Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Violent Signs

I was raised on the south side of Chicago. I haven't lived there for quite a few years now, but I frequently hear about what's going on from old friends who currently live there. A common topic – too common – is the almost unreal level of shootings, some even taking place just shy of noon. One thing we all were asking was “why?” - and I thought it over. All problems share 2 traits: they're made by men (look at it), and each comes with at least one possible solution.

In my mind, this violence is a problem. It isn't happening by accident. An honest and thorough appraisal of the USA's predominant culture – and the current living conditions & behavior patterns that it precipitates – reveals among other things, an almost lustful infatuation with violence. Don't take or reject my word on it – browse the television, theaters, video game shelves and popular music videos, and the excessive reinforcement of violent imagery is obvious.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when this started, but one thing is clear. A way of life that quietly supports & enforces violence, cannot sustain itself for long. The decline and death of every famous civilization wasn't inevitable. Today's society seems destined to die as well – and sooner than later – if we continue to glorify violence with our minds, while denouncing it with our mouths. It's much easier to treat a cancer during its early stages, when the body's warning signs start to manifest. We've already ignored more than many warnings.

This violence is a symptom of a larger disease; it would be more effective to treat the disease itself. The '60s and '70s were a ripe opportunity for the people living in this country to address the symptoms of this nation's disease decisively, and definitively. Unfortunately, drugs and other factors undermined the efforts of many.

The ever-increasing numbers of single parent homes, lack of noble male role models, and compromised bonds between many families & communities, are some of the soils that allow the seeds of violence to sprout. Before violent tendencies set in, there must first be idleness & neglect. Have you ever heard of a child who was given healthy affection, guidance and attention – frequently kept engaged with involving activities - shooting another child? When someone chooses to end a life in such a way, they're sending a message to the rest of us:

Nobody (important to them) values their life. They don't value their life. They don't value life. (The gun just gives them a means to demonstrate just how much they no longer value life... by promoting death instead.)

Organized demonstrations & rallies are not what we need to end this violence. No disrespect to those who do – many have taken bullets while standing for non-violence – but it's not practical, or necessary, to expect everyone to participate in such things. There are actions each of us can take in our daily lives to help stop the surge of senseless killing, if we so choose to.

To start by watching the words we think/say (the same thing these days), the tv/films we view, the music we allow, and the games we play, would alone go a great way towards bringing this trend to a close. Likewise, we should be more discriminating towards the above behaviors and objects we allow children & young people to partake in, especially without mature adult supervision. (Does your son have a toy gun?)

Anytime we witness unhealthy behavior patterns in another member of our family or community – be they 13, 3, or 43 - we can call them out on it. When it comes to what's bad, children and adults have one thing in common: they'll usually do only what they think they can get away with. Ultimately though, the best way to teach the value of life, is not to say it, but to show it.

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