Power, Responsibility, & Communication by Sharon O’Donnell

I want to write today about something that really bothers me. Let me begin by saying that there is no other country I’d rather live in, and I value our freedom of speech. There is also no viable excuse or reason whatsoever for waging violence on anyone; those who inflict violence and pain on others and give the reason it is for a ’cause’ of some sort or to prove some type of ‘moral’ point are being hypocritical. The September 11th terrorists called America evil and our lifestyle immoral, a claim which rings hollow when they themselves resorted to the depths of immorality in killing innocent people in a planned attack. Now, the oldest brother in the Boston bombings was quoted as saying that he had no American friends because he didn’t understand them and they had no values. If he were truly upset by what he perceived as a lack of values, then he should have responded in a way that reflected his own “high morals”, but instead he responds in a way that shows it is he — regardless of what he thought of others — who is a true epitome of evil and has no high values at all.

Yet, I worry about the values that America is projecting to these Islamic extremists and militants. If I lived in Iran or Afghanistan or some other such country and what I learned about America was only gleaned from our movies, songs, TV shows, and even our political news — I would very possibly form the opinion that American society doesn’t have a whole lot of moral values. I know we have freedom of speech, but I don’t think that a lot of what’s out there in our movies and songs, etc. reflect the values of a lot of mainstream America. I go back to that saying about with great power comes great responsibility; I think the media has to consider the impact of what they reflect about our American society – reflected to our young people as well as reflected to the rest of the world, particularly those countries that seek to harm us because of a lack of morals. I love a good suspense story, but so many of the crime TV shows are so incredibly graphic that they are hard to watch — or at least should be hard to watch. Casual sex is depicted in movies, TV, and songs as ‘the norm’ with little mention of the feelings involved or its possible impact on the parties involved.

I happened to listen to a song that was assigned to my freshman son in a Criminal Justice class — it was called “97 Bonnie & Clyde” by Eminem, the rapper, and was about the man in the song killing his wife and mother of his toddler daughter and then putting the wife in the trunk of the car while he takes their daughter to the lake to play (where he dumps is wife’s body, telling their daughter not to worry, that mommie wants to see how long she can float and that he’s prepared a nice bed for her at the bottom of the lake.) What? And another Eminem song talks about killing “Kim” (the name of his real life wife) and is explicit about beating her and calling her derogatory names. And the sales of Eminem’s songs have set records. This is disturbing to me when someone who has talent and can reach a huge segment of our youth and he chooses to do so with these violent and eerie lyrics. What does this say about our society? I still believe there are a lot of Americans who would be uncomfortable with such song lyrics and would find them well . . . sick.

I went to the movies the other day to see “The Big Wedding” because my husband and I felt like watching a comedy, and we liked the actresses/actors involved in it. The premise of the movie was intriguing: a young couple getting married asks the groom’s adoptive parents who are divorced to pretend to be married for several days while the groom’s very Catholic biological mother visits from another country. The groom’s adoptive dad has been living with another woman for 15 years, but the groom decided a long time ago to lie to his biological mother about his parents’ break-up so she wouldn’t worry. I was ready for a few laughs, maybe a few off-color, but one of the first scenes was the groom’s dad (played by Robert De Niro) putting his long-time live-in partner on the kitchen counter and spreading her legs, as he talks about how he’s ready to give her oral sex. I know from the lack of laughter in the theater that I was not the only one we felt this particular scene went overboard. It could have been left out completely and not affected the plot of the movie, but it was like they had to put something in because it’s expected nowadays. In that same movie, the groom’s adoptive dad (De Niro) and mom (Diane Keaton) have sex again even though the dad is in this supposedly committed long-term relationship (partner played by Susan Sarandon) — and the whole thing is pretty glossed over. There were some funny lines here and there, but over all, this was not the movie I had wanted to see. They took an interesting idea for a movie and ruined it with some of the scenes and never really connected the viewer with the characters.

Alcohol and ‘partying’ are idealized in everything, while the problems caused by alcohol run rampant in our society. Some TV “reality” shows make it seem like we all fight with our families non-stop, consider relationships as contests, or sacrifice our kids for fame.

This is not the America that I see out my window. And I would really like the nations of the world to see what I see every day in my neighborhood, in our schools, in my church, in our community — and not only what’s in the media. I feel like it all comes down to communication, and we are doing a very poor job of it.

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