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Addicted to Violence

By Christina Stein
Opinion | January 11, 2011

two-men-fighting-300px-best-size.gifGREAT 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.


"The problem is us. To quote Jack Johnson, "We all have blood on our hands."

Christina, you have presented a challenging picture of our moral apathy to face our individual responsibility to change the atmosphere of society.

We are all guilty, perhaps unintentional but still quilty, of using inappropriate language and examples to demean others in hopes of elevating ourselves.

Christina--Thank you for a thoughtful analysis of the violence that seems to permeate our culture. Sometimes I think back to my childhood, most of it pre-TV. All the kids went to the cowboy movies on Saturday to watch the cowboys shoot at each other and at the Indians, who were, of course, the enemies. All the kids in my neighborhood played cowboys and Indians, using sticks for guns and galloping on our imaginary horses after each other. I hate to say it, but we also threw rocks at each other, every so often hitting a kid.

My children played with GI Joes and engaged in neighborhood fights. Yet, my kids, my brothers and I are peaceful adults. I became an avowed pacificist as a teenager and have worked for peace ever since.

I wonder if the horrifying violent video games, TV shows,and movies, which are way more graphic than anything I ever watched as a kid, do have a desensitizing influence on young people. I'm a firm believer that violent rhetoric, no matter which side of the political divide it comes from, can give unstable people "permission" to act on that rhetoric.

It's a puzzle to me.

I agree totally that we are becoming more desensitized to violence. Plus the media nowadays is practically a textbook on how to commit violence.

Can we equip families with the ability to teach children responsibility and respect in the home? If we can and do, then schools will benefit, and the learning environment will improove. If students can be comfortable and feel secure while learning history, grammar (the ability to verbally as well as through written communication), then they are equiped to join responsibly in community activities. The process continues through each one of our lives as we become an active participant in humanities quest for a better world.

Family, friends, village, community, nation; When any part of that cycle fails, we all fail. With today's communication and transportation systems, community has no boundaries. What we say or do, even in our own homes, quickly travels around the world. Hypocrisy and bigotry is soon found out. Those with limited ability to adapt to their social surroundings cannot separate hypocrisy from truth and cannot, or do not, recognize bigotry.

Well put Ken, well put!

I would disagree that rhetoric and violent games\television can be blamed for what happened last Saturday. The shooting does provide us with an opportunity to examine our rhetoric however. Gun metaphors don't make people shoot other people, but are they necessary or ethical. I remember vividly when I was less than ten years old I was already an expert fighter pilot. I was playing "Red Baron" on my computer. One day my dad watched me annihilate an enemy squadron. I was ecstatic. Then he looked at me and said,"You need to know that this really happened. People really died." World War I had happened 70 years earlier. I had no real concept of it. What he said completely took me by surprise. I was old enough to understand death, and I learned the difference between reality and fiction. You are completely correct. The problem is us. It is not that violent images are around us, it's that we are failing to separate those images from reality, for us and our children.

You are right, Independant. All kids, however, don't have parents with parenting skills like your Dad.

We are failing to separate game playing from reality. We have many who are intellectually and mentally unable to realize the difference. Our culture doesn't stress the difference. A huge percent of our young people have never attended a funeral. They have watched actors, under different names in the show, die. But they reappear over and over. Life has no real meaning for many people, around the world. Some of our expert counselors, who go into the schools after an accident has taken one of the students lives, tell them stuff happens, get over it. Thank goodness those kind of counselors are few, but they are out there. I know an instance where a Pastor told the students, "We don't know why the student died. God chose to take him." Never mind that the boy had lost 2 siblings in, separate, alchohol related accidents, previous to his DUI caused wreck. We don't know why he died??? We have no responsibility, if we just lay it all on God. We have a religious group, in Topeka, that attributes murder to the direct hand of God. Most of us are capable of separating that kind of ignorance from reality. But, how many of the mentally and emotionally impaired hear voices, whether attributed to God or something else, telling them to act?

Independent Kansan: I think the problem isn't one of these things in particular, it is all of them together.

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