A firey editorial on violence in American culture
Author’s note 4/25/16: Since calming down and rereading this, I can see how fired up I was at the time. Honestly, you can probably read every third sentence and feel more satisfied. I make my point early on then keep hammering it into the ground, but I’ve chosen to leave this piece unedited as a reminder of the passion I felt while writing it. Xoxo
People, what are we doing? Today is Earth Day, a day set aside to encourage ways to save our precious planet from complete self-induced devastation (we’re failing miserably, by the way), but all I can think about is how badly we need to protect our precious people. I started this post at 6:00 in the morning already consumed with thoughts of Amy Inita Joyner-Francis, and this Little League player watching a bunch of angry father-types scream obscenities and hit each other, and the abuses and exploitation of the refugee crisis. Damn. We are literally in a world of hurt. …A world full of hurt, greed, anger, and neglect. We have cultivated a society ripe for violence and retaliation. We want to be heard, but we don’t want to listen. We want to be seen, but we walk with blinders on, seeing only our own narrow perspectives. We beat our breasts and demand understanding for our own plight while trampling on the rights of others. We deny compassion to those who are different from us or who have made mistakes. We don’t forgive. Instead, we hold grudges and harbor resentment until it destroys us. It is absolutely destroying us. We stand by and do nothing when someone needs our help. Aggghhhh! We are such selfish hypocrites!
I wrote about this once before, but this time around I am mad. But notice I’m using my words not my fists! I am not saying I’m the model standard. I am far from it, in fact. I’ll be the first to admit I have anger issues. I hit two people as a young adult (slapped a friend; punched a boyfriend), and I will be remorseful ’til the day I die. The incidents were years apart between high school and college, but I hit them both out of anger. I hope I never forget how ashamed and sorry I felt because I truly do not believe violence is ever the answer to a disagreement. But, obviously, I do know firsthand what rage feels like. I experience it on some level on a daily basis. All this optimistic drivel I post is seriously legit; but throughout the day, I can get so worked up over things I sometimes worry my jugular will explode. I often explain it to people in that you don’t get to be this emotional and passionate about things on only one end of the spectrum. I get just as expressive with my anger as I do joy. My life is not all sunshine and rainbows; that’s just what I choose to focus on. I am tightly wound, but I’ve learned to cope so I don’t actually hurt anyone.
What I’m describing is a red hot temper not a value system steeped in violence, a.k.a., subculture of violence. In my early 20s, I threw my cell phone through a wall. I threw my purse across the garage, the living room, the bedroom, the lawn… I threw a grilled cheese sandwich across the kitchen once and watched it slide down the wall in a gooey mess. But I never wanted to behave that way. As I’ve matured over the years, I’ve learned to harness the negative energy and channel it more productively (i.e., piano, art, writing, cooking, quiet time, exercise, and prayer) or safely letting it out by hitting the bed or screaming into a pillow, but I still struggle. Just last week, I hit my desk after realizing I’d made a mistake at work and broke a blood vessel in my thumb. BUT… even though I have a temper, I no longer, ever, ever feel the need to engage in violence with another person. Not to resolve a dispute, not to show dominance or pride, not because I simply lost control. I manage to maintain control so I don’t hurt people (or myself). I believe this is the result of having more positive than negative influences in my life which counteract my impulsive temper.
In other words, I happen to have a bad temper in a healthy environment. I’ve had peaceful influences in my life that prevented me from submitting to the violence. I am blessed to have grown up in a family/community where I was taught to dialogue instead of resorting to physical violence. My parents set boundaries for me as a child and taught me to respect others and find peaceful resolutions. My husband made it very clear to me while we were dating that he would not tolerate any violent acts of aggression from me. (He literally very respectfully used those exact words.) These same messages have always been reinforced in my schools, in my friends’ homes, and among my colleagues.
In my family, professional and close friendship circles, if my temper gets the best of me, I am the odd man out. I look [and feel] like the fool. This helps keep me in check. No one else in my immediate professional or personal relationships engages in fist fights after a bad call at a baseball game or a disagreement during a committee meeting. But read the news. This sort of thing is happening more and more in every corner of the country. Although I didn’t know the person directly, we’ve had incidents at my son’s own sporting events that luckily didn’t escalate to the level of the Cooper City Little League brawl. It’s everywhere.
What I see happening is that the subculture of violence which has been studied for decades is actively and aggressively seeping into the parent culture of America. Violence is pervasive in virtually every ethnicity, class, age range, sex, and in every part of the country. Violence is spreading from urban street corners to suburban elementary schools in forms ranging from playground bullying to cyber bullying to mass shootings. Workplace violence is on the rise which segues to the point that mental health patients are critically underserved in many parts of the US. Domestic abuse is down in the US, but it took 25 years for it to drop 30%! Defenses are up and tempers are raging as the world faces crisis after crisis. Donald Trump’s unbelievably successful run for the GOP presidential nomination is a clear sign that people are so desperate, they will sell their souls to the devil in order to escape the current situation. (Side note: Because I haven’t provided enough links yet, visit the Brookings Institution’s “Social Mobility Memos” blog for a wealth of data and articles on poverty in America.)
But we live in a country where it’s perfectly acceptable to show a rape scene and a human body covered in blood with missing limbs being shot with an automatic weapon at 9:00 at night on network television; but no, no, NO, God forbid we show a boob or a penis on said television show. How did this happen, you guys? How did violence and disrespect become so palatable?
There is no moral to this post. I feel compelled to ask you to start with the challenge I posted earlier encouraging us all to seek other view points, but I honestly feel completely defeated by the world right now. But let’s face it. Unfortunately, it will pass. I will climb down off of my soap box in the morning and will write another sunshiney optimistic piece that will sooth our souls and give us a shred of hope. But right now I feel like crying for the victims. I feel like crying for my children who will witness so much darkness and pain in their lifetimes because there is no end in sight to this madness.