Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tucson: Time to Wake Up and Tone Down

The violence in Tucson is one more wake-up call to an increasingly violent U.S. society.

While no one knows what made a man decide to spray bullets at a simple political event for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords January 8, one only has to read newspapers, listen to talk radio, surf the Web and watch “reality television” to come away concerned about the violent imagery and demonization of so-called enemies that have entered into public discourse.

How does an ordinary citizen deal with this situation?

Part of the answer may lie in Scripture, where we learn that we are all children of God, and brothers and sisters to one another. Cain and Abel are not our role models.

The answer lies in the image of Jesus, who boldly said to love your enemies. It lies in New Testament images which herald caring figures, such as the Good Shepherd and Good Samiaritan, not Rambo or mass murderers.

On a practical level, are there things we can do as individuals to reduce violence overall?

Perhaps we can promise to not participate in violence even as an observer. We can eschew, for example, the verbal sparring on TV where the rule is take a one-sided position and ridicule the opposition, without being open to the fact that even a scintilla of truth may lie in another’s view. We can ignore the talk radio hosts who are more famous for put downs than intelligent commentary. A drop in their audiences would be a message to be heeded by media management and advertisers. We can refuse to follow blogs that demean individuals and toss about half-truths and lies.

We can educate ourselves in modern media. The Web that gives everyone access to the masses is not necessarily a great equalizer, unless you consider the informed and ignorant to be on a par. With nearly everyone having access to the Web, editors and fact-checkers are in short supply. That means users have to bring skepticism to what they read. If it seems unbeleivable, it probably is.

We can protect the young. Bullying has been a part of young lives for as long as we can remember. Now, with the Web, it has a huge impact. Someone making fun of you to a few people when you’re a teen is troublesome; having someone bad mouth you to half the world via Twitter and Facebook is overwhelming. The huge impact of such bloodless violence calls for stepped up protections, perhaps safeguards or monitoring for the Web. Parents and educators need to assert themselves in this regard. Just as they wouldn’t permit children to beat one another to a pulp on the front lawn, they have to be sure their children aren’t pummeling one another in cyberspace.

In the entertainment realm, parents also may be called to act against violent video games, movies and so-called reality shows, which de-sensitize us to violence overall. Surely the more we expose ourselves to direspectful treatment of others even in the make-believe world, the less horrified we will be of violence in ordinary life. Remember when saying “damn” was shocking? Now we’re so used to bad language that only the vilest seems to disturb us. Rememeber when young men settled things with a punch? Now a response to feeling dissed seems to be a gun.

Another way to combat violence is to look at our own attitudes toward those with whom we disagree. When faced with such a person can we pause to see if he or she has a point? Can we dismiss the impulse to disregard someone and try to understand what life is like in his or her shoes? Can we bring a voice of reason to what may seem like an unreasonable situation?

The violence in our society affects all of us. We can’t hide from it. It behooves us to see what we can do to tone it down.


Unknown said...

I would love your take on Catholic adults that wholeheartedly follow FOXNEWS because they are "pro-life". People in my Catholic church ridicule me for not jumping on with FOXNEWs. I am not a republican just because they believe in Pro-life. They are inciting friends of mine to not talk to me any longer since I do not believe as they do.
I think we need the US Bishops to soften their tone for Pro-life and convince the Democrats to soften their stand against pro-life.
The Republicans just ride your Catholic's vote into office and do as they please, "Oh, but I am Pro-life". That should not be enough to get the whole block of votes, they should take all of the beatitudes into account.

Andrew Mason said...

This is timely and vital advice that all those with a public platform should heed. Thank you for saying this, we certainly need less vitriol and more civility in debate.

Unknown said...

Here is a bit of wisdom from Bl. Theresa of Calcutta. Maybe if we start protecting the most vulnerable of us, we will find it easier to protect the rest.

"Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love is abortion." Bl. Theresa of Calcutta

Did we hear that? "use any violence to get what they want." Would that not include inflammatory rhetoric, bullying or shooting those we have issue with? Maybe not. Maybe I am reaching here but it makes sense to me.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen.

Unknown said...

Much needed and well said Sr. Mary Ann. - Mike Poulin

Test said...

Thank you Sister for your comments, especially your call to lessen media/entertainment influence on our lives.

I do however, believe you have missed the white elephant in the room in your article and that is the foundational attack on life in the womb.

As Mother Teresa said -

"But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child - a direct killing of the innocent child - murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love, and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even his life to love us. So the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love - that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."

God Bless,

Notch Consulting said...

Well put! (and good to "hear" your voice again)