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What Do School Shootings Have in Common?

February 22, 2018

Seven weeks into 2018, there have been eight shootings at US schools that have resulted in injury or death. We have not only a pandemic of the flu in America; we are in the midst of a pandemic of school shootings. We again witnessed the horror of another school shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The media airways are filled with experts in enumerable fields asserting what they believe could be the various causes of these shootings in America.

The shooters have mental health issues, an obsession with guns and all show tendencies of isolation and withdrawal from society. Another factor that enters the conversation is that most of the shooters spent enormous time playing violent video games. The psychological community is divided. Some psychologists believe there is a link and others do not.

According to a story from The Miami Herald, Nikolas Cruz, the Stoneman Douglas school shooter, played video games for up to 15 hours a day. A source who knew Cruz well said Cruz liked to play violent, shooting games.

It only seems logical that people who play violent video games that glorify murdering people, hours each day of their lives, could have a propensity to shoot real people too. For each person you shoot, you get more points. When a victim begs for their lives, and you kill them, you get more points to your score. This all seems very sick and perverse to me. Don’t we use these types of games to train our military to go into combat and kill combatants? These military trainees learn to become detached from killing and learn to do it as a necessary function. Why would young men who do this “training” every day not become detached, mechanical and aggressive?

Let’s be honest Americans. We are a disturbing country that extolls violence. Our culture reflects our passion for violence in our movies, television, music, Internet sites, and video games.

I believe these violent video games are propagating enormous violence, disrespect for human life and a sense of me against you mentality. There is nothing good that can come out of learning to play a game that rewards me for dehumanizing behavior such as shooting, striking, stabbing, blowing up, dismembering, or torturing another human being. As I go through my day I hear various people talk about their child going to their room to play these violent video games for hours. I can’t even imagine allowing this in your home. It’s not play people. It’s not just a game either. It is pure violence!

I have been a student of Thich Nhat Hanh for many years. He teaches that a critical tenant of mindfulness is reverence for all life. One of the vows made to this holy monk is called The First Mindfulness Training which is “Reverence for Life.” When you become a student, you make the vow below.

“Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

So, in my world, this statement means I cannot in any way support any violent video games because they support the act of killing in the world, in my thinking and in my way of life when I play them. How can anyone justify sitting for hours slaughtering other human beings on a screen?

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