I rub the sleep out of my eyes and check a variety of news and information sites to see if I could erase the sight of people fleeing the scene of another massacre from out of my head.
Can’t help it, though, I go down the rabbit hole of requisite “history of gun-related incidents,” “general discharge often means a red flag” and “he was a great guy, a party guy. I can’t believe it” mixed messages in the wake of Aaron Alexis’s murderous spree in the Washington Navy Yard yesterday.
There will be more time for that today, I think. Let’s go to sports. At least the hyperventilating here will center on things that, in the grand scheme, mean nothing. Why can’t Eli Manning beat his brother? Are the 0-2 Giants done? Have the Mets been kicked out of the majors? Just a little time inside the toy box.
As my eyes begin to scroll, the banner ad on espn.com looks innocent enough — bikinied Kate Upton-ish cartoon hottie in a city/beach/boardwalk spot, flashing the “V for victory” sign as she takes a selfie. Oh, awesome — "Grand Theft Auto V" is out. Note to self: Make list of rebuttals for when the boys ask for the game.
Okay, scroll down … who won, who lost, who got busted …
Sonofabitch! Another panel ad for the new video game, only this one features the visage of a rough-looking cat staring me defiantly in the eye. I look at his tattoos, the dotted line around his neck, with the words “cut here” just below it.
I know that I am the enemy (well, not the enemy, but an enemy). I am totally cool with being uncool, especially to my kids, because I am totally cool telling them — and their friends — that it’s not okay to spend their free hours slaughtering people on the screen.
I spent years with my brothers and our friends playing “cops and robbers,” turning sticks into guns and lobbing “grenades” (pine cones) into hiding places to flush out the bad guys. I get that kids are hardwired to make the whirring sounds of helicopters and machine guns, that they’ll spend hours in emphatic “got-you-did-not-did-too!” debate. I also get that the game then morphs quickly into capture the flag, Wiffle ball, driveway hoops or a raid on the kitchen.
But it’s hard to compete with ceaseless murder from a chair, on a screen “stained” with fake blood, with Mountain Dew, Cheez Doodles and Yodels next to the “automatic weapon” button.
I also know I sound like a scold, like an out-of-touch, almost-52-year-old guy who’s supposed to make today’s message less “We don’t buy those games. Murder is wrong — particularly this ghoulish, cartoonish version" and more “Well, guys, it’ s your money, but Mom and I hope that you make good decisions when you get to GameStop.”
I will not dive into the nurture/nature aspect of deranged murderers. I will not make this about the NRA. I won’t wonder if the House was thrilled to have a day off yesterday. I never will make this about free speech. I won’t make it about the infinitesimal likelihood that kids — and adults — who play violent video games turn into murderous lunatics.
But I will make it about the assumable risk that the geniuses behind “Grand Theft Auto V” and other “must-have” games gleefully live with, and I will make it about common sense, about better options for parents who are afraid to simply say “no” to their children. I will make it about how desensitized we are to homicide, real or virtual.
Most importantly, I will most definitely make it about my newest hero, Dr. Janis Orlowski, Chief Medical Officer of Medstar Washington Hospital Center:
“You see what I call senseless trauma. There is something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work and try to eradicate. I may see this every day, I may be the Chief Medical Officer of a very large trauma center, but there is something wrong here, and the only thing that I can say is that we have to work together to get rid of it … I want you to put my trauma center out of business, I would not like to be an expert on gunshots.”
That simple, daring and passionate request came yesterday, from someone trained to be the most dispassionate in times of mayhem.
That was must-see TV. That is a grand notion. The rest is up to us.