Monday, July 11, 2016
Must Do More Than Worry About Violence
We worry a lot about violence in this country. But not in the right way.
We worry about violence against certain individuals or groups, and that is understandable. The indisputable fact that young black men are much more likely to be shot or killed by police officers is a terribly troubling thing. The stories in the headlines are merely the ones we know about.
We worry about violence against authority figures like police officers. The recent tragedy in Dallas is horribly unfathomable, and wrong in every sense of the word. The vast majority of police officers are good people who put their lives on the line every day. The very idea they would be targeted for death by those outraged over something - no matter how justified that rage might be - goes against everything this nation is supposed to stand for.
We worry about the availability of guns in America and the violence they are used to commit. Some worry there are too many guns and they are too easily obtained. Others worry it is becoming too difficult to purchase them. Some feel compelled to seek new laws to keep guns strictly regulated and out of the hands of those too unstable to own them. Others fight those efforts and claim more guns in more places will actually reduce violence by arming potential targets.
Yes - we worry. All the time. In so many ways. About so many aspects of this violence issue. About the fact we have become such a violent nation, that our murder rate is so incredibly high. About the lack of respect clearly visible across the country - respect for our institutions, for families, and for each other.
We worry. But we do little else. And that is our biggest problem.
Everyone seems to know exactly what the problem isn't. Every solution offered has no shortage of detractors who are anxious to tell you exactly why it won't work. In America today, we are experts at stopping things from happening.
It's in the area of actually doing something and solving our problems where we have become total failures. And ironically, that is the biggest problem facing us today.
Young black men and police officers tend to die for the same basic reasons. They die largely because our society has not provided a process where they and their concerns can be heard and taken seriously. They die because too many people believe only drastic action will get results today, and because we citizens have allowed that untenable situation to become the norm.
Those who say America doesn't win enough are merely making things worse. That's all America is about today. Or more accurately, we are all about making our opponents lose. Appearing powerful has become more important than doing the right thing. This has to change.
When five police officers died in Dallas, Congress observed a moment of silence. While certainly a respectful gesture, these moments are hollow and meaningless when they come from people who epitomize the paranoid paralysis that leaves us powerless against violence.
It's not our brash and arrogant words that are killing us. It's our silence when it truly matters.
Yes, I'm talking about guns again. But also about racism. About our lack of proper support for our public safety officers. About our selfishness and tunnel vision that has given this noble and generous country an "all-about-me" mentality.
What are our leaders doing to combat the violence sweeping America? We know they are not passing laws to reduce the number of destructive weapons available to the public. We know they are not setting examples of how cooperation and compromise can bring about peaceful and effective outcomes.
Does our government mirror the weaknesses of our leaders? Or are our leaders merely a reflection of the society we find ourselves in today?
We must take responsibility for those we put in power. We must demand from them a commitment to ending violence. We must force them to work together on solutions, or step aside for those who will.
We have to do more than worry about violence. We have to stop treating the symptoms and start curing the disease. We need fewer moments of silence, and more moments of clarity.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.