Sunday, July 22, 2012


 He dressed up in full battle gear, painted his hair red, chose a name of an enemy in keeping with the theme of the night and carried four weapons and some tear gas canisters.  All of this in preparation to assault a theater full of patrons waiting to be entertained by the third part of a violent and dark trilogy which has made billions for its producers.

     It is impossible to ignore the similarities, even if just in color scheme, between the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and those at Columbine High School.  Young white males, dressed in black, randomly targeting victims, described as loners or quiet and unassuming who had never been in trouble before, choosing a setting where the victims are sitting ducks.  It is impossible to ignore the similarities, it is also impossible to avoid the questions this new shooting, and the one many years ago, raise about us and the nature of American culture.

     Batman: The Dark Night Rises, will make hundreds of millions of dollars as a big summer blockbuster.  It follows on the heels of Spiderman and the Avengers, which also have been rewarded with huge box office receipts.  These come just after the end of the Twilight Saga and the huge success of the first part of the Hunger Games.  Oh, and don't forget the success and excitement generated by the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Is there a central theme which runs through all of these cultural benchmarks?  Besides being huge vehicles for entertainment, what else do they have in common?

     Michael Moore asked some of these questions after Columbine.  He went a step further and observed something disquieting.  We share a common border, language and culture with our Canadian neighbors.  We are more similar than dissimilar in our two populations.  Yet, the level of gun violence in Canada isn't one-tenth what it is in the United States.  He added Britain, Scotland and Ireland...France, Germany and Belgium...Norway and Sweden and again the statistics are stark.  None of these nations experience violence on the day-to-day level we do in this country.  Why?

     Back to the question about common every one of the tent-pole movies I sighted, violence, in some cases extreme violence, is a key component.  It is taken to new heights in the Hunger Games where human sacrifice is used to entertain the masses and is the key to victory and freedom.  Even the supposed love story of the Twilight series is wrapped in a cloak of violence.  In all of these hugely successful entertainment vehicles, the message is sent and reinforced that victory over evil can only come from the use of violence.

     Moore opined it is more than just our movies.  He concluded we are bombarded with violent images and stories daily.  The very news we watch or listen to is structured so whatever bleeds...leads.  The nightly news is a daily body count on a city, county, state and national scale.  We are a nation saturated and inundated with violence and with the notion it is the way to solve our problems.  Even our games, the most popular being violent war-making devices, signal an acceptance of human carnage as part of living in this environment.

     Violence, by one human to another, as a means of problem solving has been raised to the level of a sacrament in this country.  How else do you explain the proliferation of laws making it legal to carry a concealed weapon?  There are states where proponents of such laws want them to apply on college campuses and in church.  Our national past time is no longer the bucolic and pastoral sport of baseball.  This sport, where the goal is to get "home", has been supplanted in revenue and interest by a sport where terms of war are commonplace.  Football is so popular, and its players lifted to heroic status, that even though they know it can carry an early death sentence, they still play and we watch at unprecedented levels.  (Just recently, Pittsburg Steelers safety Troy Palimalu admitted he lied about concussions he received in order to stay in the game and he is called courageous.  Would Junior Seau agree?)

     The "good guys" of American culture may resist violence at first  (think of Alan Ladd in Shane, Bruce Banner who so desperately tries to stay calm and avoid violence, America, until we just had to invade Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of peace).  However, eventually they turn to violent means to achieve victory.  Even the Zen-like Karate Kid, you know wax on, wax off, culminated in a sea of violence to bring about a satisfying ending for the audience.

     Whoever this person is in Aurora, Colorado, he has grown up in a society which is culturally schizophrenic.  On the one hand we speak of God and Christianity and religion and religious values as the foundation of this nation, while at the same time worshipping at the altar of violence and conflict...inviting it into our homes on a daily basis...having parties around it on Sunday afternoons...losing sleep to be entertained by it at midnight showings and weaving it into the very fabric of our connection to each other.  It's as if we are all standing in a room up to our necks in gasoline and someone keeps handing out matches, which we gladly accept.  When things finally explode in flames, we shake our head and wonder how such a thing could happen?

     Why we are this way is for psychologists, philosophers and clergy to divine.  Why we accept this violent cultural blanket, embrace it, revel in it, even take pride in proposing violent solutions to problems, is something for social scientists to probe. (Think of those who want to arm the Syrians and want us to go to war with wants to be president of the United States and his opponent, the current occupant, thinks unmanned drone strikes, and the collateral damage they cause in human terms, will bring peace or at least stop violence against us.)

     One thing is certain.  Incidents like the one in Colorado recently, and Columbine years ago, will continue to occur and we will continue to wring our hands and gnash our teeth trying to understand the senselessness of it all without addressing the elephant in the room.  What is Einstein's definition of insanity?


  1. I've always enjoyed your talk shows, and can't wait until you launch your very own "internet" radio station. Your conversation has always stimulated many over the years and continues to do so. For this I say thank you! In regards to our most recent massacre in North America I have to ad this is a reflection of who we are and in the end some might even say it's failure of capitalism. The socio economic stress and the devastation it has placed on families in most recent years is unmasking itself. We have a long way to go before finding any peace in the world. As we continue to forge forward raping,pillaging and consuming at a rate unprecedented by man kind. I'm surprised the bottom hasn't already fallen out. Their is no Messiah to save us, we must save ourselves by believing in and trusting one another (globally). It's unfortunate so many of our youth have realized my words and have come to their end. They have seen poverty, socio political contradictions, & witnessed the cruelty of humans. I'm sadden many of our youth have come to realize this and decided to hurt so many on their way out. I'm also sad that nobody was there to teach them how to ignore the world's injustices and to live in a bubble like the majority. I wish peace and serenity for all victims. Rick - where independence allows you to sleep at night...

  2. Bernie: while your comments about violence in U.S. culture have a lot of validity, Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" film is filled with holes, as pointed out by Jason Clarke and David Hardy in their critiques of M. Moore's work.

    In "Bowling", Moore said that people in Ontario, for example, don't lock thier doors. I'm a Canadian, and I can tell you that's nonsense. However, it's true that we don't have the same proportionate level of violent crime as the U.S., as you have said.

  3. Not sure how else to message you Bernie.

    Watching 'Once Upon a Time in America' - reminds me of something you said on KGO: the days of Horatio Alger are gone.

  4. No sure how else to reach you Bernie.

    Watching 'Once Upon a Time in America'

    Reminds me of something you said on KGO: The days of Horatio Alger are gone.

    So true.

  5. there's a speech on this new HBO program called "the Newsroom" that basically reiterates everything you have written and talked about during the KGO days.

    We have a mentality issue in this country. I've always supported a level of gun control no different from what other countries have, but it seems more like the US is going to be gun-crazy for the foreseeable future regardless. One always compares 1930s Germany to the US of today...not far off..but I think the Germans were at least somewhat rational enough to overcome that psychosis. I don't know, man...maybe this country is headed to the heap with the USSR

  6. Bernie as always you hit it out of the park. Terry

  7. Lion, in my opinion the Trickle-Down Violence theory is clearly in effect here. Yet you wait until the end of your article, and then put in parentheses, what I believe should be the headline:

    ( ... and his opponent, the current occupant, [Barack Obama] thinks unmanned drone strikes, and the collateral damage they cause in human terms, will bring peace or at least stop violence against us.)

    duhh ... all the violence- police killing a man in White Plains because [ that N-----r ] refused to open his door, Trevon Martin in Florida by a man whom many defend as having acted appropriately, on and on ... and yeah, the violence in the films exacerbates the problem ... so what can we expect with a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is also the most notorious war criminal in human history? My goodness, Alex the Greay and Napoleon had boundaries. This man checks off a name at his Tuesday morning meetings with Panetta and the rest, and the man's family is wasted by a drone down the chimley like Santa Claus.

    Follow the money. WHere did this unemployed, dropping out student get over $20,000 for the automatic weapons, smoke bombs and all the other equipment, including what was used to booby-trap his apartment. Then this 'mad killer' tips off the police that his apartment is trapped !! Now why would he tell the cops that?

    Lion, YOU KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE to be entrapped by a system intent on using you as an example of what can happen to a man who speakes truth to poser, as you did on KGO as host of 'God Talk', a program which was expected to deal with Love and the Bible and presumably not tell Cheney he is full of shit and a war criminal to boot. So you got seven and a half years for that.
    This kid James Holmes is being used by very sophisticated people who know their propaganda from the study of Hermann Goering, and his mentor, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, (his name escapes me for the moment.)

    Go ahead, call me an Outrageous Conspiracy Theorist; if you do, it will be more evidence of the degree to which the mind-control has affected you who say that. You were fed that line very well by the best method actor in the White House since Johnson and Reagan ... G W Bush ... "Beware of outrageous conspiracy theories that do harm to the innocent while shielding the guilty ... " (I paraphrase.)

    It is all justified by the idea that we are getting even with Them ... Remember what THEY DID TO US on 9/11
    ... and so are you getting how important it is to keep pressing for a real forensic examination of the evidence?
    ... and who caused most of it to be trucked away before a real investigation could proceed ... and why do you suppose they did that???
    Look, I get that it is damned hard to look objectively at that one. It was the most difficult thing I ever did. It helped me to realize the distinction between Patriotism as a virtue and Nationalism as a potentially misleading concept.