Last week the children in Newtown went back to school. More stories about random shootings make momentary headlines. And although there is still some news about the quaint Connecticut town, I am afraid that the Newtown tragedy will soon fade as things get back to “normal."
Since the shootings we have heard from the commentators, police, mental health specialists, the clergy, and yes, the NRA for solutions. I have heard countless individuals punting the problem to someone or something else. On Facebook and with every Teddy Bear and candle left for the victims we prayed. It makes us feel like we are doing something. However, punting the problem to God or anyone else does little to address the real issue.
Some suggest we provide better mental health services to identify would-be killers. Again, this is passing the problem over. Let the government and health care system figure this out. True, mental health services could be significantly improved, but it isn’t the solution.
Others blame violent video games, TV, and movies. And while I agree that these pastimes might contribute to the objectification of human beings, not everyone who has ever watched a violent movie or played a violent video game ends up a mass murderer. Hardly. Plus, video games, TV, and movies are not something that most of us are in a position to change.
The NRA’s solution to put guns in the hands of good guys and security in the schools is the most transparent “It’s not me” solution out there. It isn’t a gun problem that creates mass murders, though why anyone needs a semi-automatic with clips that can kill many in seconds eludes me. When the second amendment was written it was one gun and one bullet at a time. The NRA needs to give this one up. But we still won’t stop the killing.
The bottom line problem—it’s us. We live in a society in which humanity is someone else’s problem. I am fine, we say to ourselves. We don’t recognize the violence we are capable of committing every day. Many are not willing to look inside to see how violence can manifest in the things we accept as “normal."
Violence isn’t just physical. Any action in which a person is seen as only an object and a lesser human being is violent by itself. Look at some random acts of violence that don’t require an AK 47. How about gossip? Hurtful back-talking? Blaming? Bullying? Shouting in anger to get a point across? Bemoaning another’s accomplishments, hopeful they will be taken down a few pegs—as I was once told. How hurtful those things are. How violent. Yet we accept these things as “normal” or at least not violent.
We pass on the gossip and feel superior doing so. Soon gossip becomes truth when it is repeated enough. Our culture has taught that we can boost ourselves by the demise of another. Unless we are willing to change that behavior in ourselves we are lost. None of us are perfect. Many don’t even recognize their behavior as violent. Perhaps if we just pledged to ourselves to catch those random acts of violence toward another person we could condition ourselves to be more compassionate the next time. If we don’t, we will just continue to accept that hurting others, in whatever form, is A OK. We can’t afford to foster the next mass killer by allowing everyday violence.
So instead of pushing the problem off to the government, the police, the mental health specialists, the gun dealers, and God, let’s pledge to ourselves to take on the challenge of building a world with more compassion and love for humanity. It is the one thing we as individuals can do.
It's the best New Year’s resolution I can think of.
As an invited expert to countless advisory boards on women's health issues, Susan Wysocki has worked with the world's top experts in women's health. The former President and CEO of the National Association of Nurse Practitioners (NPWH) for many years, she is also continuing as the Editor in Chief of Women's Health Care: A practical journal for nurse practitioners. She carries over twenty-five years of experience in women's health advocacy, networking, writing for publications, and speaking to audiences large and small.
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