Back to thoughts on imagination, I was stirred to resume on the subjects of violence and gratuitous violence. An Australian woman, engaged to a Minneapolis man, was recently shot by a Minneapolis policeman after she reported what she thought was a sexual assault in her alleyway. The accompanying officer said she ran up to the car window of the officer who fired his gun at her. She worked as a yoga instructor.
This brought back my graduate school years in Minneapolis. The murder rate was worse per capita than New York City. Residents held night vigils because the police couldn’t control the situation. In my building one winter night, the back door window was smashed by a burglar. A female tenant found the burglar in the laundry room and luckily fled upstairs unscathed. When the police came, they actually said, “Maybe he was cold.”
We tenants learned from each other about the neighborhood milieu while there was a lack of confidence in the police. In Minneapolis today, a foreign woman would probably still need the news and the coaching that women supplied. One instance of advice: A woman should stay put if she hears violence, and if she reports it, never to reveal her role. Besides, police attitudes during a crime wave could be corrosive.
|Image Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
During this decade of my life, I had little interest in violence or crime as reading or entertainment. I preferred literature that reflected life as it is, usually with infrequent crimes. Good authors can show the mundane day as development and make that as interesting as the action parts. I tried to do that in Tug of the Wishbone where, in the second part, my character Maureen was neighbor to a Minneapolis woman whose mother was murdered. My book followed another theme so loss from murder and loss from divorce were perceived.
Since high school, I wondered at gratuitous violence on television. I wrote a paper on television violence in college, inquiring whether it might encourage violence in society. There wasn’t a lot of research on the subject then.
Growing up in a southern Minnesota county, I knew of one murder. A teenager shot a teacher through her living room window. In recent years, the Mower County sheriff’s office requested additional staff because of the unprecedented numbers of gun permit applications.
Last year, I watched airings of a show I liked in the 1960’s – The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Clever plots, the humor of Napoleon Solo, the variety of locales all kept my attention. The same thing happened that happened when I was young. I tired of the torture scenes and the number of characters shot to death.
My second job after college was reporter for a suburban St. Paul newspaper. Every week in 1978, I visited the Maplewood police chief and every week, he had little to report except for domestic violence. Today, a reporter there would be much busier. A recent report numbers violent crime at 87 annually with 4 murders and 151 burglaries.
While sensationalism pervaded journalism, the rise in violence seems sensational in itself. What does it mean if sensationalism pervades creative writing where the sky is only the inner limit? And imaginations are used for sensationalism?
|Image Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
It isn't that violence, a part of the human story, should not be portrayed. But when violence is described without attention to the victim and the pain it incurs, a story becomes only a partial reality. Although I had opinions about television violence, I wanted to watch many Alfred Hitchcock movies when the VHS's were available. Hitchcock gave a more complete reality to the crime setting. Instead of concentrating on police and criminals as star characters, he often gave attention to characters affected by the criminal and while they were oblivious of an ensuing crime. This went along with the definition of crime – that crime violates other people’s lives.
Some years ago, I read Ovid’s Metaphorphoses. He retold violent Greek legends and also a flood myth with pathos and conscience that, even though the stories were distant in time, conveyed their impact. Ovid was writing in Ancient Rome; I wondered how far he lived from the Colosseum. Oh, he was banished by Augustus while writing the Metamorphoses. Previously he wrote love and erotic poetry. I was stunned at the finale to the unfinished Metamorphoses. Ovid stated that the human race had become violent because a man killed an animal for food. He implored the Romans to become vegetarians.
|Image Simon Howden @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Even if people don't associate the current crimes in America with the fabrications in our arts and entertainment industries, it certainly looks as if a parallel world of real crime has occurred.