Be the Change You Wish to See in the World

August 7, 2019, 11:57 am

Two more communities, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, were rocked this week by devastating acts of mass shooting violence. Dozens of people lost their lives, and many more were injured or deeply impacted by the loss of loved ones. It is bewildering what motivates someone to carry out such violence against others. The frequency with which these mass acts of violence occur is causing a deeply entrenched panic in society. The randomness of it all, especially the helplessness of how to stop it, leaves law enforcement, lawmakers, and communities feeling profoundly powerless. 

News commentators are quick to highlight malicious white nationalism, and prosecutors hastily file hate crime charges. Finger pointing and politicizing begin before the first responders have even secured the scenes. Instead of working towards solutions, the rhetoric surrounding these tragic events devolves into hateful and accusatory exchanges, which only fuel more hatred. Our country is desperately broken, and nobody seems to understand why. Nobody wants to take responsibility.

The nonstop (and tiresomely long) hatred spewed through election campaigns, 24-hour news commentary, and politician Twitter wars can’t possibly be to blame. It can’t be the endless glorification of violence our children see on television, the internet, and in video games. It must not be the pervasive cyber-bullying our children endure from other children (and adults!) who learned (from where?) how to tear down rivals. Increases in addiction and mental health issues, at ever-decreasing ages, certainly can’t be to blame. So if none of these are responsible, who or what is?

Despite the fact that crime rates are down nationwide, children today experience trauma at unprecedented levels. According to a 2003 US Census Bureau report, although children under 18 years old represent only 26 percent of the US population, they account for approximately 50 percent of the witnesses and victims of violent acts. And that doesn’t even take into account the violence they are exposed to on television, the internet, and through video games. Nearly half of today’s teens suffer from the effects of significant trauma, including physical, sexual, and psychological violence. 

Some might argue, “yeah, but most kids aren’t shooting up schools and malls, so it can’t be that.” But some are. Should we ignore the trauma our kids are experiencing, protect the corporations who profit from traumatizing our kids, fail to address our own contributions to that trauma, and continue to feed the hate machine through our blame-shifting, finger-pointing rhetoric? No, of course we shouldn’t, but we still do. 

Every American, whether from the vibrant, bustling crowded streets of New York City or from sleepy, small-town middle-America, has to play a part in turning the tide of hate in our country. We have to take individual responsibility for the anxiety we cause our children through our own hateful attitudes. We have to call out our politicians and news outlets for spreading hate. We have to stop supporting corporations that profit from traumatizing our children. And we have to address addictions, mental health issues, and trauma our children are experiencing earlier and earlier in life. 

Individually, we can’t do it all. But we can make a difference in our sphere of influence. We can say something when we see something instead of turning away in fear or shame. We can learn (and then teach!) how to have respectful discourse on disagreements. We can stand up for vulnerable people and empower those who feel powerless. If you don’t know where to start, start right where you are. Just look around you–but really look. A lot of hurting, powerless people need you

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The opinions expressed within posts and comments are solely those of each author, and are not necessarily those of Women Against Registry.

The opinions expressed within posts and comments are solely those of each author, and are not necessarily those of Women Against Registry.