It's something New Yorkers used to joke about, and something nostalgic bloggers like myself come dangerously close at times to even celebrating: New York City's so-called "bad old days." You remember the t-shirts, I'm sure. A picture of a .44 magnum underneath the legend: "Welcome to New York City! Duck Motherfucker!" I suppose in the wake of the one-two punch of Giuliani and Bloomberg, New Yorkers felt safe in lampooning their grisly past in this way, lulled into a false sense of security by those mayors' re-imagining of "fun city."
Yesterday's events, meanwhile, put all that in rather jarring perspective. At the end of the day, there really isn't anything funny or cool about nine injured and two dead because of some despondent apparel-designer with a grudge and a gun.
I'm a tremendous hypocrite, of course. Some of my favorite films include gun-crazy Scorsese flicks like "Taxi Driver," "Mean Streets" and "GoodFellas." I sport a wristwatch emblazoned with the insignia of The Punisher (if you're unfamiliar with the comic book vigilante in question, he looks like this). I own a t-shirt from the fabled Jon Jovino Gun Shop (its pistol-shaped signage made famous by photographer Berenice Abbott in 1930). Hell, one of my favorite bands of all time is named Cop Shoot Cop (although, honestly, one could argue that the band's name is actually an allusion to the junkie's lifestyle -- cop dope, shoot dope, go cop more dope -- but that's not an argument that's going to win one any friends). In other words, I'm as guilty as many others in the celebration of the steel.
I'd like to believe, however, that I'm fully aware of the distinction between what is entertainment -- however morbid and tasteless it might be -- and what is reality. I do not condone the age-old argument that popular culture ultimately fuels gun violence. There's obviously a glorification of it, but I'm not convinced of the cause and effect equation. Millions and millions of people watch violent films, but exceptionally few go out and replicate what they've seen on screen. More to the point, I'm not someone who generally believes that gunplay is the wisest form of conflict resolution. I don't own a gun. I never have, and I sincerely doubt I ever will.
Obviously, lots of folks enamored of the Second Amendment would vehemently disagree with me, as is their wont. That's a problem that's far too complicated to get into here. Suffice to say, I can't imagine why anyone needs to own an assault weapon of any kind. But, y'know -- call me crazy... or an effete liberal pansy or whatever.
I'm not sure why this recent shooting -- the latest in a grim succession -- made that much more of an indelible impression on me more than, say, the Aurora massacre or the Sihk temple attack. Selfishly, it's probably because I walk right through yesterday's crime scene every day on my way to work.
I was also put off by the callous immediacy of how certain media outlets disregarded sensitivity and journalistic standard by presenting fully graphic images of the crime scene almost under an hour after the event had even transpired. BuzzFeed, as one example, posted full-on images of one of the victims. Even the New York Times' website featured a rather robust amount of gratuitous bloodshed right on their homepage (see below and click on it to enlarge in all its gruesome glory). At least BuzzFeed gave you something of a paltry warning.
So what's the big takeaway? Am I afraid of real guns and squeamish about actual bloodshed? Guilty as charged, your honor. Maybe it's time to ditch the Punisher watch.