GREAT BEND, Kan. - Can we finally have a discussion about violence in America? Can we have a conversation without people shouting and grabbing their guns?
Discussing violence is a social taboo, when in reality it is a conversation we need to have. Let's not waste anymore time.
Compared with 168 other countries America has the highest prison population. Compared with 32 other countries America has the highest homicide rate (by fire arm).
Most of us are aware of the Bobo Doll experiment in the 1960's...
The study, in essence, stated; by witnessing violence in the home and on television children are much more likely to act out violently. When a child witness's or hears violent rhetoric from an adult it is stored in their brain. It becomes a family value, perhaps not a good family value, but a family value nonetheless.
We have become a culture engrossed in violence, lack of patience, and revenge. Don't believe me? Ask any ten year old what the last episode of "The Jersey Shore" was about.
Children are exposed to unnecessary violence at a young age. Violence in the home isn't uncommon either.
Violence against women is a social norm. It is the comedy of many television shows. It is an epidemic. 1 in every 3 women will be physically abused, by their partner in their life time. Every two minutes a woman in America is sexually assaulted. Those numbers are sickening.
Away from the political scene take a trip to Chicago. Going to school each day is life risking. In the first three months of last year, 143 Chicago Public School children were shot.
Why is no one speaking up for these children?
Violence in the home is staggering. Violence on television, especially from those in power has gotten out of hand. Many have placed blame on Sarah Palin for her alleged cross hairs targeting elected officials over the last election cycle. (I use the term "alleged crosshairs" as Sarah Palin has just recently stated they are not cross hairs).
Dehumanizing those we don't like is a great way for people to feel they can target another human being and not feel guilty about their death. If enough people dehumanize a particular party, or party member, obviously crime will increase toward that group.
Dehumanization is a great tactic used in war. We dehumanize our enemy, come up with cool little slanderous nicknames. Make the enemy to appear to be taking something that is ours.
Politics has turned into war for some. Running as a candidate last year, I witnessed first hand how easy it is for someone to dehumanize their opponent. Several in town went so far as to dehumanize my family members, one of which passed away three years ago.
I can say the violence towards the Democrats in Kansas was shocking last year. The Sedgewick County Democrats Office was vandalized. A Kansas City Senator was spit upon and received death threats when he returned home from the health care vote. A death threat was left on the door of Dan Manning, in Wichita. Jean Schodorf's opponent ran an advertisement that she was "too liberal". This advertisement discussed killing a "RINO". Raj Goyl's opponent dehumanized him as "not an American." A Facebook page started which was "praying for the death of Barack Obama." If there were any threats against any Conservative Republican's in the state, I apologize as I am unaware of any. Feel free to correct me.
Violent rhetoric has consequences. Last week was one example of the violence that is plaguing our country. Everyday you can look around and see more.
Last weeks shooting leaves little answers, but it does allow us an opportunity to change the way we speak, and open a productive dialogue. Death does not always have to be in vein.
Speculation has already begun from television therapists claiming this man suffered from paranoid schizophrenic disorder. I would like to clarify that if he does, it does not mean that those suffering from this disease will ever murder. Having worked with mentally ill persons, I find it offensive to blame the disease. Often we need to rationalize why these events happen. Find a reason to make us feel less responsible.
The problem isn't Sarah Palin, television, music, or bad parenting.
The problem is us. To quote Jack Johnson, "We all have blood on our hands."
As a society, we have the option to turn off violent speech, we have the option to demand better mental health services, we have the option to negate violence in front of our children. This is something that will not end, until as a society, we come together and decide for it to end. Rather than place blame, let's come up with constructive ideas on where to go from here.
Let's turn off the television when it preaches hate, let's choose carefully the words we speak in front of our children, let's volunteer within our community to change the next generation, let's lobby for bills to help our communities, let's work with young males in our communities so they don't become abusers. Speak out against violence.
We are not helpless. We just like to pretend we are. We have come to depend on the government to take care of our communities. I often see the same group of people involved in community volunteer activities. Although it is great to have such a committed group of people, it is a shame more don't step up.
We have the option to either set back and complain, or to start making needed changes. We need to work together to change our nation.