A Nation in Denial
Almost everyday as we listen to the news we hear new tragic stories about violence, mass shootings, people hurt and killed, and for what seems to be senseless reasons. These events are upsetting to all of us. I know I put these concerning issues on the back burner of my mind as I go about my day like most of us. I also try to watch, and listen to the news less for my own mental health. There was a time when these tragic events were relatively rare in affluent areas or neighborhoods, but that is no longer the case. But the reality is that what effects one, ultimately effects all. I remember writing an article shortly after the Columbine Tragedy. School related shootings were often linked to bullying and retaliation. I remember these incidents were addressed primarily by monitoring firearms and weapons as students enter schools, additional police would be placed in high schools, and on occasion there might be a minimal increase in counseling services. The real issues were never addressed, and they still are not being addressed. Today we focus our attention on gun control and the sale of firearms to reduce violent crime. I personally believe in the second amendment, that we should have the right to protect ourselves and our homes , however, I do not believe in the widespread sales of automatic and semiautomatic weapons that is not for the use of the military. Although I believe that gun control is an important issue to be addressed, violence is a symptom of something deeper, something that extends outward from the internal fabric of our society. There are problems that are woven into many aspects of the way we relate to each other culturally. A lack of respect for each other is primary. These violent acts, however, are not only caused by the way we relate to each other, but by the way we relate to other cultures. Unfortunately there are many pieces to this challenging puzzle, all of which can not be talked about in this short post. Is parenting a piece of this puzzle. My answer is that parenting is absolutely a piece of the puzzle. Anytime that we teach, or give consent for our child to be demeaning, or disrespectful to another child, or human being, we can accept some responsibility for violence in our world. It is not uncommon to hear young adults make the statement that another human being is, "A piece of shit". As a therapist I encourage emotional expression of, anger, disappointment, rage, and sadness. Everyday I encourage the emotional release of these intense and primal feelings. It is part of my everyday work. We need to express ourselves! If we don't talk to someone about our emotions, sadness, anger, hurt, we are not likely to be very happy. Unless we have been meditating for thirty years. Happy people very rarely hurt others,"in any manner". We can hurt others either consciously or unconsciously. It is,"hidden unhappiness", that that often causes us to hurt others. Can the, "hidden unhappiness", be disguised and compartmental within a seemingly happy person. Can some of us have a wonderful smile in one situation, and yet inflict devastating injury to others in another situation. This is absolutely true. We can't always trust a beautiful smile. Of course, we know that we all have the potential to lack mindfulness and hurt others in a variety of ways. Our own hurt and injury can be transformed into hate. Violence may range from slaughtering innocent people, to acts of micro-violence that the perpetrator doesn't even know that they are committing. Violent acts do not arise from nowhere. They are generated over time. Extreme acts of physical violence have their root in acts of micro-violence. When we teach our children to be prejudice, we are feeding and nurturing the potential for violent behavior. When we do not respectfully call out, or support demeaning behavior toward others we are making our contribution to the violence we read about, and hear in the news. For the most part violence can not long survive in a compassionate, understanding environment. I worked for many years with delinquent boys. Some of the boys were so dangerous that they needed to be behind bars for the safety of others. Some people have been so injured by others that they need to be kept out of the community. This is unfortunately true. When children are not held accountable for their behavior in a caring and compassionate manner, it can be problematic for their character. Most of the boys that I worked with grew up in environments that did not help them grow in a healthy manner. Many of them did well in our care, and some of them unfortunately returned to prison. Sometimes it is hard to undo the damage. So each of us needs to ask ourselves, if we are making efforts to solve the problem, or to contribute to it. How do we take care of our own anger and our own emotions? Can we show respect for other and can we have compassion for ourselves? Can we show more compassion and understanding for others and be a little less critical? I need to be careful about this one. Can we, "Stop", the next time we are tempted to be disrespectful or demeaning to another? Can we at least frown the next time we hear someone call another a demeaning name, or refer to someone as, "A lying piece of shit". I completely understand there is a fine line between the need for self expression when we or another is upset, and the need to encourage more respect toward others.