Violence

A U.S. Congressman was shot yesterday. It should go without saying that it’s a tragedy. It always is, when a human being is shot, that is.

Shooting another person is such a barbaric act. Yet it happens every day. It’s confirmation we are not nearly as civilized as we think we are.

There are all kinds of justification for shootings and killings, of course. Personally, I don’t find any of them to be persuasive.

When I was in college, I toured the prison in central Pennsylvania where state-sponsored executions were carried out. Actually, the execution room had been inactive for a while until the Supreme Court could finally resolve the issue, but the room stood ready for action. The electric chair was in the middle of the room. A large exhaust fan was positioned in the ceiling above the chair, ready to suck the fumes from the room as the flesh and organs fried. I wondered how anyone could participate in the intentional, well-planned killing of another human being. I still wonder.

I also wonder why so many people are willing to fight rich people’s wars. That’s what wars usually entail: fighting over resources or other strategic advantages that bear on the ability of rich and powerful people to maintain or build their wealth.┬áIt’s said that money is the root of all evil. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to realize it’s true.

Some people think we need to be armed in order to protect our liberty. Hence, you can walk into a Starbucks in Cheyenne, Wyoming and encounter a customer with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder. Some people simply don’t understand what nurtures and protects liberty. They put too much faith in instruments of death. In the power of violence.

I don’t own a gun, Vera. And I suspect I never will. I did borrow one years ago when we lived in Pittsburgh. I was involved in the defense of a client in the trash hauling business, and there had been some assaults and one murder on the fringes of the case. Borrowing the gun was probably an over-reaction, yet when you have a wife and small kids, over-reactions aren’t uncommon. You become very protective.

I returned the gun and haven’t had one in the house anytime since. That said, I’d probably resort to violence in self-defense or in defense of a loved one. But the odds of the need for such action are very, very low.

I’m lucky. For people in my socio-economic status, violence is usually something that lives in the distance. But not all people are so fortunate. It’s just one of the many daily reminders of the role luck and parentage play in one’s life. You’re a very lucky girl, too.

I don’t mean to suggest violence only comes to us in the form of guns. In fact, violence takes many forms. Sometimes it’s delivered by a fist. Or needle. Or mental or emotional assault. Or some act of self-destruction.

Usually (but not always), violence is accompanied by fear, anger, greed, hate or desperation. If we thought and talked more about those things, perhaps there would be less violence.

I wonder if humans will ever develop to the stage of finding violence to be barbaric and unacceptable. That would be nice, but it’s probably just a pipe dream.

In the meantime, the struggle between violence and peace will continue. It’s a struggle that takes place not only in society. It also plays out within every human being’s heart.

Peace be with you, my dear Vera. May love, courage and hope hold violence at bay in your life.