On American Public Violence: Schools, Malls, Cinema, et al.

Our Public Violence

A horrible tragedy has happened in our nation. Six people have been killed: some protecting their loved ones, some cut off before the flowering of life, some serving their community. Another 14 have been wounded. It is one of those horrifying events that seems to try to wake us out of our numbness to what we have accepted as “normal”. We are once again trying to make sense of the senseless.  And again it happens: 20 children are killed and their teachers. And again it happens….

I remember growing up with a few of these tragedies. My childhood included the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, and many other pointless killings of public servants.

In the rush to find some reason why such a terrible thing has happened, several have pointed the finger of blame at several wielders of inflammatory public rhetoric. While I despise such verbal violence that has characterized our public debate of late, the attempt to assign blame does NOTHING to move anything forward. Those who feel targeted by such blame move into justifying themselves and comparing themselves to others who also wielded the flaming phrases. Those who do the blaming ignore that they too are positing petty passion-filled poisoned pieces of pyrotechnical puffery. By blaming they also justify themselves by comparing themselves to those who do it so much better than they. We are trying to tell ourselves that the horror is out there somewhere and not in our own hearts. Both end up saying “Hey, we’re not as bad as those people over there.” This brings to mind a parable by a certain Jesus about a pharisee who tried to justify himself before God.

Why some people only have thoughts of violence, and others verbalize their violence, while still others act their violence out, I do not know, nor am I in a position to judge. The shootings in Arizona and Sandy Hook call me to look at how I have my own violence deep in the recesses of my soul. Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” It is upon me to wage peace first and foremost in myself. As the song says “Let their be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

It is easy to use the events in Arizona and Sandy Hook et al. to call into question the behaviour of those folks over there. But we lose a wondrous opportunity to examine the attitudes that we have in ourselves.

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