Sunday, January 21, 2007


A Harvest of Violence: We Reap What We Sow

(published by The Salt Lake Tribune Jan. 21, 2007)

During my childhood years, I often heard the old adage “tragedies come in threes.” Because it was sometimes true, a single tragic occurrence would cause me to wonder when the next shoe or two might drop. I stopped thinking that way many years ago, but a series of three tragedies this past fall brought it to mind again.

On September 26th in Bailey, Colorado, an armed fifty-three year old man entered the local high school, sexually assaulted six young female hostages, murdered one, and then committed suicide.

Three days later, a fifteen year old student in Cazenovia, Wisconsin, entered the local high school with two firearms. He shot and killed the school principal.

Four days later, a thirty-two year old husband and father of three entered the Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, locked-down ten young girls and prepared to sexually molest or rape them. Local authorities arrived before the sexual attacks were carried out. The gunmen shot all ten hostages at point-blank range. Five died at the scene. The gunman committed suicide.

This week of unthinkable violence and sexual perversion also brought to mind another old adage from my childhood: “we reap what we sow.”

If you fail to see the connection, let me remind you of what has been planted in the minds of too many Americans over the course of the last forty years or so. All you need to do is turn on your television, radio, or electronic game machine. If that’s not evidence enough, access the internet or go see a movie.

If you prefer to skip the research, I’ll remind you of a few examples of the “progress” in entertainment we’ve experienced in my lifetime. On TV we’ve gone from “Leave it to Beaver” to “Sex and the City,” and on radio from “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to “Can U Control Yo Hoe.” Video games have progressed from “Pong” to “God of War,” and sleazy, obscure porno shops are now only a mouse click away.

The producers and distributors of this “entertainment” are quick to claim there is no proven link between watching violence and acting violent or watching sexual perversion and seeking it out. I think they are wrong. While it can’t be proven in a court of law, it certainly can be proven in the court of common sense. Anything that enters our minds can leave a permanent trail whether we want it to or not.

Promiscuity and violence are not the only damaging outcomes. Even those who control sexual appetites and refrain from violence pay a steep personal price for exposure to violence and perversion. It can’t be good to have violent and promiscuous images burned into our memory cells. It’s a total waste of mental capacity and energy to have a portion of our mind processing such things while another portion works overtime to suppress and control them.

I realize this is a difficult, multi-faceted problem, and evil people will emerge from any environment. But there is one thing many of us could do that would certainly have a significant impact in the long run. And it’s simple. Just stop consuming the trash that passes for entertainment. Don’t turn it on, don’t buy it and don’t teach your children the meaning of hypocrisy by consuming it yourself while preaching avoidance to them.

If we continue to consume it, media companies will continue to produce it, and the law of the harvest will certainly apply. There is no way around it. We will “reap what we sow.”

If we hope for better harvests ahead, the planting season should begin with an honest look in the mirror.

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