and women who have been victims of gun violence in wars, in our inner cities, and in our suburban communities, along with the United States having the highest rate of incarceration in the world. This country is unhealthy and must soon take the necessary steps to change the mental diet; our social conditions’ alarm has warned us that our way of living is unhealthy.
Analyzing the problem that confronts us, one can easily conclude that it is a simple math problem: basic arithmetic. What we ingest into our minds affects us in a negative or positive way, just as the food we ingest affects our bodies. We are a reflection of what we consume, both mentally and physically. The primary cause for our seduction by guns and violence is our mental diet, what we feed into our minds. And just as the physical body begins to suffer from an unhealthy diet, so do our social conditions suffer from an unhealthy mental diet.
In the last 40 years, the images seen on television and the big screen, and the songs played on our radios, have been nurturing violence. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, we witnessed a spike in the violence broadcasted on television where even the programs that were geared toward children became agents of violence. Programs such as Fat Albert, Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons, and The Jackson 5ive were replaced with violent programs such as G.I. Joe, He-Man, ThunderCats, and Transformers, which enticed young minds to want guns and violence. Even naïve programs with innocent-appearing characters like Tom and Jerry, Woody Woodpecker, and Bugs Bunny all displayed acts of violence where someone or something would eventually become damaged or hurt.
An example of this type of psychological seduction is the following. In the 1980s, the afternoon cinema would broadcast Chinese movies in the Red Hook housing project complex in Brooklyn, New York, where I grew up. Children would rush indoors to watch enticing acts of kung fu that kept our eyes glued to the screen. After the movie, most of us were eager and ready to try out the karate moves we had just witnessed; we all became ninjas and samurai. Young minds are seduced to recreate the images of violence portrayed in movies, though often with more consequence.
I am currently incarcerated for an event in which a scene from the popular movie Lethal Weapon 3 (released in the early 1990s) was imitated. This movie showcases the actor Mel Gibson simultaneously firing two guns at his foes. This act of bravado looks good on the big screen. It is actually reckless and irrational in real life, however, to try to simultaneously fire and control two high-powered weapons. Tragically, in my case, while I was engaged in a shootout around noon on a busy thoroughfare in the Red Hook housing complex, one of my co-defendants attempted to recreate Mel Gibson’s heroics handling two guns, which left an innocent bystander, school principal Patrick Daly, shot dead by a stray bullet.
As a result of the violent images and messages fed into our minds on television, the movies, and radio during the early 1980s and right up to this very day, our communities have literally become a re-creation of battle fields. This has left millions dead or incarcerated because of violent crimes.
While this has been taking place in our inner cities, the country’s culture of racism and discrimination toward ethnic groups and class has desensitized whites and the middle class to the ills of our violent culture. Lately, however, as this social illness has begun to spread toward suburban communities (i.e. Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, District of Columbia), white middle-class America has begun to feel the ill effect of this unhealthy culture themselves, in which we all have become fat and full of violent thoughts and persuasions. In effect, we all have become criminals, contributors, and enablers as well as victims to the cycle of violence.
Need I say that the entertainment industry, the National Rifle Association, the government, corporations, parents, our peers, and ourselves are all accessories to the crime of consumption? Our diet of violent images and messages being fed to us through television, movies, and radio is killing our kids. To understand the mechanics of this violent culture and still sit back and do nothing, while continuing to feed violent images to ourselves and our children, has made the country a population of perpetrators.