The world sure seems to be a scary place. In the news this week I’ve read about 13-year-olds shooting 10-year-olds, police officers being shot, an increase in sexual assaults reported in the military, a Chicago cathedral being robbed, another news luminary being accused of sexual harassment, and the fact that security at the local mall has been scanning my license plate when I park there. Last week a horrific accident on a Southwest Airlines flight caused the death of a woman and served to terrify the countless Americans who are already afraid of flying. Americans recently learned about a deranged man shooting up a Waffle House in Tennessee and a different killer driving his van into a crowd in Toronto, Canada.
Not only is the steady stream of bad news demoralizing, but it gives us a skewed impression of the risks we face in daily life. As much as I’m appalled by gun violence and want to see common sense gun legislation enacted, the vast majority of Americans are much more likely to die in a car accident or from heart disease than by being shot. The statistics are worse for children, however, in that gun violence is now the third leading cause of death in America. Nevertheless, children also are more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident, and yet how many people take pause before strapping their kids in and taking off in a car?
As scared as we all are of terrorism, the individual risk of being killed by a terrorist in America is statistically insignificant. The same is true of airplane fatalities. Yet we obsess about such fears while downing our Big Mac, fries, and large Coke, despite the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America.
The internet and social media have only made this problem worse. In the past, a person would hear or read about news of national significance and possibly incidents in their own city or town. But nowadays we see articles about crimes and mishaps all across the country and even the world, despite the fact that those incidents are unlikely to have much impact upon our lives – except to scare us.
One of my favorite movies as a child was The Man Who Knew Too Much with Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart. It was a thriller about an ordinary family who unwittingly witness an assassination, which puts their lives in peril. Well, I feel like the woman who knows too much, and it’s stressing me out. No doubt the stress will kill me and not the horrifying events I’m unfortunately privy to on a daily basis.
Football is having a bad time of it this season. The prominent spat between the NFL and President Trump certainly hasn’t helped. But the sport has also been plagued by scandal, injuries, and the mounting evidence that playing the sport often leads to permanent brain damage.
Just in today’s Chicago Tribune, there were three section one stories about football teams in trouble. Two local high schools have canceled their entire seasons: Niles North for “possible hazing” and Whitney Young magnet school, whose players have been plagued by injuries and academic ineligibility. Meanwhile, at evangelical Wheaton College, 5 players who were suspended for sexual assault and battery of a fellow player now face criminal charges.
On the Tribune‘s op ed pages, the bad news in football continued. As evidence of the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) grows, youth participation in tackle football has plummeted. Even though the NFL has pledged funding for research in this area and schools are limiting the amount of contact during practices, the thrill of this quintessential American sport has been diminished by news of more victims, such as Aaron Hernandez, who recently committed suicide. (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 27, 2017)
The link between football and violence should be obvious just from watching the game. But the number of players linked to domestic abuse is troubling, as is the growing problem of hazing on football teams. Perhaps it is time to retire a game that increasingly seems to have risks that outweigh the benefits.
My son plays football and has done so since the age of 11. It worries me to think that his future might be compromised by the punishment he takes on the field each week. And it horrifies me to think he could be part of a culture of violence that disrespects a person’s basic human rights.
Are we seeing the beginning of the end of football? Maybe that would not be such a bad thing at all.
The advent of Facebook Live struck me as odd – and unnecessary. Now it strikes me as irresponsible. In the past year there have been disturbing instances of violence broadcast live on this feature, the most recent being a Thai man who strangled his infant and shot himself. Does anyone want to see this? If you do, I’d rather not meet you.
Human nature has its fair share of perversity, I realize. Graphic porn and violence, gory first person shooter video games, sadomasochism, strange obsessions and fetishes. Even mainstream network television has gotten extreme. One of my favorite escapist TV shows, Scandal, for example, has featured so much on screen torture that I am fairly close to ditching the series.
But the live feature on Facebook seems to be inspiring violent and disturbed individuals to broadcast heinous acts for the world to see. While I would not go so far as to say the existence of Facebook Live causes these violent acts, I do think there is an exhibitionist quality to much of our current internet activity.
I personally have resisted watching any of the publicized incidents of Facebook Live violence because I think it’s bad for our minds and souls to witness such things – especially to see them over and over until we are numb to acts that should distress us greatly. And I think that is a sufficient reason to shut down this misguided feature of social media.
After the 2016 presidential election and the proliferation of fake news, Mark Zuckerberg pledged to find ways of ferreting out misinformation. I would call upon his leadership now to get ride of Facebook Live. Any potential positive aspects of live broadcasting on Facebook (although I fail to see what they might be) are outweighed by the harm of the graphic live violence that is becoming too frequent.
Instead of watching or broadcasting on Facebook Live, let’s turn to our families or get out and engage with people face to face. That’s called Life.