Letters | Readers Respond
Reducing violence's influence
Readers responded to this question: Violence has invaded our communities - our homes, workplaces and malls. Even our minds. What can you as an individual do in your family or your community to minimize the influence of violence, whether from guns, TV, video games, the printed word or personal interactions?
As a former youth minister, it is obvious to me that children and youth are being underparented from the city to the suburbs. While some parents work longer hours, many teens are living in virtual and digital worlds without adult contact. Healthy rituals and traditions that have pulled families together over the years seem to be disappearing. Some of our youth do not see the importance of good character, because it is not modeled by adults.
I mentor four teens - one is a freshman at Villanova - and have known most of them for at least six years. Recently, they stayed with my family for the weekend. We laughed, talked about life, and focused on college preparation. Although I am in Philly now, they contact me just as much as I contact them. I am committed to seeing them become healthy adults with a competitive skill.
I would not be here today if it were not for some Christian men who engaged me during my turbulent teen years. And guess what? Many of them still mentor me. Praise God.
Sixth grade, Malvern Preparatory School, Malvern
Think I'm not affected by violence? Think again. True, I don't live near a crack house, but when a 6-year-old girl dies in a drive-by shooting, the first thing that comes to my mind is my 6-year-old sister. Some kook goes to McDonald's and randomly kills people, and I think about the times I went to McDonald's after soccer practices.
Now some gunman went berserk at a Nebraska mall, and soon we'll go to our mall for Christmas shopping.
I bet that, in the 1950s, if some kid heard about murder at a mall (if they had malls), he would be so wigged-out he wouldn't leave the house for a week. But we get up, and go to school, work, and live on. The word my parents use is
My solution is simple. Change your thinking. Start believing that all this violence isn't normal. Stop thinking it's affecting other people - less-fortunate people, less-important people.
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Fear brings violence, and aggression, and aggressive defensiveness. Violent people are basically very afraid. From where does the fear come? It comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the human condition.
We have been taught, and we teach our children, that we are separate individuals, which leaves open the way for competition, resentment and fear.
What if we are not individuals, but parts of one body living on the face of the Earth. If we are one, I gain no advantage by hurting another because I would really be hurting myself. If I help another, even to the point of my loss, I am really helping myself. If we think we are alone, we become afraid. If we are afraid, we become aggressively defensive. Only thinking the truth can change us.
Because most violence is the product of unresolved conflict, it's time to depolarize our culture. View conflict as an opportunity to practice those values we
we believe in: respect for others and equality. The best way to show that nonviolent conflict resolution works is to practice it in our daily lives. A good place to start is really listening respectfully to people who have different views.
It is time to reject messages of violence, competitiveness and consumerism, and to accept each other with all our warts and foibles. We don't have to "win" at the expense of others. Building the common good is a worthy goal.
To reduce violence in Philadelphia, we should use a largely untapped resource: the experience of early-childhood educators.
A quality early-childhood program does many things well. It creates the safe respectful environment that helps children be open to learning. It focuses on learning from doing, working cooperatively, and engaging constructively with the larger environment. At the core of any good program is helping children learn how to respect one another and resolve conflicts in a peaceful way.
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Until soccer moms think their children may be shot, until supposedly reasonable people like presidential candidate Gov. Mike Huckabee and NRA president Wayne LaPierre stop suggesting that arming every citizen will stop the violence, until we value the lives of urban children and police as much as the missing blondes on the news, until hunters reject the notion that any form of gun control is an infringement on their rights, until the various polarized segments of our society realize compromise is necessary to solve problems, until the NRA doesn't have the power to threaten politicians, until gun manufacturers stop using violence as a marketing strategy to sell more guns, and until it is as hard to get a gun license as a driver's license, the violence will not stop.
Only when enough people are afraid that violence will directly touch their lives will we vote as though stopping the violence really matters. Until then, duck.
A primary consideration in curtailing violence in our society is for individuals to accept responsibility for their actions and inactions. This begins with treating everyone with dignity and respect, from personal transactions to driving in traffic no matter how they feel themselves. Paramount is the teaching, transmitting and reinforcing of positive values in their children and other family members. No instrument or institution - be it the educational system or religious community - can replace the importance of parent(s) in instilling these values in the next generation.
Violence is not controlled by one-gun-a-month regulations but is a reflection of societal values, education, employment, and many other factors for which we are all responsible.
Christine Wendler Detwiler
Gandhi said: "One must be the change one wishes to see in the world."
The Quaker way of life emphasizes generous giving, personal integrity, social justice, and peaceful settlements of disputes.
From the Prayer of St. Francis flows the words, "Where there is hatred, let me sow love . . . where there is despair in life, let me bring hope. . . . Grant that I may never seek, so much to be consoled as to console . . ."
Confucius said: "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself."
Muslims believe "that which you want for yourself, seek for all mankind."
All these words of wisdom have empathy at their core. Nurture empathy from birth, and it will grow to foster peace.
At the heart of violence, regardless of the form, is loss. Not just death loss, but the losses in one's life that are inappropriately grieved and never mourned. Our families, communities, cities are replete with losses that have never been recognized.
We in Philadelphia have reached critical mass in the level of violence that is occurring. We have a great opportunity to look a little deeper and see how unmourned losses result in violence. For my part, I have been working to help people understand the nature of non-death loss, its effect on oneself, one's family and community. It is also my goal to facilitate and support healthy grieving and mourning so that healing can occur.
Fr. Paul F. Morrissey
Recently, I bumped a car behind me - lightly, I thought - as I negotiated a parallel-parking situation. As I dashed off to go to the bank, I decided not to comment on it to the man I noticed sitting in the car. He jumped out, and rather angrily called out, "You hit my car!"
Walking back, I looked at him intently - he was African American - and said: "I'm sorry, I didn't think it was more than a tap."
"But you didn't even stop," he said.
I watched the blaze in his eyes, feeling some fear and anger myself because of the racial tension in the city. "You're right," I said.
Next time, I hope to apologize sooner, even for what I might consider a minor slight. This may lessen the feelings of disrespect, and promote healing rather than foster violence in our city.
Susan Karol Martel
Let's wake up to the fact that violence extends beyond Philadelphia, knows no color line, or the difference between rich and poor. We watch it on TV, export it throughout the world, and uphold it by being silent.