And good for him, you may say? What's going on? Mark Morford is a blogger/columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. I don't follow his blogs but I do read his column in the paper (how retro of me); and on March 15 he published an extremely interesting column entitled "I am Done With Violence." I recommend you read it; he says it very well.
He isn't forswearing violence personally; reading his columns, I suspect the most violence he ever inflicts on anyone is to tear into them with his (metaphorical) pen, which is not a negligible weapon. But in this screed he describes how he has come to the conclusion that there is Too Much Violence in American culture, specifically in TV and movies; and that he is suddenly, personally revolted by it and can't stand it any longer. To which I say: congratulations, Mr. Morford. Welcome to civilization. What took you so long?
Violence is a major reason I quit watching movies thirty years ago, and one of the reasons I have quit watching television (the other reasons for deserting television being a general intellectual level corresponding to an IQ of about 14, and the advertisements, which are even worse; but that's another post). In fact, I could barely endure to stay and watch all the way through A Clockwork Orange, and compared to some of the movies that have come out since, A Clockwork Orange is practically a ladies' sewing circle. I remember reading reviews, in the late seventies, of Sam Peckinpah's movies; and thinking, well, I can live without seeing those. And in the interim, it's gotten worse. The movies I watch now are carefully chosen, and very few of them are modern. Thank God for DVDs and Netflix.
Mr. Morford is quite right that one of the basics of most great religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam (yes, Islam; the Prophet once cut off his sleeve rather than disturb a cat that was sleeping on it), is that one should forgive a slight (the outmoded concept of "turning the other cheek"), and not go after the slighter with a semi-automatic. But it's stranger than just falling away from the tenets of a religion. In America, sex is forbidden, horrifying, not to be shown to small children; but violence - violence is good. We like violence, as a people; we even seem to worship it. But we're horrified by sex. You will never see a movie rated X, or even PG12, because of violence. You could take your 9 year old to see Saving Private Ryan, although I don't recommend it. But one exposed nipple, and the whole world goes bananas.
This, incidentally, is one of the reasons adolescents get into so much trouble with sex (apart from the fact that adolescents + sex = trouble, and right here in River City too): their parents are so conflicted, so embarrassed, so completely unable to talk about sex that they never discuss it with the kids at all, and therefore never warn them of any of the things they would need to know to protect themselves. If parents could be relied on to talk to their children about sex, we wouldn't have to worry about sex education in the schools; but they can't. And the fondness for violence is one of the reasons rape is so common, since rape isn't a sexual act at all but a power trip.
Well, Mr. Morford has seen the light; but he's only one man. Still, he's an intelligent and literate man, and a lot of people read his column. I know, because they all write letters to the editor either complaining or praising. Maybe enough people will read his column, and act on it, to some small effect. We can hope. But I'm still going to screen movie reviews very, very carefully.