America’s Culure of Violence
Addressing the culture of violence in this country where easy access to guns becomes the primary tool in taking human life will be the toughest of all to address. The absurd notion used by gun advocates that you can’t stop all killings was never a serious position that any thoughtful person advocating gun control held. It’s a fear-mongering talking point the NRA uses along with the notion that unless extreme-right wing conservatives are holding down the political seats of power, socialist liberals will work “to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eliminate all individual freedoms.”.
One aspect of our violent culture I believe stems from the increased focus on the individual over the common good of the community. The lone wolf is not a new phenomena but it is a growing one that has been aided and abetted by the Don’t tread on me crowd.
We all treasure our privacy and individuality but we simply don’t live in a vacuum and as the population grows and diversifies this sense of individuality becomes more and more difficult to experience. The anger that this generates from some spills over to survivalist groups and para-military militias that are constantly fearful that the jack booted government will soon be knocking down their doors, take their guns and throw them in some kind of re-education camps.
For other aspects of this argument I will refer you to Ian Welsh’s blog post, “Why Is There so Much Gun Violence in the US?” I will simply highlight several features of that post to drive home some central thoughts on this aspect of reducing gun violence in America.
1. The social pathology that exists in many countries creates deadlier scenarios in countries that have higher per capita gun ownership with lax gun laws. China for example has a lot of violent people but with strict gun controls their mass killings are executed with less deadlier implements such as knives and axes. Deadly implements that are easier to escape from and survive from than a high velocity bullet that penetrates the human body in rapid, multiple succession.
2. Americans historically are violent-prone through their genocide of native Americans and torturous treatment of African slaves. Even our Christian upbringing is replete with biblical stories of a wrathful God, justifying the use of violence to control forces we are opposed to. All this transcends generations who during economic hard-times play out their frustrations often violently toward spouses and children. “Beat your kid, and your kid is quite likely to be violent to other people. This is robust in the scientific literature”, Welsh reminds us. One could also argue that violent video games are popular because of such abuses rather than video games being the causation of violence in children.
3. Social struggles beginning in the 70’s as diverse cultures started to see
improvements in their civil rights also began to see drug use among economically
hard-shipped people, mainly blacks. As a result, following the law and order
promises of the Reagan administration, sharp increases of incarceration rates
among blacks and other economically repressed groups contributed to our culture
of violence. Very few people going into to jail come out as better citizens (especially
for the victimless crimes like drug use) who face job discrimination practices in
mainstream culture, which of course leads to a level of frustration that also can play
play out in violent forms of behavior.
“Economic life in America is a game of musical chairs, with some chairs having spikes on them, and there are not enough chairs period. And if you don’t have a chair to sit in when the music stops, well, your life is endless misery—well, until your life ends.
And the guns are there. And people are angry. And the far-end of the bell curve moves over and over and over and it lands on just a few people. But they have access to military weapons and the knowledge is out there of how to train and prepare in order to do maximum damage. There is a “gun culture,” the internet, and easy access to everything they need.” – Ian Welsh
I have become more skeptical and cynical as I have aged and the youthful notion I once held that affirmed “all you need is love” has taken a beating from my skeptical and cynical nature. But it prevails none-the-less and it is hard to deny that if you love something you will not harm it. It’s a big step for haters to love those they have come to vilify most of their life. But a lesser step would be to help those of us who haven’t even the basics of love – respect and tolerance. Civil society depends on these virtues. Without them we will most assuredly come crashing down.
There’s plenty of love in the world; we have all seen it in a myriad of examples. There just doesn’t seem to be enough in critical areas and at critical times. We all need to work harder on our effort to understand those who we differ with and come to grips with the reality that as humans we have much more in common naturally than we do from things we contrive on our own. “Be kind” Plato told his students centuries ago, “for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
We can change this condition if we just allow ourselves not to get caught up in the ideological mindset that blocks out everything challenging that mindset. Of course this is easier said than done, thus making this a long-term effort. But this is what is needed. Despite which side of the issue you are on but are genuinely concerned that the U.S. has a gun violence problem unlike any other industrialized nation, you must be willing to go at this with a fastidious determination over the long haul. One that will not compromise or be swayed by extremists nor political spinelessness. One that will :
1. Seek to reduce the easy access of lethal firearms
2. Better serve and fund our mental health issues
3. Educate people on the 2nd amendments true historic perspective
4. Seek to alter our culture of violence through more meaningful efforts to engineer humane responses to your perceived adversaries
On that note I will leave you with Kent Keith’s Paradoxical Commandments:
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.”