|© L Kathryn Grace|
What isYesterday I learned that a woman I admire and who has been wonderfully supportive of this blog, had lost two family members to violence within a few very short weeks of each other.
These separate, enormous tragedies are horrendous in themselves. While they preceded the Tucson shootings last Saturday, I learned of them after the fact, while still weeping for the families of the dead and injured there, where a young man carried a gun to a supermarket and killed six people, injured fourteen others. One eye witness reported that the man, before being hauled away in cuffs, smiled with apparent satisfaction as he viewed the carnage around him. Sadly, this scene is far too familiar. Here in the United States, pick any impoverished neighborhood, and likely there has been a shooting or stabbing death in the last week. In some cities, such deaths occur almost daily; and for some of our young people, killing another human being is a rite of passage; the tell-tale tattoos they sport, badges of honor.
A father weepsSo prevalent is the violence in this country that one father, Van Jones--whom you may remember as the short-lived Green Jobs Czar of the Obama administration, and before that, one of my Ordinary Heroes--breaks down in this audio recording of a 2005 talk with The Peace Alliance. He is speaking of his then seven-month-old son and his son's chances to reach old age intact, well-educated, and free of incarceration. You've seen the statistics on young, Black male survival rates to adulthood, right? How many of them die through violence, how many of them end up in prison?
Addicted to violence
|© L Kathryn Grace|
That's not all. Our country is constantly in a state of war somewhere in the world, has been almost continuously throughout my lifetime. Many in our country consider unpatriotic those who oppose these wars.
Given the hero worship we give to perpetrators of violence, fictional and real, why shouldn't young men of color, disenfranchised at every turn, not emulate the terrible scenes they grow up watching on television and in the movies? Those who want out of their gang-infested neighborhoods have few avenues of egress. One of the most open to them: War, sponsored by our government.
Exploiting, degrading, defiling and destroying human lifeThen there are the underground, unofficial wars. Under siege from the drug cartels, Mexico reels from day to day, counting the bodies and burying the dead. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, The Taliban and Al-Qaeda bomb children in schools because they believe girls should not be taught to read and write and spell their own name, let alone learn about the world. Here in San Francisco, our police department periodically raids one "home" or another where children and women have been held in sexual slavery--in residential neighborhoods. Do you know your neighbor? They pull out not just one or two, but dozens of victims, usually brought into this country illegally, and often as not, quickly deported upon being "freed" to bear their shame and find a way to seek their living in a country that no longer wants them. San Francisco is just one small piece of that ugly puzzle.The list of human-on-human degradation and violence is unending. Or is it?
Dare we hope?
The Peace Alliance (pdf file)
It may not be much. It may be the start of something big, possibly world changing. Tonight, I'm giving myself a big dose of hope, because tonight, in the wake of the Tucson shootings, and fully conscious of all the individual tragedies people face around the country, The Peace Alliance is hosting a national conference call. The call will be facilitated by John B. Kinyon, a trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication. They call it a national soul searching moment. Here's what Aaron Voldman, director of the Student Peace Alliance, has to say about it in an email I received this morning:
This attack [the Tucson shootings] is a wake-up call for America, challenging us to step into our potential for compassion, for right relationships, and for a far more healthy political discourse. ... Now, more than ever, we must ask the questions that will stir each others' souls, and listen attentively to what emerges. Our role, as peacemakers, is a crucial one.
Dialing in is better than sitting on my puhtoodieI'll be on this call. I need to join with others round the country to discuss ways to bring peace to our hearts, to our country and to our world. If you would like to lend your voice and your thoughts, join us at 9 pm Eastern, 6 pm Pacific. The presenters strongly recommend that you pre-register for the call, which is free, apart from any telephone charges you may incur. After you register to join the national conference call, you will be sent a phone number and unique access pin. If you can’t register, join the call at 916.235.1003, Code: 590543, again at 9 pm Eastern, 6 pm Pacific.
It's still up to us
© L Kathryn Grace
We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.