Monday January 21, 2013

WILLIAMSTOWN

Let’s have a week of reduced violence on television, more specifically let’s say that no one will be shot on television between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., December 8-14, 2013 and annually thereafter. Call it Sandy Hook Week.

I have no stomach to conduct the survey to see how many people die on the small screen between those hours in a typical week -- all those police shows and war movies that go for the simple solution: a bullet or bullets. Perhaps the entertainment industry is not directly related to the arms industry, yet it certainly supports the sale and use of weapons as if it were made up exclusively of card-carrying National Rifle Association members.

Let’s give the writers, actors and producers the creative challenge of coming up with shows that don’t either begin or end with someone taking a bullet. There’s time to plan ahead. We know they can do it.

Tarring the "entertainment" industry is not to say that weapons purveyors should be let off the hook, of course. Rather Sandy Hook Week would be the culmination of a year in which we devoutly hope considerable action will be taken at the national and state level to limit the kinds of weapons and ammunition sold to those is appropriate to a peaceful public.

The shooter killed 20 students and six adults at the elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, as no one can have yet forgotten. Less than six months before, in July, 12 were shot in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. In January 2011 six people were killed and 12 injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in Tucson, Arizona. Three incidents in 2009 took a total of 36 lives. The Virginia Tech shootings took 32 in 2007. Two students shot up Columbine high school in 1999. Twenty-three were killed in a cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, in 1991. The list goes on.

Sadly, using Sandy as the hook for this special week is arbitrary. It is simply the most recent in an established pattern: some unstable person has access to a weapon he should not have. He fires upon a group of people most of whom he does not know who are collected for a peaceful purpose.

Let us call it Sandy Hook Week, however, because this pattern has gone on too long; because we are determined now, finally, at long last, to reduce the chances of it happening again. What better way to spread the message than to alter radically the nature of early evening television? It doesn’t matter whether anyone can prove that what people watch on television -- or in the movies or on the football field, for that matter -- affects their behavior. Sandy Hook Week is an attempt to show that such behavior is not the norm; that real problems require real and complicated solutions that bullets can not deliver.

We can imagine that a "tame" week of television could only have a sobering effect on this nation, an annual reminder of those lessons that an elementary school student should be allowed time to learn: how to get along with himself and others.

At least, that’s how it looks from the White Oaks.

A writer and environmentalist, Lauren R. Stevens is a regular Eagle contributor.