The 26 murders at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday have triggered yet another nationwide debate over how something so horrific could happen in the United States.
We’ve seen similar discussions after other mass killings, but usually they are forgotten in a matter of weeks. Perhaps the Newtown massacre, with its sheer number of dead and the heartbreakingly young age of most of the victims, will prove to be different.
In the immediate aftermath of the atrocity, most are still focused on the adequacy of gun control measures and the attention paid to the special threats posed by the mentally ill. And these concerns are obviously on point.
Yet far too little attention is being paid to the steady diet of violence and depravity – including depictions and even celebrations of murder, torture, dismemberment and rape – being served up to our young people in movies, song lyrics, video games and of course on the Internet.
While more details about the Newtown killer, Adam Lanza, are sure to become known in the days ahead, we already know he spent an inordinate amount of time behind closed doors playing violent Internet games.
Understandably, as a nation that revels in free speech we tend to be reluctant to dwell on these matters, but a clearer understanding of the long-term effects of this kind of exposure would seem to be crucial in understanding and possibly preventing such unthinkable violence.
In the meantime, we join our fellow Americans and indeed the rest of the world in expressing our deepest sorrow and sympathy to the families and friends of the children and teachers whose lives were so senselessly ended last week.