20+ years ago, I was required to read “The Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess for a college English class. English was my favorite subject and I loved to read, but I wasn’t thrilled about the assignment for a very specific reason. I had read the book before. With so much to read in the world, I could hardly get excited about a “repeat.”
So, I suffered my way through the Burgess vocabulary, the violent acts committed by the fictional protagonist, and the Pavlovian psychology discussions, one more time. It wasn’t new to me, and I anxiously awaited the end of the segment. Yet, as we concluded our classroom discussion of novel, the professor announced that we’d watch Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film adaptation of “The Clockwork Orange,” before moving on to the next book. I didn’t know anything about the Kubrick movie, but like my classmates, welcomed the presumed downtime.
At the next class session, a TV and VCR was setup at the head of the classroom. With the lights dimmed, I sat with my classmates as we watched the Clockwork violence come to life. Before too long, we were shifting in our seats and looking away from the screen. The same gruesome acts that we had read about for weeks, seemed a thousand times worse in the movie. We squirmed and winced at the explicit content, all the while casting glances at the professor to see if she would stop the film. She didn’t, and we watched it to the end.
At the conclusion of the film, the professor asked us a simple question? “Was it harder to watch ‘The Clockwork Orange’ than to read it?” The same horrific acts that we had read so casually in the weeks prior, had sickened us in the video. It had been an entirely different experience and we all knew it.
I never thought that I’d have reason to recall my Clockwork Orange college experience until the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and reading “Wrestling With Details of Noah Pozner’s Killing” by Naomi Zeveloff. (http://blogs.forward.com/forward-thinking/168707/wrestling-with-details-of-noah-pozners-killing/) Zeveloff details the bravery of Noah’s mother as she shared the state of her son’s body. The boy was shot 11 times. His jaw was blown off and his left hand was mostly missing. Noah and his classmates weren’t just killed, they were blown apart.
And yet, as the nation grieves the loss of Noah and the other victims from Newtown on December 14, 2012, many gun owners continue to defend their right to own an assault weapon. Every Facebook post I see on the subject makes me sick, just like watching “The Clockwork Orange” movie all those years ago. The public will never see pictures of the Sandy Hook Elementary victims, but the imagined image of a classroom of dead first graders is enough to sicken us, at least most of us. The strong defenders of the 2nd amendment, as it applies to assault weapons, don’t seem to grasp the reality of gun violence. I wonder if any of the NRA members would have the courage to look at Noah’s body, or the body of their own child in the same condition. I think not.