Consider the following:
- 168 children have been killed by American drone strikes during the last seven years.
- There were more than 500 deaths in Chicago last year.
- More U.S. troops die of self-inflicted wounds than in battle.
- Congress failed to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act last year even though VAWA has been proven to be a cost effective way to save lives.
You cannot separate these facts, they are intrinsically linked in our culture that glorifies war and violence. A recent romp with my remote control through cable channels illustrated all too clearly that the generation that is just now reaching adulthood has grown up with a staggering amount of violent entertainment that glorifies the use of force. If it isn’t about law and order, it is the Military Channel or a ‘reality’ show about border patrols or cops, never mind the computer games and on and on.
This is the generation that grew up with the military freely roaming school cafeterias recruiting our children courtesy of the No Child Left Behind Act under the watchful eye of Homeland Security and being told constantly that we must be vigilant and get the bad guys before they get us. We have relentlessly told this generation that guns and violence are the way to solve things, exert power and get what you want.
Little wonder then that there is an epidemic of troops finding out that being in the military and killing people, especially little children, isn’t at all as cool or righteous as they were led to believe. And little wonder that there is a gun-possessed murder epidemic in this country. I simply do not remember when the last time was that I opened my morning paper without finding a report of a murder, or more often than not, multiple murders. It is a daily event in this country.
And we need to hold Congress accountable. That they are more afraid of the gun lobby than of their constituents being killed is unacceptable. In addition, their failure last year to re-authorize funding for the Violence Against Women Act leaves us with the deadly take-away that as a nation, we do not take violence against women seriously. And year after year, they give the military more and more money while education funding languishes.
We have set up a monstrous apparatus for catching ‘terrorists’ in this country. But let’s get real–taking off our shoes at the airport while a gun show goes on down the road and sending the military into our schools to entice our children to serve their country only to send them into service so pointless and brutal that they take their own lives and refusing to provide funds to address violence against women amounts to self-inflicted terrorism.
If a young Arab man commits mass murder, he is described as a terrorist.
If a young man of color commits mass murder in a poor inner city neighborhood, he is described as a dangerous thug.
If a young man joins the military and accidentally kills innocent civilians on a bombing run, he is a hero and the deaths are referred to as accidental collateral damage.
If a young white man commits mass murder in the suburbs, we say it was his mental health or his home life.
We need to do a reality check of our own situational perceptions in labeling men (and yes it is almost always men and we need to confront that too), who kill and their victims, because regardless of where killing takes place and who pulls the trigger, dead is dead, killing is killing, whether it is children in Pakistan killed by a drone strike or children in a Connecticut suburb killed by a disturbed young man, and the grief of their loved ones is the same, no matter what their skin color is or where they live.
We must mourn all of those who have been murdered, and we must strive to end the culture of entitlement and impunity that allows and enables killing, wherever it takes place.
We need to think about what we have taught our children. It has very real and very deadly consequences. And we need to move away from equating punishment with justice. Doing that requires a massive shift in our thinking and a relentless connecting of dots in understanding the impact of our actions.
I started this piece with links to the litany of violence that is the American nightmare. It doesn’t have to be that way and for inspiration and thoughts about re-thinking justice and resolving conflict, I highly recommend this piece in the New York Times and this piece from Common Dreams.
Addenda: Another important read about a program that is working to transform justice.