Violence by Another Name

When we think about violence in our society, we are quick to talk about physical violence such as assault, domestic abuse, rape, shooting, stabbing, fisticuffs, terrorism, warfare, and so forth. We have been socialized to think of violence in these terms. In addition, we are also prone immediately to credit such violence to the individual and to absolve communities or systems from any responsibility or accountability whatsoever. We are not astute when it comes to dealing with forms of violence that are covert and subtle, i.e., structural, procedural, and subsidiary.  The lack of opportunities, information, community policing, social services, employment, justice in the courts, and so forth invalidate the claim that violence is individual and not societal in nature.

Just because we are unable to find an easy fix to address these deficiencies does not exculpate us from the responsibility.  Whereas it is challenging for us not to separate the players in an armed robbery into merely direct perpetrators and victims, that is exactly what we must do in order to execute fairness and equity in the land.  We don’t know how to do it, so we lock up the perpetrators, force them sometimes to engage in restorative justice programs, and continue to humiliate them for the rest of their lives–as if their criminal activities happened in a vacuum!

What needs to be done?  We need to find ways to prevent violence by teaching alternatives to it as well as by addressing and redressing the multiple and cumulative causes that make resorts to violence seem palpable and necessary.  More research should be done in connecting the dots between impoverished neighborhoods and criminal activity disproportionately numbered.   Economic strife, political disengagement, familial discord, illness, and other plights conspire to distort the affected person’s thinking and consequently to compel or make easier the engagement of that person in miscreant or illicit activity.  These issues–the stressors of the economy, politics, family, and sickness–inevitably point to the involvement of those institutions fundamentally responsible for these poor life changes and bad choices.  The heads of local businesses, elected officials, relatives, friends, health care centers. law enforcement personnel, public school principals and teachers, etc., must come together to address the intensification of violence, particularly by youth and young adults, within the community.

There are a few individuals who have been proactive in this type of cause for many years, but many, many more people, from working professionals to unemployed citizens, need to come to the table and enter into the discussions and participate in the action items in order to improve people’s lot and to stem the growing stalk of violence.  Summer is upon us and, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated it was preceded by a winter of delay.  We always tend to wait until the last minute to start to get nervous about how the rise in air temperature might affect groups of folks in the public arena.  By then, it is too late and many lives have been lost.  Having some type of coalition of the above is needed to take a holistic approach to what ails the young ones and contributes to their seasonal blues.  The fact of the matter is that the problems are perennial and do not ebb and flow whether the temperature’s 100 degrees or minus 15.  Despair is ubiquitous; it is not time sensitive.  Every day is replete with moments of seizure to make real the promises of democracy.  Carpe Diem!  Si Se Puede!

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays said it well in his poem, “God’s Minute.”

I’ve only just a minute,

Only sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it,

Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,

But it’s up to me to use it.

I must suffer if I lose it,

Give an account if I abuse it,

Just a tiny little minute,

But eternity is in it.

About mdbwell

Pres., Project for the Beloved Community, Inc.; B.A.--Wesleyan University; M.Div.--Yale University; Ph.D.--Boston University; Summer Study--Harvard University; Social ethicist; Ordained minister; Advocate for the poor
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