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Rant #9
(published Late in the Year, 2000)
Kill! Kill! Kill! No Mercy For the Masses!
by Gordon Smith

There is a war on against violence for the sake of Our Children. A serious war, an important one.

High-minded Senators and Hollywood hypesters have convened, desperate to convince us all that they hate violence, they're mortified by it, they don't know what to do about it (and they CERTAINLY don't know how it got marketed to The Children). Of course, since everyone is aligned against violence, dedicated to eradicating its vile stain, where is the opposition in this war? Where is the other side? Who is defending violence itself, not just 'free expression?' They must have had too busy a shooting schedule to show up.

Recently, teens seeking to beef up their Yale applications attended a summit conference on how to combat violence. And they were scared. Some cried about the fear stalking every corner of their schools, the bad kids, the knives, the drugs and guns. But if this was a summit, where were the representatives of fear? Where were the knife-toting, kill-you-as-soon-as-look-at-you kids, defending their alternative lifestyles? Too happy raping and killing with impunity to show up.

The truth is, this is no war. This is a devious, covert attempt to stamp out violence, to remove all its power. And no one denies its power. When Abraham went to slaughter Isaac for God the potency of the violent ritual of sacrifice was self-apparent (which is why, I am sure Isaac did not sleep easy until he was an old old man: a stay of execution is not a reprieve).

The deeper truth is that there is no violence, either, not that anyone is talking about. The fuss is over representations of violence, not violence itself (there are no Senate Hearings about the high death rates in poor urban areas, because that's just nature taking its course). At first this seems like a consolation, like we haven't lost our collective mind and turned against violence. But unfortunately, the situation is even worse. We have turned against violence, and have done so like cowards, trying to eliminate its symbolic force by forcing it out of representation. If we succeed, then all violence will be is real, mundane, as banal as a protest, an execution, a Senate Hearing, the suburbs (and the threat here is against the suburbs, not the city, which survives and absorbs violence). This is an attempt to castrate violence by separating it from its representation, to seal the victims of violence in their caskets and erase their names from the tombs to make sure we never have to hear their awful voices again. The hearings in Washington are a pathetic attempt to erase the memory of Littleton, not to honor its dead. If representation is memory, then we seem to want the false-memories of a trauma victim, where everything is fine and good, but fuzzy around the edges.

This is not to claim that there aren't some great ancillary benefits of these hearings. I haven't laughed quite so hard in a long time as when a pained, well-meaning middle-aged Black Congresswoman lost all sense of herself, shat out her dignity, and read some Eminem lyrics: "You don't want to Ef with Shady because Shady will Effing kill you." The impossible silliness here was not simply her self-censoring, or correcting the colloquial/rhythmic language of rap, but her ignorance (perhaps she never listened to the song?) of the ways the song laughs at its own gonzo violence. And the ways that Eminem's music is a testament to the impotent rage of the underclass (or was this always his threat, his popularity with middle-class suburban kids who shouldn't hear such dirty, low words). And the incredible, dizzying, almost parodically flippant racism that brings these hearings to the public at the instant that white kids start hearing white gangsta rap, nine years after Los Angeles burned while N.W.A played. And the childishly simple truth that the things that take place in the songs didn't happen (the wife he passionately murders on both albums is suing him for royalties). And, as such, this illuminates the true generation gap, which is one of humor. Things collapse into their own representations, apparently, when you get old, and nothing is funny anymore. All that is left to you is to make sure that The Children are protected from humor, from the violence of duplicity, and things that mean more than just what they say.

And, perversely, kids don't need this protection. Adults kid themselves when they believe children don't know any better. They do. They don't care. They like violence and can get away with it. It is a mystery how the Cult of the Pure, Meek Child got such a stranglehold on the world (not enough movies like "The Omen," I suppose). Kids are violent: they hit, they hurt, they like it. Because violence and destruction are fun. People do not gather to watch a building go up, but gawkers love to see that motherfucking wrecking ball swing. Maybe this is the true agenda here: to protect adults from the violence of the child, which has no object, obeys no social rules, and whose only object is pure fun. This must be why the representations of violence which pass without a word are casual, social forms: the myriad beatings of a Lifetime movie, the downtrodden geek getting the girl by finally hitting the bully in the nose. Casual violence, offhand, not spectacular. The mute violence of the middle-of-the-road making sure that all extreme forms are denied, excised, cut off.

But I don't want to claim that representational violence has no relation to violence, because this would be an equally na´ve assumption. In fact, I know at least for myself, that the whole stupid spectacle makes me want to cock my glock and pop till they all drop.

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