Vol. 12    No. 17
AUGUST 21, 2017
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                                                    Violence, Part One
Community Transition
Justice Castañeda Leads CommonWealth
into a Citywide Era
Before I begin my column this issue, let me give kudos to Ray Kumapayi, Aggo Akyea and the rest of the committee for a superb Africa Fest
held last Saturday. The weather was perfect and the African community, as well as the African American community and the Greater Madison
community turned out for a splendid day of music, food and merriment. It was a feast for the eye and ear. There are members of the African
community whom you may only see once per year and that is at Africa Fest. What a celebration!

***
There has been so much violence evident in the world today that it just leaves me wondering. As Fabu mentions in her column, it is a Ball of
Confusion out there, to borrow from The Temptations.

I can’t help but feel that the violence has always been out there, either individually early in our human existence and then collectively as we
created clans and communities. It’s like it is almost programmed into our DNA and our emotions, a way to preserve the DNA from one
generation to the next. In that sense, we can never get away from the potential for violence. It is a part of our human condition. It is something
that can be brought out of us just as much as love can be brought out of us as well.

We do have the potential for good and evil within us and it is the context or conditions that we find ourselves in that pulls the evil — or the
good — out of us. And in many ways, it is our societal institutions that are pulling the violence out of us.

When you look at things objectively, the vast majority of people in this country has a higher standard of living and lives longer than most of the
people who have walked this earth since the dawn of time — and that includes kings and queens. We have cell phones, cars and food to eat.
We live 20 years longer than most people even 100 years ago did. We have all of the modern conveniences including large TVs with a zillion
stations.

And yet, there are so many dissatisfied and angry people out there. They get angry for the slightest insult posted who looks different than them
and feel that everyone is getting ahead of them — by not adhering to the rules. People get angry for the slightest thing. And it seems that our
society has facilitated the release of that anger.

We are armed to the teeth with at least 310 million guns in circulation and 37 percent of U.S. households stating that they have at least one gun
in the household. Our mass media is filled with violence and seems to send the message that violence is the only way out of situations or
predicaments. How many people kill other people in this nation because they themselves are in pain and decide to take someone else with
them including their own children? How many arguments turn deadly because someone has a gun?

We live in a polarized society where over the normal course of our lives, we aren’t introduced to or interact with people different than us. We
rely upon the mass media to introduce us to them and that is often done in a very unflattering, stereotypical light.

My father was a moderate to conservative Republican depending on the issue. But he always saw and respected other people’s humanity. I
can’t help but feel that he got some of that serving in World War II where he worked with and depended on people different than he was. The
lessons of the Great Depression taught him that but by the grace of God; he could be down and out too. His national service helped make
him a citizen of this country, helped him to become an American. None of that is happening today.

We live in our own silos, surrounded by the mass media of our choice. We aren’t forced to get to know each other. And the idolatry of
individualism — and the abundance of our rich society — allow us to isolate ourselves and to form all kinds of stereotypes about people whom
we perceive as the enemy, to turn them into objects. And when we make people into objects, it allows us to do harm to them. There is no
apparent consequence.

We depend upon our electronics to tell us who we are and those electronics can be very isolating and manipulative. Facebook is always
pushing me to post more — and to advertise. People walk down the street self-absorbed in their own little worlds, not paying attention to the
world around them. And that can lead to electronic manipulation, just like Facebook tries to do with me.

For the past 40 years or so, I have observed forces at work — and there are probably others —to delegitimize government and its authority. The
most pronounced is the conservative wing of the Republican Party that always professes that government is evil, that government must be
shrunk and then killed. Everything that government touches is perceived to be bad and even the things that it does well like Social Security are
perceived to be private just because they work so effectively.

And so if government is not legitimate, then its rules are not legitimate as well. These groups — both within and outside government — try to
tear it down. Some prepare for the day when there is no government and arm themselves to the teeth. Some arm themselves to the teeth to
resist government.

And if government is seen as illegitimate, then people feel more vindicated in taking things into their own hands and solving disagreements
and arguments with violence for just like the people on their smart phones, video games and television and movies, they are in  some
measure, disconnected from reality and the violence can come easy because the rest of the people in the world are mere objects and illusions.

All of us need to be concerned with violence because it impacts all of us directly and indirectly. Violence is a destructive societal force that
will eventually tear all of our worlds apart. How do we promote non-violence and peace as a way to preserve our civilization? We need to find
a way.