Shooting at Virginia Tech: As American as Apple Pie

by Tommi Avicolli Mecca on April 18, 2007

Tragedies such as the recent one at Virginia Tech University have become as American as apple pie. When the gun fire cleared, there may have been more dead bodies on the campus near the Blue Ridge Mountains than at Columbine or Red Lake High, but the lesson is the same: We are a country where people resolve their conflicts with the loaded barrel of a gun.

No attempt to spin this as the work of a loner South Korean national, i.e., an outsider, will change the fact that as a culture we encourage violence with every Hollywood flick or kid’s video game that glorifies the exploits of “heroes” who wipe out everything in their path in order to defeat evil and win the pretty girl.

People can demand iron fences around our campuses with weapons checks at the gate or a ban on foreign students, but until we address the ease with which people can buy guns, nothing will change. In Virginia where the latest slaughter occurred, one doesn’t need a permit to buy or own a gun. There’s no requirement to register it either. A child over 12 can legally purchase a rifle or a shotgun, though those under 18 need parental permission to own a handgun or assault weapon. There’s no restriction on owning or selling military-style semiautomatics. It’s all very scary.

By middle school, a kid in this country has watched at least 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on TV. Much of it is in children’s programming. Parents wouldn’t let their children watch that much sex, or any sex at all, yet they allow them to sit in front of the television and be barraged by images of brutality. Or play video games where the goal is to slaughter as many “bad guys” (human or alien) as possible. It’s not an exaggeration to say that kids probably zap billions of living beings in video games each year.

What message does it send? Impressionable minds get it: Violence is justified if you’re the good guy. And we all think of ourselves as the good guys. How often does TV or Hollywood feature a Gandhi-type protagonist who wins without blowing out the brains of every human being within a fifty mile radius? Conflict resolution is for sissies.

In our shoot-them-up, bang-bang culture, a script with a leading man who’s not packing iron would end up in the circular file before you could say “Rocky rules.” Face it, we like our heroes and our politicians to shoot first and ask questions later.

That’s why conservative columnist Ann Coulter called presidential hopeful John Edwards a fag. It had nothing to do with his sexual orientation. She was accusing him of lacking cojones. George Bush and company, on the other hand, are right-wing icons because they live by the Wild West mentality. If you want oil to feed the nation’s gas guzzlers and someone else has it, simply go get it. That’s why we have more weapons of mass destruction than any other nation on Earth.

Might makes right: The message isn’t lost on the young.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical, southern Italian, working-class atheist, queer performer, and writer whose work can be seen at

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