Showing posts with label violence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label violence. Show all posts

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Society has run amok with violence

United States flag with peace sign canton
United States flag with peace sign canton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It seems that every day, headlines across the country scream about violence erupting in some small town, village, or hamlet. Without even mentioning the violence in major cities, or on foreign shores, our society must do something about the increasing abundance of violence that threatens to turn a peaceful life into chaos with ramifications beyond imagination. 

I've long been concerned about increasing violence throughout our society. It fills our televisions, movies, news, and satire. Graphic images, perfected through technology, make me cringe. I am increasingly concerned over what all this is doing to us, in the recesses of our brains. 

While I don't have any scientific evidence to back up theories about violence, it just seems logical that pounding gut-wrenching pictures and ideas into our brains will have some kind of effect, if not now, at some point in the future. 

As a more than middle-aged woman, I have seen the escalation of violent tendencies overall, complicated by a sense of immunity to it by young people. They not only accept violence, but they value it in their entertainment. 

The statistics about violence, are to me, staggering.

"The 20th century was one of the most violent periods in human history. An estimated 191 million people lost their lives directly or indirectly as a result of conflict, and well over half of them were civilians," according to the Peace Alliance, a non-profit that promotes peace. Some of the other statistics the group cites are as follows:
  •   In 2001, almost 21,000 homicides and 31,000 suicides occurred; and almost 1.8 million people were assaulted, while about 323,000 harmed themselves and were treated in hospital emergency departments. (Surveillance for Fatal and Nonfatal Injuries – 2001, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Vital Statistics System)
  •   Worldwide, an estimated 1.6 million people lost their lives to violence in 2000. About half were suicides, one-third were homicides, and one-fifth were casualties of armed conflict. [World Report on Violence and Health, World Health Organization, 2002]
  •   Homicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24 in 2001. Suicide was the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24 in 2002. [Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System – 2002, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]
  •   The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide committed by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year. Of that amount, nearly $4.1 billion are for direct medical and mental health care services, and nearly $1.8 billion are for the indirect costs of lost productivity or wages. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, April 2003.)
  •   A 1992 study in the United States put the annual cost of treating gunshot wounds at $126 billion. Cutting and stab wounds cost an additional $51 billion. (Miller TR, Cohen MA.,. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 1997, 29:329–341.)
I believe that as we age, we are an accumulation of all that has occurred in our lifetimes. We are like a computer whose hard drive runs continuously soaking up bytes of information to be stored for later use. The bytes consist of all that we have experienced in our lives. The longer we live, the more we store. Every image, thought, or memory remains filed away. It isn't always easy to retrieve. I believe our dreams are like defragmenting that hard drive. Haven't we all had violent dreams often times based on something we've seen or heard?

Recently, I experienced a picture on Facebook where Hannibal Lechter was digging a spoon into somebody's brain. I do not want to see such an image. I'm appalled by it because cannibalizing people is real and horrible. A picture like that doesn't belong among pictures of cute cats and babies.

Another one that got to me was a promotion for the television show, "The Walking Dead." A supposed human corpse, complete with hanging skin, bloody scalp, and tattered clothing advertised the series. Will we start seeing a rash of grave robberies now as people try to find a zombie they can call their own? Why does anyone watch this stuff?

A rest in peace sign.
A rest in peace sign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Murder is the #1 attraction at the box office and in television shows and video games. How many different ways can a person be snuffed out? And how often are these dramas played out in real life? Which came first, the attempt at a perfect murder or the TV show that portrayed it? 

Violence seems to be a never ending cycle. Where is the value of human life? I used to think it was obsessive to try to ban violent video games, and I still believe more strongly in the first amendment than any form of censorship, but where is the hue and cry that says enough is enough. Can't we see that we are harming human beings, especially our youth? Doesn't all this exposure to violence simply guarantee a screwed up, Xanax-riddled society? 

Then there is the gun issue
There seems to be a real romanticism about guns. We all want to be John Wayne or Marshall Dillon or the Rifleman, where justice was settled quickly and easily. That isn't the world in which we live today. It wasn't even the world of yesterday. It was all fiction. The whole ugly story of the violence that occurred when the west was settled wasn't shown on weekly TV shows. 

We are all capable of violence. Our hair-trigger emotions in today's overly-complicated society where induced anger is so often the result, do we really want to make it easier to kill people? An increasing number of people experience mental health issues. Their emotions are less stable, so it follows that they would be more likely to act upon their anger. Yet, our societal laws equally encourage them too, to own firearms. We have seen the hideous results. There can be no greater horror than sending your child to school one day only to learn they have been gunned down by a disturbed young man turned depraved killer. The horror of Sandy Hook Elementary has changed so many people, yet not enough apparently. How many more tragic events in the workplace, on college campuses, in public restaurants, or in a private residence are we going to allow before we decide to do something? Politically, we don't even talk about it. That's inexcusable! Must the violence reach inside our own individual homes and families before we wake up and realize the gravity of this situation? 

I don't have answers. No one person does, but it seems to me we need to start to change our thinking. Instead of the bottom line being about dollars and sense, perhaps the bottom line ought to be about common sense. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Violence prevention and safety initiatives rather than gun control

English: Detail of Preamble to Constitution of...
Detail of Preamble to Constitution of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Gun control is such a contentious issue, with both sides refusing to listen to the other. Real understanding of the source of some very deep-seated feelings are going to be necessary if this country will ever be able to curb the kind of violence that fills front pages of newspapers across the land.

Opponents view gun control as a way to limit their right to bear arms--their  hard-fought patriotic freedom as they believe God and the country's founding fathers intended.

The gods and guns crowd are largely traditionalists that may have lived in the same place all of their lives--in many cases--occupying the land where their ancestors first settled. Many are educated in the same small town by teachers they have grown up with; reading newspapers run by their former classmates; and filling church pews with an ever-increasing number of extended family members. Their daily lives revolve around the best life has to offer; loving family and good friends. These are not folks that seek change; they like things just the way they are. They are a trusting lot--putting faith in anyone that is like them and being suspicious of those who are not. This trusting trait allows others to take unfair advantage. It is hard to recognize that which is unknown to you.

Their experience with gun violence and frankly many of society's ills may be limited to an occasional hunting accident or possible suicide by a troubled teen or war veteran. Such occurrences are easily justified as the victim 'having a problem.' After all, even perfect communities and good families have issues. 

Although they read the headlines that deal with much bigger issues related to gun violence, they remain untouched by gang warfare, mass murders, and serial killings that happen somewhere else. 

Cultural justification makes it easy to ignore the big picture. But the gun control debate is big and complex and growing.  

In my view, it is foolish to attempt to protect the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which is actually a poorly-worded, undefined, interpretive piece in a much larger document that has so much more meaning than that one entry. The U.S. Constitution is a framework of how to govern a society. It is far more important than the singularly focused right to bear arms. A much higher priority should be placed in the constitution's sister document's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights should not be infringed either, but to fear going into a public place and being blown away by some yahoo with a handgun in his pocket has become reality. It is one that has been exacerbated by an over zealous desire to arm every citizen with concealed weapons, assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets that turns a shotgun into a machine gun designed for mowing down multiple people in an instant and inflicting maximum damage to bodily tissue.

From my own observation, the discussion needs to be broadened--centered on violence--not just guns. The one place where I actually agree with the National Rifle Association is that violence in our society has gotten hideous. I abhor the violence on television, in movies, and through video games, much of which is inflicted by guns. 

First, we need to change the debate by changing the verbiage. The term gun control must be abandoned. It is too limiting and conjures up a notion of iron-hand dominance. Instead we need to embark upon violence prevention and safety initiatives.

We need to convey that our laws must not restrict gun-owners freedoms, but instead our aim is to expand overall freedom to include all citizens, no matter their view on firearms. It would be fool-hearty to wait for education through experience; to wait for violence to come knocking on more and more doors. We must change the conversation before that happens, by emphasizing freedom to be safe and secure in our homes and in public places. 

We must address growing crime. Why do thugs believe they can get away with walking into another person's home and help themselves to whatever they want? Why is there so little trust in our system of justice? Why do judges run for office as partisans? Do people trust their police force? Why are there cops on the take? Why in some instances is the penalty for growing marijuana more severe than that of the guy who brutalizes his wife? 

Violence in our society is a house of cards. Fixing any of these problems will lead to fixing so much more. If people aren't afraid to walk into a public place, they won't feel compelled to arm themselves. 

The bigger picture also includes a more critical eye toward the future. 

How many hunters are really sportsmen? How many shoot animals for food? Do we really need to kill animals in the 21st century? Wouldn't it be just as sporting to shoot clay pigeons or other non-breathing targets?

Just because we have long held traditions, doesn't mean we cannot or should not change with the times. The world is really a bigger place than the block where we grew up. Our thinking must also be bigger. We must also be cognizant that our home, a huge blue ball as seen from space, may seem huge to us, but that doesn't make it less finite. Let's face it; our home is our planet. It contains a highly diverse group of people, places, and things that must be seen in a larger context. Our future depends on it.

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