I sometimes dance to the music playing in my head. The music is always there, a ready soundtrack to even my most quiet moments. While occasionally random, most the music fits with whatever my activity is at the moment. I actually have a playlist on Spotify called “Soundtrack” for moments like this where I want real background music playing.
While preparing for this shoot, though, it was a different set of songs running through my head; songs from my childhood, that period of the 1960s and 70s when Peace and Love were on almost everyone’s lips, even if we didn’t really have a clue what they meant. There was a desire, in the midst of the Vietnam conflict, and political corruption, and the Cold War, to end all the conflict, to put down our weapons and make a concerted effort to get along.
There were some great songs to come from that period, and they frequently play over and over in my head:
- Give Peace A Chance
- He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
- I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing
- Blowin’ In The Wind
- Let There Be Peace On Earth (composed for the United Nations)
The list is too long, and quite honestly, distracting, to place here. These were some of the songs foremost in my mind, though, as we planned for this editorial. Like most, the conversation for the shoot began long before we settled on a date or location. The concepts simmer in my mind, cooking slowly, until I have a good idea what I want to shoot. Hippies. Peace. Love. This is familiar territory. Not a problem, right?
With all the Peace and Love songs from 40+ years ago, one might have expected that we would live in a rather idealic world by now. Yet, we know that’s far from the truth. Instead of peace and love, we got greed and selfishness. Greed and selfishness gives way to hate and violence and suddenly we find ourselves …
… In Aurora, Colorado, wondering how our society has dissolved to the point anyone would even consider killing people in a movie theater, let alone actually going through all the planning and preparation necessary to pull it off. Our immediate reaction is to label the shooter as crazy, to separate him from the rest of us, mark him as being abnormal.
But the shooter, like others before him, is not as different from the rest of us as we’d like to believe. In the week following the shooting, gun sales in Colorado jumped an amazing 43%. Across the nation, sales of weapons and ammunition skyrocketed. Was it a sense of fear that sent people to their local gun stores? According to the LA Times, the only fear was that the government might attempt to enact some form of gun control. Like the shooter, Americans are anxious to stockpile weapons. Who knows what we’ll do with them?
Less than a week after the Aurora shooting, Maryland police arrest a would-be copycat who wore a shirt with the message, “Guns don’t kill people. I kill people.” (Read the article here.) One is foolish to not ask: “How many more like them are out there?” The question is rhetorical. We don’t really want to even think about the answer.
Across the nation, police chiefs beg for some form of legislation that might, at the very least, keep the most deadly of weaspons off the street. At a press conference this week, they requested background checks on all sales, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, such as those used in Aurora. They’re not requesting an all-out ban on weapons, just some measures to keep mass shootings from happening, or at least make them more difficult to achieve. Does that really sound like too much to ask?
Yet, gun advocates fear even the smallest infringement on their weapons. Americans love their guns more than the lives they claim to protect. While it is true that guns don’t kill people on their own, such empty platitudes gloss over the fact that the only reason guns exist is to kill people. If we did not want to kill, there would be no reason for guns to even be manufactured! The only purpose guns serve is to destroy lives.
Why have we become such a violent people? Among all the species of creatures on the planet, only chimpanzees and humans prey on each other without provocation. Some evolutionary psychiatrists suggest that perhaps our prehistoric ancestors passed down a tendency toward violence. Criminologists such as Lonnie Athens disagree. Athens suggests that it is not insanity, or any form of mental abnormality, but rather violent socialization that is to blame.
“Violence does not happen because someone just suddenly “snaps.” Violence is not the result of mental illness. Violence has nothing to do with poverty. Criminals are made, not born,” Athens asserts.
Mass shootings such as Aurora get a lot of attention, but they are not responsible for the greater number of violent crimes occurring every day across America. Just this week:
- In Indianapolis, a man was killed by stray gun fire while sitting in his pickup in front of his home.
- Detroit police are investigating the probable homicide of two teens who disappeared last Sunday.
- Federal agents in Oklahoma arrested an 18-yr-old on Friday after a taxi driver reported that the teen was talking of ways to avoid arrest and hiding bodies.
- In Georgia, an 11-yr-old was charged with the murder of his father’s girlfriend.
- A couple in rural North Carolina were found shot to death in their home on Friday.
Pick up most any metropolitan newspaper across the country, on any given day, and there will be at least one story of violent crime, if not more. Nationwide, violent crimes occurred at a rate over 28,000 per day in 2010, and that is with numbers being in steady decline since 2002. When 28,000 violent crimes a day is considered an improvement, something is drastically wrong.
Obviously, there are no easy answers. We have been violent too long to just change over night. Yet, as I look through these pictures, and consider what this look represents, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we dared to give Peace another chance. What if we actually made an effort to love more than we hate?
Who knows, maybe this time it will stick.
Model: Alyska Hilty. Make-up: Sasha Starz.
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You can snag charles’ Soundtrack playlist here if you’re really all that interested.
To view the pictures full screen (recommended), click the “Slide Show” button at the bottom, right corner of the gallery.