Violence Debate Still Fixated on Knee-Jerk IssuesS

Two days from the 10th anniversary of Columbine, Salon's David Sirota writes that "our national discussion about violence hasn't yet matured past gun control and video games."

Ten years after the tragedy, Sirota says the United States' debate on violence remains rooted in easy scapegoats because the country as a whole doesn't want to take a closer look at why it is so conditioned to violence.

After each tragedy, it's the same thing. Liberals want us to wonder why gun laws let anyone access deadly weapons. Conservatives insist we question why video games supposedly turn down-to-earth kids into murderers. These queries satiate two desires. In a country that ascribes hubristic "exceptionalism" to itself and berates self-analysis as "hating America," we seek absolution via scapegoat, and so we upbraid boogeymen like firearms and Xboxes.

Among the more likely culprits, Sirota writes:

• A "winner-take-all economy." When it "tortures society, should we be shocked that a few lunatics go over the edge?" He cites reports of increasing domestic violence and extremist activity since the economic collapse of last year.

• U.S. militarism and a media culture that enables, glorifies or otherwise sanctions it.

His politics are very well left, so if you don't care for that, it may just piss you off. But the fundamental point he makes seems reasonable and apolitical to me. Games and guns are sort of pretend-cultural arguments about violence in America. No one is asking why we're dispositioned to carry it out in the first place. We're just looking at means or inspirations.

He says: "Ultimately, shouldn't we expect the deep alienation that may lead the occasional troubled kid to turn video-game fantasies into real-world terror?" That's reasonable. The game's not even a proximate cause of all this. If someone's life is so dysfunctional they spend hours in front of a screen divorced from reality, the last thing we should look at is what's on the screen.

Columbine Questions We Still Haven't Answered [Salon, thanks Kai]