Crime and Punishment – Taking Responsibility

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Aurora Theater Massacre

Reeling from the news of the Aurora Massacre, I found myself (a defensive tactics professional) being intruded upon to take sides in the passionate debate of whether or not a gun ban versus carrying a gun would make us safer.

My response is: both sides make valid arguments. However, I must point out that the shooter in Aurora could just as easily have accomplished the same evil ends by driving his car through a crowded intersection or open-air shopping mall. The shooter could have made use of a bomb, since he had the wherewithal to booby-trap his apartment with homemade explosives in an attempt to ambush the police. The mass carnage at the hands of another infamous madman, Timothy McVeigh took place on a secure facility without the use of a gun, where he indiscriminately killed many, including children. When pointing this reality out to the side-takers, I found myself suddenly accused of supporting the anti-gun side and told to ask myself, “If you were one of the 50 or more who were wounded or one of the hundreds who feared for their lives in that “Gun Free Zone” theater wouldn’t you have preferred someone or everyone to have had a gun? If more people were armed, someone might have been able to stop the killer.” Of course that would have been better, they insist!

I agree, that 20-20 hindsight is ones first natural inclination. I personally would prefer to be armed in an armed confrontation. However, a strong counterpoint to that line of thinking is that while someone having a gun could have made a difference, the fact the theater in question was filled with smoke from tear gas, and the shooter was in body armor were factors to be considered. In the mass confusion and chaos, I put it to my accusers that, “A crossfire between multiple armed and panicked citizens could have erupted if everyone was armed; It doesn’t appear that the solution is that we should all carry a gun. Isn’t it equally conceivable a well-intentioned-but-armed-citizen may have caused the death of a fleeing civilian rather than the mad man?

Without question there exists many real world examples that are readily available for everyone to see on the Internet supporting each popular belief. Emotionally charged appeals are made on both sides. Although, those doing this while hawking gun sales appear to be nothing short of inconsiderate opportunists exploiting the situation for their own benefit. They do more harm than good in winning anyone over to their side. Their only saving grace is there is definitely some truth to the fact that when you have an armed, trained, responsible citizen in a public place EVERYONE IS PERCEIVED TO BE SAFER. That such murderous rampages as those that have occurred countless times in “Gun Free Zones” just don’t result this way when someone is armed. It is this same line of thinking that is reflected in our “mutually assured destruction” (MAD), national security policy perceived responsible for averting the superpowers from entertaining the use of weapons of mass destruction. However, this strategy has its Achilles heel since it only works when we are not dealing with the deranged extremist, one who does not value his own life, let alone anyone else’s.

Further, the counter point being raised by those favoring a gun ban is that a reported 82% of all fatalities that occur in the commission of a crime are a result of the victim initiating an attack, “fighting back.” My answer to that statement with anti-gun proponents waving that number around as a battle cry, is how did they arrive at that number? Statics can be manipulated and my experience has been, when used in this manner this generally turns out to be the case.

Both Pro and Anti Gun Law proponents are cognizant of an observable truth, perhaps best said by the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu: “To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” I interpret this to mean it is not the weapons of war that must be defeated but the mindset, the inclination to harm. This is a new, conflict avoidance way of thinking by the way. We must investigate and address the element that motivates a person to commit a heinous act of violence, to avert an attack.

I suggest we have to accept the fact we are our brothers keepers, and we all pay a high price as a society for ignoring our obligations to watch out for each other. We must replace indifference and indignation with genuine concern when dealing with issues of providing assistance to the mentally ill or those displaying self-destructive behavior. Be kind and compassionate and generous. Be proactive. Remove the motive to harm others, which can only be done by us being engaged with those around us and paying attention. Do another’s words correspond with their actions or announced intent?

It has been suggested that the solution to our current social problems is for us as a society to look to the lessons of the past. Perhaps we can eliminate the majority of our social problems by embracing and mimicking that bygone era when we encouraged and rewarded modesty, and had a desire to follow a code of social mores. Maybe we can return to a time where we possessed foresight and displayed a steadfast willingness to readily identify and correct real social issues, a desire to nip a problem in the bud before blossoming. We long for a seemingly happier time, that belonged to the generation that shunned gratuitous violence, felons and anti-social behavior, where our nations youth was protected from smut peddlers and thus still in possession of their innocence, an innocence preferred, not something of which to be ashamed. Smug bullies and drug addicts were not held up as someone to be idolized, but avoided. Family values, good manners, personal hygiene and consideration for others prevailed, first and foremost. Our educators placing as great an emphasis on teaching civic affairs, proper social etiquette, as science and mathematics. Now missing from today’s school curriculum.

There is no arguing with the fact that past generations appeared better off, happier and certainly not as fearful. There exist no sensational incidents where they were subjected to these terrible acts of domestic terrorism now reoccurring with regularity on large and small scales. The lesson of savagery of Hitler and the holocaust made an indelible imprint on that a generation of returning veterans, who were dictated to a no-nonsense approach and zero tolerance for those intolerant of others. This is the antithesis of what we find acceptable today. Intolerance often passes for entertainment.

You have to be out of touch with reality to begin to doubt imagery and words cannot influence an individual or societies perception and behavior, in short order. The infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels being so masterful at it that he paved the way for unspeakable atrocities to be committed and readily accepted as the “noble” duty of a German soldier and citizen; Nazi crimes against humanity make even the horror of Aurora pale in comparison. The power of mass media to influence others is how it has come to pass. Park Avenue Advertising firms are entrusted to manage more cash than the GNP of some foreign powers.

Fully aware of the media’s power to influence others, some spirited speculative newscasters took issue with Rush Limbaugh when word of the shooting was broadcast. They inferred that Rush was responsible for having worked the shooter up into frenzy with political charged comments asserting that the newest Batman film is part of a left wing Hollywood plot; The film’s villian (Bane), Limbaugh asserted is deliberately named after the investment firm managed by Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney (Bain). The name of course is twenty years old and the project began before Romney became the Republican Party’s official candidate. John Stewart of the Daily Show took issue with a newscaster attempting to paint the picture of the shooter as a Tea Party extremist solely based upon the newscaster visiting what he assumed was the shooter’s Facebook page. Rush offered no apology. The reality is that the news is offering up speculation and spin, feeding the frenzy that follows. This raises the question: Is the mass media fixation on violence ultimately to blame for Aurora? Columbine? Oklahoma City? In as much as they are being perceived as the cause of the erosion of social inhibition, deemed responsible for runaway violence in our society as is being alleged by members of its own industry, is the media really the problem?

The visible truth is we ultimately determine the product the media provides for us. The drug of choice is sensationalism that’s side effect is the chipping away of the national social conscious, desensitizing us, as a people. With our remotes we flip channels seeking and longing for more sensational scandal and human carnage. They are the drug dealer and we are their junkies. Perhaps, foreign governments facing the same dilemma see themselves in the role of intervener, since they rein in their news media and state the reason for doing to establish a clear, visible correlation exists between how the evening news is delivered in the USA and the reported number of violent occurrences that seem to follow a report. Of course, these reports are often accompanied with a spikes in sales and an increase in viewer-share. In this way, fear is allowed to drive consumerism when advertising agencies determine the budgets of news broadcasters.
I recall when the media’s role with regard to increased violence was raised twenty years ago, and the hypocrisy of spokespersons defending mass media’s lack of accountability seemed to be lost on the audience. The representative willing to admit they are able to manipulate consumers to purchase products and influence the outcome of an election while turning right around and claiming that there exists no statistical data to support the notion that impressionable children and young adults viewing violent films, video games and music, all glorifying violence (that is made more palatable by the News reports) will only serve to produce a more violent society. To say that no scientific evidence exists by which to indicate their programming influences social behavior and tendencies is patently false. Regardless, behaviorists point out that the moral decay of the fabric of a society leads to predictable increases in the proportion of the number of individuals engaging in self-destructive behavior (i.e. drugs, prostitution, gambling) as well as anti-social behavior (e.g. random and well thought out acts of violence). Ergo is Aurora, Columbine, Oklahoma City, etc., the missing evidence of the generation whose welfare was being debated?

Catering to fear, sex and violence is in the best interests of news networks and their advertisers, since these elements have been identified as responsible for increased consumerism. This may explain away why News programming in the USA differs from Canadian programming or government sponsored BBC, as the later visibly educate rather than titillate its audiences. Whereby, we see Canadian citizens have the same access to firearms but the number of shooting incidents differs from the USA, dramatically, on a per capita basis. Almost nonexistent, in comparison, is an observation made and presented in the documentary expose “Bowling For Columbine” by Michael Moore. Here, Moore suggested our media is responsible, and that averting future Columbines requires scaling-back the omnipresent violence.

While it is convenient to point an accusing finger at the media or our society or the availability of firearms, as long as there exists free will AND indifference, the next Aurora is bound to happen in our community, or in our home if we don’t learn to love and treat each other the way we wish to be treated. Controlling others behavior through fear is limited; whereas, being devoted to an ideal to care for one another is not; and the more of us that live by this example, the sooner we can redirect others back onto a path that serves social harmony.

There was a young man who rode a train where a stranger appeared in tattered clothes screaming at all on board. With his ego getting the better of him the young man stepped forward ready to do battle with the stranger, when an old man interceded. The old man smiled and began to treat the angry stranger with kindness, no matter how rude and offensive or threatening the stranger was. Time passed slowly and then the young man began to weep, ashamed of his indifference and bloodlust. Realizing that standing in front of him was nothing more than a shell of a man sobbing over the loss of his wife and daughter, unable to deal with his grief. He had no one to comfort him as his friends and family turned their backs on him, blaming him, for the untimely deaths, for which the old man had blamed himself, though undeserved. Curling up like a child in a fetus position the pistol he clutched under his coat and out of sight, perhaps ready to kill all on board so he himself could be killed, fell to floor. The young man gasped and took his gun. He was about to runaway when he stopped and without being asked he carried that wretched man to the old man’s home. There, he visited him regularly until one day he came to discover the man was gone, now healthy and spry. I knew this young impertinent man well… he is me… He is all of us when we find our compassion.

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Frank Dux About Frank Dux

Frank W. Dux is a martial artist, fight choreographer, film producer and more. Dux established his own school of Ninjutsu in 1975, called "Dux Ryu Ninjitsu". He was the inspiration for the 1988 film Bloodsport starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.