By Vickie Aldrich [reposted with permission from Grassroots Press. Original date: 12/28/2009]
A while back I kept hearing about acts of violence, one of which was the media coverage of the shooting at Fort Hood. As the media puts the Fort Hood incident into sound bites, and hero stories, I think it is important for us all to realize that no act of violence is a one-act play on an empty stage.
I often feel frustrated as the media portrays and dramatizes these events. The questions “why?” and “how can we see the warning signs?’ lead us away from other questions, and to focus on individuals rather than on the culture and acceptance of violence in this country. Hero stories are told that carry with them an implication of “good shooter, good violence” and “bad shooter, bad violence.” I remember after the incident at Virginia Tech there were people who used that incident as a reason to carry arms and to have more weapons.
This incident involved trained U.S. military personel. As I listened to the extensive media coverage of victims I wondered: If the same incident had happened in Iraq or Afghanistan, where civilians of those countries were the victims, would we hear their stories? Would they be considered victims or “collateral damage”? This is part of the illogic of war and violence, which leaves me wondering, how do we turn this country away from violence towards nonviolence?
I believe that we are making progress as a nation, as a country that has both violence and massacres in our history. The voices of nonviolence are heard more and more often. People will argue that nonviolence is not effective in such situations; I agree and disagree. It reminds me of a story of going camping with some friends long ago. The driver took a shortcut and we got stuck, after the same driver had gotten us out of the situation, one friend argued, “This is why we needed him along to get us out of this mess.” I countered that without this person we would not have gotten stuck in the first place.
As with these incidents, we are told that “we need the guns to kill because we have the guns to kill.” “We need to train people to kill because we have trained people to kill.” This is the unending merry-go-round of violent logic. The effective use and time to use nonviolence is like an hourglass. The actual violence occurs at the narrow neck in the middle; before that moment there are often times for the use of nonviolence, but that chance narrows and lessens as the point of ignition is neared, and once past that point the opportunities for nonviolence once again increase.
As we are past an incident, past the moment of violence, let us move on, not focusing on preventing violent incidents, but on developing communities and a world in which nonviolence grows and flourishes.
A Quaker who has taught courses in nonviolent communication, Vickie Aldrich teaches mathematics at Doña Ana Community College.