Bowling For Columbine
An email came to KPBX-FM, the public radio station that carries my film reviews and my weekly critics' show 'Movies 101,' attacking our discussion of "Bowling For Columbine." "Sir:" it said. "I could not believe the lambasting you three did to the NRA and Charlton Heston. Do you think you were a little hypocritical not to mention what motivates these Columbine type incidents,or can you emotionally handle the connection between your beloved entertainment industry and kids killing kids.
"And the gun control comparison of the U.S. to Europe, birthplace to two World Wars, was just as na´ve. Hitler was a great proponent of gun control. Please stick to your movie criticism and not use your program for a left-wing pulpit unless you have the courage to admit that all the killings, cannibalism, rape, and every other kind of depravity depicted in the movies today could have some detrimental effect on children's psyches. Thank you."
It's true that I have a left-wing bias. I was brought up in a left-wing household and nothing I've seen since has persuaded me that I was misled. But I don't think the questions raised by this movie are either left-oriented or right-oriented. After all, in Canada and Europe - and most other countries - both liberals and conservatives agree that guns must not be used to shoot people, a position that Americans have not yet adopted. So I wrote back this way:
Dear Mr. ------ : Thank you for your thoughtful note. Here is what I believe: I believe that art never causes violence; that those who do violence to others and/or themselves do it as a result of much more important events, relationships, or experiences in their own lives than anything they get from art.
I believe that the Columbine suicide-killers were lost in their fantasies long before their acts, and since their own parents either did not or could not do anything to save them, a different school administration might have spotted them and gotten them the help they needed before they massacred their fellow students.
I believe that the 6-year-old in Michigan who took his uncle's gun and shot his classmate was unaware of any possible consequences that might come of his act, and if you have ever had a six-year-old you know that as well as I. But the myriad people who wrote and phoned the prosecutor to tell him to kill the boy are the ones we need to be afraid of.
I believe that Charlton Heston is a sadly deluded man to think that the ownership of a gun is a moral virtue, and not simply a possession, something like a bicycle or a Cuisinart, both of which can be dangerous if misused.
Contrary to your statement, Hitler was not a believer in gun control; he gave out guns to those who were part of his apparatus, and early on organized them into civilian patrols so that they might threaten and kill those who opposed him. That is not gun control.
America is a violent society; it kept slaves for 200 years, it oppressed minorities, it committed genocide against Indians, and only recently stopped lynching blacks and acknowledged that they have the same rights as whites. Millions of people alive today approved of the Jim Crow laws in the south. Art was not responsible for those laws.