I've never been much of a television watcher. Especially now that we have a child, the television is rarely if ever on in our house.
That said, after a long day, my husband and I will occasionally watch the news or a movie to relax after Lucas goes to bed.
The problem is, the majority of what is on television these days is far from relaxing.
The other night, Shawshank Redemption was playing. Yet after about 30 minutes, I just couldn't bear to watch anymore. It physically hurt.
Parents of young children are familiar with this type of reaction to television. When they are first exposed to any kind of media violence, children respond to it as if it is real. In their minds, someone is actually dying; someone is actually killing. They can't distinguish between fiction, film, and reality.
Of course, in time they learn the differences between them, and eventually, develop the thickness of skin that numbs us all to the horrors of what human beings do to one another... both in real life and in what we call "entertainment."
I was up for the next two nights thinking about the movie; about a man being beaten to death for the crime of crying on his first night of imprisonment... about scene after scene of another man being brutally assaulted by four or five others as they tried again and again to rape him.
Watching the news these days is no better, with the non-stop rebroadcasting of shootings, stabbings, beatings, bombings and every other kind of crime against humanity imaginable.
I'm not saying that we should turn a blind eye to reality or hide ourselves away from what is going on in the world. But in both our news and entertainment, we do more than tolerate violence in our quest for the story. We're drawn to it, while simultaneously becoming increasingly numb to it through exposure.
I don't believe it's possible to be exposed to violence -- televised or otherwise -- and to not be affected. While researchers continue to debate the issue, a look around at our communities and nation more than illustrates the profound and perverse impact of a culture that consumes, showcases and even glamorizes violence.
If you're unsure or unaware of its impact in your own life, try turning off your television for a week. One week of no shows, no news, no movies -- ideally, no newspapers or media of any kind. Instead, read a book. Go for a walk. Cook for or have dinner out with friends. Sit in a park. Talk to your neighbor.
Seven days later, turn on the nightly news, your favorite HBO series, or the latest action movie.
I promise that you'll be shocked by your reaction. And I'd love to hear about it.