The US has some of the toughest laws in the world when it comes to child pornography. Production, distribution or simple possession can be punished by years in prison followed by additional years of (probably unlawful) "civil commitment," until a psychiatrist deems the offender "cured" -- and all this in the event no other offense has been committed. The Supreme Court has ruled that child pornography is not protected speech under the First Amendment, and I concur. This society is so determined to protect children from exploitation that we deny them even basic sex education until relatively late in life, to preserve their supposed innocence.
Which makes me wonder why it is so hard to pass laws which will reduce, even slightly, the likelihood of children being murdered. No one dies from sexual exploitation, or even rape as such, but almost everyone dies from being shot in the head. Is it a case of "better dead than violated"? Or is it something much deeper, our cultural inability to cope with sexuality? Which I happen to believe goes all the way back to our inheritance of monotheism.
Think about ancient Greece, and its polytheistic mythology. The gods were just like people but more so -- generous, impulsive, sadistic, cruel, chaste, lascivious, merciful, vengeful, wise, silly, immensely powerful and immortal. Zeus was proof that men are not naturally monogamous -- he would transform into a bull, a swan, whatever it took to couple with comely human maidens. Apollo, Aphrodite, and others interacted with humanity, despite having official spouses on Mt. Olympus. Then monotheism came along, offering a single deity who was perfect, male but sexless. Yahweh was not permitted a consort, and now myth had no way to describe sexuality except to denounce it. With Allah, things only got worse. As for Jesus, remember the official outrage when that awful novel The DaVinci Code
suggested he had married? And unlike the others, he had a fully functional human body.
I apologize for being pretentious, but are we not the heirs of all this? Lacking a divinely ordered outlet for sex, what are we left with but violence? We have never really escaped the shadow of the Puritans, with their distilled hatred of the body and their inability to recognize "savages" as fully human. Malcolm was right: Violence is as American as cherry pie. Sex is European (the new right-wing pejorative).
We adore violence. It informs our language. Someone who recently said we have "a shot" at restricting assault weapons was scolded for his choice of words, but I understood. The American idiom is awash with ordnance. "That big-shot from the home office is gunning for me, but I dodged a bullet. The guy's a real loose cannon." "I invited her to see that blockbuster movie, and she shot me down." "Lincecum got shelled, but that new right-fielder has a rifle for an arm." Violence informs our entertainment, our music, our literature, our thinking. The iconic Christmas movie is no longer about a miser who learns charity, or an angel who gets his wings, but a nine-year-old who wants a BB gun. And of course, our sports.
Remember the Super Bowl a few years ago? In the middle of the half-time show, there was a momentary glimpse of a female nipple. I thought the Republic would never recover. Was it deliberate? Was it a "wardrobe malfunction"? Did the children see this terrible thing? How can we talk to them about it? Are they ruined forever? Should someone go to prison? How can we, as a nation, go on? All right, back to the game. Back to big men slamming into each other, sustaining brain injuries which will kill them before they're fifty. Aaahhhhhhhh......And there you have it. America, the nation of perpetual childhood and perpetual childishness. A President is impeached over sex (and not very much of it). A Vice-President shoots his friend in the face and it's just good fun, coupla guys confirming their manhood by blasting away at flightless quail bred to be slaughtered by gutless chicken-hawks.
Maybe we deserve the numbing daily statistics, the drive-by shootings, the four-year-old who played with a gun, the scuffle at a party that turned into a killing, punctuated by the mass murders that bring out the solemn faces on the anchormen and cause gun sales to spike ("Obama's comin' to take yer guns!"). The truth is, we're nowhere near a "tipping point" yet, nor will we be as long as even liberals have to start every sentence by stating their devotion to the Second Amendment. I say it's time that amendment went the way of "three-fifths of a man" and Prohibition. People wrote it, and people can get rid of it.
Put up your guns, or shut up.