As a country, we were shaken once more by another egregious outburst of terroristic violence when a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and murdered 17 people in cold blood. What followed afterwards has been a reinvigorated conversation surrounding the violent reality we are subjected to here in a country where such horrific events are common. While valid points have been made about gun laws in the United States, there’s another important factor that we need to seriously discuss when attempting to move forward from such horrendous national tragedies: We live in a culture where toxic ideas mix with feelings of alienation and glorified wanton violence.
Not long after the shooting, it was reported that the perpetrator, Nikolas Cruz, openly displayed demeaning views toward people of color throughout social media postings. In the United States, the mixing of bigoted ideas and cruel violence is nothing new. Timothy McVeigh — inspired by both the infamous white-supremacist novel “The Turner Diaries” and anger over the Waco siege in 1993 — blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City. Dylann Roof ran a website ranting about black people and Jews before he killed nine people in a 2015 shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Cruz’s actions come at a time when far-right white nationalist organizations are being emboldened to publicize and defend their views to the death.
However, white nationalism is not the only issue that we are dealing with here. In fact, extremely reactionary ideas are only a part of the problem. There lies a deeper issue. We live in a society where mounting social and economic problems in our personal lives have become a norm, where our lives and our issues are increasingly becoming disconnected from the will of the politicians in Washington D.C.
In this day and age, it is not helpful either that we are flooded with a multitude of violent images every day in the media, taking the form of movies, television shows and video games, among others. To be clear, I am not arguing that violent video games are the issue at hand. I think that is an argument that has been debunked time and time again. However, I think that there is something seriously concerning about the mixture of both social alienations in our society and constant images of violence.
This is something Islamic State radicals had capitalized on when they were at their peak. By creating images of glorified armed militants waging a bloody war against its enemies, they were able to capture the minds and hearts of some disaffected individuals in the west. They were able to entice them into travelling to Syria to fight for them or even engaging in terroristic behaviors here.
White nationalism operates similarly, enticing disaffected white people in society and feeding them an ideology that is inherently violent toward oppressed people in society. A mixture of these things, I believe, create a culture where violent expressions such as the ones seen in these horrible atrocities listed, become a normal reality.
Mixed together, we have a society that revolves around violence — not just in these acts of terrorism, but even in our own day-to-day lives. This is a culture that reinforces violent ideologies and actions. Guns are obviously a large part of the problem, but we need to look deeper to examine the kind of culture we live in too. These tragedies are symptomatic of a society that is declining before our very eyes.
Will Kang is a Medill sophomore. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.