Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.
Once again we are wracking our brains trying to find an effective way to combat violence in our country, most recently in our schools. Fighting anything suggests that we are approaching the issue with violent means. We seem to forget that such approaches only add fuel to the fire.
If fighting violence is not the answer, what is? We can approach the problem in a number of ways. Most obvious is gun control. Self protection and hunting are legitimate reasons to have and use guns. Yet we do not need assault weapons for either purpose any more than we need explosive devices, armored rockets or atomic bombs in our personal possession. It is time for us to be reasonable in the degree to which we allow the use of guns in the hands of individuals. Laws about who can own what weapons and under what circumstances need to be considered in sane discussion by all of us including voters and elected representatives.
Gun rights activists are quick to point out that guns do not kill people by themselves. They are right. We also need to look at the reasons for violence. The main reason is anger boiling over in individuals who feel marginalized, beaten down and frustrated to the point that they see revenge as their only option. Responding to violence is a challenge for the rest of us.
We develop our attitudes in our family. If you are raised by angry or violent parents, chances are that you will become an angry and violent teen and adult. If everyone was raised to respect others regardless of differences, we would have a good head start toward a nonviolent society.
Another influence on our values and priorities is the example set by those leading and governing our country. An executive branch in complete disarray undermines our ability to have faith that the principles on which our country was founded will remain important. A federal government with legislators in the grip of partisan gridlock also fails to lead us anywhere positive. Both branches show us a pattern of anger rather than any sense of cooperation in our best interest. We can’t easily get either branch to change because we want them to, but we do have the option of electing individuals more responsive to our needs.
Other factors leading to anger and violence include poverty as a result of racism and discrimination, prejudice against individuals and groups, limiting their ability to benefit from the opportunities theoretically available to all of us. Discriminatory pay, unequal legal and criminal procedures, and the ability of the wealthy to buy privileges for their sole advantage also make their contribution. Again we have the option to elect people more responsive to the needs of everyone. It often seems that we have little power as individuals to change our society. Our votes are perhaps our most powerful tool. Our challenge is to learn to appreciate each other and work together to find leadership which respects all of us.