When I was about 8 or 9 years old (1964 or 1965) I received a plastic toy sub-machine gun as a present. It was full size and it had a lever on the right side of it that you could pull back and then fire about 18 to 20 "rounds" by it making a clacking sound that was meant to resemble gunfire. A few of my friends also had plastic guns. Some of them made a "realistic" noise when fired and most did not. We were going to a small one room school house in rural Michigan and we spent many recesses pretending to be engaged in terrible and bloody battle. Even those boys who didn't have a toy gun held their hands as if they were holding a weapon and made sounds that they thought would sound like a gun shooting. All of us died and killed hundreds of times. Always under the strictest of rules of course.
On the weekends my father would give me (and my sisters) a dime allowance and I'd walk ( during the winter) or ride my bike to the small general store 1/4 mile away in New Salem, Michigan. They had many items we didn't care about (though my folks filled up from it's one gas pump in front), but it had a good selection of penny candy and most of all (for me) comic books. The comic books were obviously not supposed to be there since they had the cover torn half off, but I didn't realize what that meant then. All I knew was that I could buy one for 5 Cents and that would leave me 5 cents for a candy bar.
The comics I gravitated to were Sergeant Rock and Sergeant Fury. Bloody gory tales of combat during WWII. Heroics that I could barely imagine experiencing, but wanted to anyway. Sitting up in one of the apple trees on our farm, chewing on a Slowpoke, a giant jaw breaker or an extra big Tootsie roll, I spent days and days and days day-dreaming of war. Later in the evening I'd lay on my stomach in front of the TV, popcorn nearby and watch Vic Marrow in "Combat" or (a few years later ) Christopher George in "The Rat Patrol" and again I dreamed of war. I was still running from tree to tree to barn with my friends, hiding and shooting and killing and dying. However we all got up again after ever battle.
I was thinking of this because I saw the release of the new video game "Black Ops, Call of Duty" and how it was setting records all over the world in sales. It made me wonder how long it was going to be until some kid watching it takes a real gun in their hands and kills someone and then claim that they did so from playing the game. A short while ago a young man in Ohio strangled his little brother to death and claimed that he wanted to do it because of watching the TV show "Dexter". Whenever there is a school shooting like in Columbine or Paducah or Jonesboro, it seems as if all of the experts rush in front of a microphone and TV camera and proclaim that it's the violence that we are raising our children in that is to blame. The only problem I have with that idea is that the violence permets every generation and every generation could look at violent influences as an excuse. Perhaps even a cop out.
In my day I was surrounded by as much violence as the media could throw at me at the time, but I never killed anyone. In parts of my childhood I witnessed horrible violence personally, but I don't beat my wife and never beat my children. It leads me to wonder, how much influence does outside forces have on a child? How much of it is inborn? Is it a combination? Is it a valid excuse for someone to point to media when they commit a horrific act or was it just bad/absent parenting? Or are they just a bad seed? A defective product?
Where does it come from?