By Bill Fletcher, Jr., NNPA Columnist
I used to play video games. I would play various video games, including those involving warfare and shooting. I would take pride if I could get my score up. I was thrilled when I was not ambushed. I would walk away and think very little more about it. The one thing about them, however, is that no one got killed.
Particularly in the case of young men, we have grown up playing “war,” or enjoying video games. In each case, no one dies. If we are playing “war” and someone is “killed,” they may need to sit out the rest of the game, go home and then we see them again the following day. In other words, there is no way to appreciate the consequences of the bullet in the games that we play.
I have found myself thinking about this as reports of escalating gun violence between African Americans spreads across the media. Some people have used this in order to avoid dis-cussing police lynchings of African Americans, as if Black-on-Black murder somehow should neutralize any discussion of police killings of Blacks. But that is not the point of this column.
There is a finality to death that I have come to believe that most young people do not appreciate.
That finality is masked by games of “war,” video games, movies and television shows that, all too often, promote glory, honor and courage, but rarely, to paraphrase the words of General George S. Patton, display the goo, which only a few minutes earlier had been the face of your best friend, now shattered by a bullet.
While there are those who believe that this problem will be terminated through stronger gun control laws, I believe that that is only one part of the answer. The deeper answer rests with an approach toward community organizing that seems to have largely eluded us. The National Rifle Association is correct, to that extent, when it says that guns do not kill people; people kill people. But at the same time, easy access to guns, lack of discipline, and a failure to appreciate the finality of death link together in what appears to be an unbreakable chain. To break it we must address the factors that lead anyone to believe that pulling that trigger will resolve a problem, restore honor, or bring about dignity.
To all of these, of course, there is a very fundamental problem of frustration that flows from the depressed conditions in which Black America finds itself. Lack of opportunity, the feeling of being trapped like a rat in a labyrinth, all contribute to a situation out of which there appears no escape. In order to address this crisis, what Deborah Prothrow-Stith has called a “public health crisis,” we need to start thinking outside of the box.
Perhaps we need to engage in mass community education about safe gun usage, including the various ramifications that arise from shooting. Perhaps we need to develop martial arts pro-grams on a significant scale that orient our youth towards ways of channeling aggression, but equally ways of handling conflict. Perhaps we need to build real movements for quality jobs to put young people to work in a way that they are part of constructing the future, rather than terminating it.
And more than anything else, we cannot afford to lose hope.