I found these words on a street on which I’ve never walked before. I do not know the street name, but what I know for sure it was north of Maclay, the unofficial dividing line between Harrisburg’s Old Uptown and “real” Uptown, between poverty and prosperity, between black and white. When living on the farm in Shippensburg, I never understood how it was be possible that the contrast between city neighborhoods could be so stark, but the answer as I see it now is both complex and simple: differences in money and thus schools, differences in traditions and thus legacy, differences in opportunity and thus the lack of it, which both enrobe and result in the mistrust of a stereotype.
But here’s a fact that brings us together: in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans over the age of 15 spent an average of 2 hours and 45 minutes watching television daily, making TV-watching the most third-most prominent activity in our lives. (As the survey includes retirees and teenagers and charts daily activity, including weekends, sleeping tops the chart at 8 1/2 hours, and “work-related activities” only clocks in at 3 1/2 hours). This means that watching television one of the most unifying activities across races, genders, and age.
There’s a problem in this equation–for all of us. Norman Herr, Ph.D., author of the textbook The Sourcebook for Teaching Science publishes on his website that, by the time a child finishes elementary school, he has witnessed 8,000 murders via television, and will watch 400,000 violent acts by the time that he reaches 18. He also writes that many of Americans are so “hooked” on watching television that the act, for some, fits the criteria for substance abuse (usually defined by answering “yes” to two or more of the following questions): 1) the substance is used as a sedative; 2) it is used indiscriminately; 3) the user feels a loss of control while partaking; (4) the user feels angry with himself for using too much; (5) he feels an inability to stop; and (6) he feels miserable when the substance is being withheld.
(Does “I accidentally stayed up until 2am watching Breaking Bad” sound familiar to anyone?)
It’s easy to laugh off these occurrences, but with these statistics in mind–along with well-popularized figures of increasing childhood obesity rates–it is no longer funny. I originally read the message I found with the violent wording (“Kill,” not just “Turn off”) in a rough neighborhood as being fueled by one resident’s frustration about and awareness to the role that excessive television-watching plays in the cycle of poverty and abuse, but apparently, the message is for all of us–south of Maclay and otherwise.