An unquenchable thirst for violence?

August 19, 2021

By Jacquelyn D. Heath
Special to The Milwaukee Times

Consider the following incidents making the news recently in the span of two days.

• A man is convicted of killing his two children and their mother.

• A two-year-old child is shot and killed after he and his older brothers found their father’s gun and began playing with it.

• An incident of road rage on city streets resulted in the shooting of two teens, leaving one of them – an aspiring WNBA hopeful – in critical condition and her sports future in doubt.

• A Waukesha County sheriff ’s deputy is charged for killing a citizen, one of three separate killings for which he was exonerated, while serving as a Wauwatosa police officer.

The common denominator for all of these is the perpetration of a violent act.

The ready availability of guns doesn’t help. The United States is the only country in the alleged civilized world that guarantees private citizens access to firearms, via the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There may have been a legitimate need for guns at the beginning of our nation’s history, namely to hunt for food. Some people still maintain a need to use guns to hunt for sport. However, the main reason people have guns these days is to wage an act of aggression against another person, It’s almost as if our country guarantees the constitution right to die by violence.

What is it about people nowadays? Regardless of the circumstances, violence seems to be at the root of modern human behavior, at least in the United States. Based on the aforementioned headlines, the tendency is to vent one’s frustrations now, by whatever means necessary or available, regardless of the consequences or effect they may have on others. Better to victimize than to be the victim.

As for law enforcement, the police ride around in cars that carry the slogan, “… to serve and protect.” But the actions of a few rogues are often more inflammatory than calming and are out of control, serving and protecting no one but perhaps themselves. They give the whole profession a bad reputation.

So what is the action plan to stem this proliferation of violence and put unity back in our community? Does peace stand even half a chance of taking hold, or is violence and vengeance too deeply embedded in our DNA? Consider the following alternatives to choosing violence.

Breed a culture of respect for all people. Everyone is entitled to respect, regardless of age, gender, accomplishment, or preference, and it involves give and take on both sides. We do not live in a vacuum, and everyone has something that someone else wants or needs. However, no one has the right to swindle, hoodwink, browbeat or otherwise bully someone out of their possessions, gifts or attributes for their own advantage or benefit. If you want what someone else has, there’s a way to go about getting it legitimately, and that’s what R-E-S-P-E-C-T (find out what it means to me) is all about.

We all know that many an act of violence and disrespect erupts after someone calls someone a name other than what shows on their “government-issued I.D.” My Granny had a solution for that. She would tell us kids, “If someone calls you by anything other than your given name, they are not talking TO YOU, ABOUT YOU, OR ABOUT ANYONE YOU KNOW; so just ignore them and walk away. They’ll look like a pure fool talking to themselves.” You know who you are; don’t fall prey to name-calling nonsense.

There’s truth to the adage, “Don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin’.” More win-win results can be achieved if we work together to solve problems with each other than cause problems for each other.

Refuse to glorify violence of any kind. That includes on television, in films, and in music and other media. If people stop getting wealthy off of violence and other people’s misfortune, they might just stop promoting and portraying it.

The community we get is the community we work for together. Ask yourself: “What have I done today to bring and preserve peace and unity back to my community?” We’re all in this together; promise yourself – and future generations – that you will do your part to build a better community, help eradicate this unquenchable thirst for violence and make peace your legacy.

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