Thursday, December 22, 2016

Stopping the violence in America

OUTLANDISH VIOLENCE

Thirty-one.

According to policymic.com, that’s the number of school shootings that have happened in the United States of America since the 1999 Columbine tragedy. In the rest of the world – all other countries combined – there have been but 14.

What happened? When did violence penetrate so deeply into our society that it now has an affect on our schools?

Violence has been woven into the fabric of American life since the beginning, but now, it has reached an all-time high. The Sandy Hook tragedy, the latest school shooting to stop and stun the country, has forced Americans to draw a line in the sand and say, “No more!”

No more violence. It sounds simply wonderful, doesn’t it? Everybody wants to achieve this goal, but, as with any problem, everyone has a vastly different idea for a how to go about solving it.

Some want chapel back in schools, while others are looking to eradicate religion in school once and for all. Some want guns banned all together, while others want to hand machine guns out to teachers.

There are so many ideas out there, but for me, none of them are getting to the root of the problem. The problem is not too many guns or not enough, and it’s not religion or the lack thereof. It’s not the Tea Party that’s too blame, and it certainly isn’t the fault of our president.

In my opinion, it’s because Americans are absolutely cruel to each other.

Seriously, it’s because people are, for lack of a better term, mean.  Awful. Terrible. Horrendous. Hellacious. This has nothing to do with guns, church, Democrats, or Republicans. We’re making an ivy-league issue out of an old elementary school problem; more regulations aren’t going to save us, and neither are less. We just need to start caring for each other again.

GARBAGE ON THE CURB

Compassion; it truly is a beautiful thing, but sadly, we don’t see it as much in our world as we’d like to. People have turned bitter, angry, and just flat-out cold to heir neighbors.

Not only have Americans begun treating their neighbors so poorly, but as a country, we also seem to have a very aggressive attitude towards children.

We cringe every time they cry, and swear profusely at the parents if, God forbid, they ever start screaming. Even if a child is starving, nobody ever seems to really care.  As a country, we’ve seemed to adopt this overly capitalistic idea of “If it ain’t my kid then it ain’t my problem.”

But stop and think for a second: What message is this sending our children? That their ability to eat a nice meal for dinner and not go hungry isn’t worth a few extra tax dollars? That they should suffer for their parents’ lack of employment, because somehow it’s their fault?

Most kids have a saving grace at home, to which they probably refer to as “mom” and “dad.” But, for some kids, those two important entities just don’t exist. So what about them? Whose problem do they become?

In a perfect world, society would have enough compassion and good nature to take care of the kids in need and help them out, but sadly, that just doesn’t happen.

Children grow up getting the message that they don’t matter, especially those lacking the guidance and love of a devoted parent or parents. We treat these kids like garbage on the curb, and then are greatly surprised when they act out.

Don’t get the wrong idea, however; in no way, shape, or form do I think what Adam Lanza did was excusable. I’m just trying to ask a very serious question: If somebody had stopped to help him out (as his mom obviously could not), would this have happened?

(I’m going to suggest that every reader read the essay “Somebody’s Baby” by Barbara Kingsolver. It explores this idea much more in depth, and is what initially opened my eyes to this theory.)

WITHOUT ANY WARNING

The cause is not only that people are rude to children, but also because of the way they treat their peers.

For example, there was once that I was standing in a Meijer’s grocery store, waiting to get two twenties and a ten in exchange for a fifty-dollar bill at the Customer Service counter. There were two women standing in front of me; a younger mother with a toddler, and then behind her, an older woman by herself.

The younger woman, unbeknownst to her, was standing in front of the mail slot that’s located by the counter. After she got her money back for what she was returning, the young man behind the counter asked the older woman, “How may I help you?”

Without any warning, the older woman spat, “You can’t. I’ve been just waiting for this (woman) to get her fat (behind) out of the way.” The young woman watched, shocked, as the old woman pushed her out of the way, dropped her mail in the slot, and walked away.

Wouldn’t a simple “excuse me” have been sufficient?

Although small incidents like this seem harmless, the total effect can be damaging. Children are impressionable, and in a situation as this, the toddler has now learned that it’s okay for someone to chew out a peer because they felt inconvenienced.

This kind of stuff happens all of the time. Everywhere you go, you are followed by rude gestures, snide comments, and all-around disrespect from the people who surround you. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

ENDING THE VIOLENCE

We live in a society today that moves at a pace much faster than it ever did before.  During the ever-increasing hustle and bustle of every day lives, however, we have seemed to have lost our compassion and genuine concern for those around us along the way.

Taking away guns won’t solve this problem. Giving teachers guns won’t either. Church is not to blame in this, but neither are the atheists. No matter who we are or what we believe, whether we are Republicans or Democrats, we can fix this problem together.

It’ll take mutual respect, compassion, and the ability for us to sacrifice a few extra cents or a few minutes of our time for the people around us, but it can be done. If we were all to try a little harder to be better people, we could end the violence and turn this country around.

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