Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, April 28, 1999

Culture ‘Doom’ed
to violence

I wasn't a very bright kid. When I was about 4 or 5, my dad said he was going to "Sears Roebuck's." I thought he said, "Sears Robots." My older brother had just shown me some scary comics about robots, which ripped human beings limb from limb. We didn't have violent cartoons in those days, so we had to get our kid-violence fix through comics. And the robot comics were doozies, especially with a mischievous big brother laying on the death and destruction extra thick.

So when my dad said he was going to "Sears Robots," I thought he was going out to do battle with evil machines, and not the kind found in the Sears appliance aisle.

The way I cried and carried on, hanging on to my dad's pant-leg as he tried to get out of the door, was a real surprise to my parents.

"What's gotten into him?" my dad must have thought as he pried me from his shoe. "I'm just going to Sears, for chrissakes."

In another case of mistaken verbal identity, the first time I heard someone say, Americans have the right to "bear arms," I thought it meant "bear" as in grizzly bear. And I thought, why would people want "bear arms?" I pictured some guy with big bushy arms clawing at the air.

Eventually, I figured out that that Sears was not a robot hangout and that bearing arms referred to carrying or owning guns. I think I was in college by then. I told you I wasn't too bright.

Anyway, the memories of comic robots and the arms of bears came back to me after the shooting and bombing tragedy in Colorado.

Everyone is using the tragedy to bolster their own personal political agendas, whether it be guns, murderous music lyrics, homicide-heavy movies, church 'n' state, school prayer, felony fashion, vigilante vegetarianism or global warming.

Gun owners and the National Rifle Association are the usual scapegoats after tragic incidents such as the Littleton massacre. And they are getting a lot of heat this time, too.

But this time people also are blaming the influence of violent, shoot-em-up computer games like "Doom" for the violence. These are the games where the player, armed with everything from shotguns to lasers, blasts away at everything from humans to monster robots.

Critics say these games desensitize our children to blood and gore. One talking head on TV actually said the reason the Littleton killers were so accurate with their weapons was because they had trained on computer games, which are like shooting simulators.

So I wasted no time in harassing a friend of mine who plays Doom and other blood-and-guts games.

She messaged me: "Gun games don't kill people. People kill people."

That's exactly what the so-called gun nuts used to say: Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

Now we have a new generation of people who would never think of owning a gun or even having a gun in the house, defending their right to play violent computer games. I half expect the next message from my friend to be: "You can have my computer mouse when you pry it from my cold, dead hands."

I'm still not very bright. But even I can see we have become addicted to a culture of violence that is expressed in everything from "comic" book robots to computer "games" to middle-American high school campuses.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

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