The Normalization of Violence

The latest horrific incident of violence through yet another shooting spree at a school has of course spurred the debates about to how to solve this issue. I scroll through my facebook feed and see good friends on both sides of the gun control issue. There are manifestos regarding the need for tougher gun control and there are manifestos that tout that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. There are the ever-present discussions regarding the state of mental health. There are articles that cite that more children are killed by guns in the US than any other country in the world.

To me, the issue is far larger than all described above. Thoughts began to swirl around my head that led me to research society within our country as well as cultures throughout the world. I have been researching violence as a whole throughout history. I read articles describing anthropologists’ and biologists’ conflicting arguments on whether or not violence is inherent and whether it is something which can be overcome. I have found research those shows there are at least 70 societies worldwide that resolve issues peacefully to the point where violence simply does not exist.

While it has been shown quite convincingly that violence can be inherently wired within us, whether you are studying chimpanzees or studying humans, the actual normalization of violence within cultures is the true culprit of the propagation, continuation and cyclical nature of continued and sustained terror. What was so disturbing about my research on violence is how many categories have been defined. There is interpersonal, intimate partner, societal, domestic, youth, elder, sexual, financial, psychological… and the list goes on and on. Violence begets violence.

Unfortunately, this current political climate and administration has done nothing but bring more violence to the forefront, as aggression has been continuously explained away and even celebrated. I will forever defend my position that any violence or aggression whether in word or in deed must not be tolerated. We live in a world and a culture that celebrates and is constantly normalizing brutality. There are people in this county and on this planet that live in constant fear of their next violent episode. As a human race, we must rise above and evolve to the peaceful creatures we know we can be. It will take generations, but we must forever push ourselves in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mirror Mirror

As many of you know, I have spent 45 minutes, once a week, over the last year and a half, on a therapist’s couch. Those collective hours have been tremendously helpful in leading me towards a full and complete understanding of myself. I will forever shout at the top of any mountain that everyone on the planet deserves that same experience. I have resolved so many points of contention within my own head and pounds of guilt and anger have evaporated into thin air. I truly believe mental well-being is at the very foundation of any happy and healthy person and that none of us can do it alone.

As I think back on the last year, the truth of the matter is that it has taken far more than the 45 minutes per week on that couch. My transformation has occurred because of all the additional time I have spent contemplating a lifetime of behavior and all the possible motivations behind it. I have thought about my influences and my idols. I have deconstructed all of my traumatic events and the lasting impacts they still have on my reactions today. I have discussed possible behavioral theories with those closest to me and listened to their perspective on formative events throughout my lifetime.

Much of my contemplation is done in the car, as I drive many miles per week for my job.  One of my thoughts today specifically was about how self-indulgent I have been throughout this process. I couldn’t believe how much time I was spending thinking about why I had done certain things and from where those impulses were coming. I judged myself for spending so much time thinking about me, me and more me. How could I be so conceited as to be constantly analyzing my own life history and the subsequent consequences. I was supposed to be writing about how we have become too self indulgent and how we need to turn our eyes outward to solve more collective issues that face humankind.

But I have come to the empowering realization that self-indulgence for the right reasons can be the greatest catalyst in existence for helping others. I liken it to the airplane safety manuals telling you that you have to put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others. Removing the blocks inside of your own head opens you up to being less angry and more cooperative.  Once you understand the reasons why you feel depression or anxiety and come up with a plan to deal with them, you can be the best version of a helpful human being and come very close to being your true and ideal self. The journey of finding oneself could be the best formula we could ask for in bringing true hope to humanity as a whole.

 

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What I Won’t Tolerate

I am in the my twentieth year of being in the business world. These years have come with many challenges. What happened today had happened in the past, but today I made a point not to tolerate it.

I went to a business lunch with my boss, who happens to be a male who is 8 years my senior. I am a woman and I happen to look younger than my current age of 42. We went to lunch with two men who are probably between the ages of 50 and 60. One of them was absolutely wonderful to me. He was respectful, friendly and a pleasure to be with.

The other gentleman, not so much. I knew his reputation of being a bully. But I was open-minded at first and wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I asked him about his career path. As he began his story, he looked at me. But soon he dove into the details involving specifics of lending and investments. And as he got into the particulars of his story, he looked at my manager only.  He went on for a good fifteen minutes like that; looking at my boss and ignoring me.

There is nothing that makes me as enraged as when I am overlooked in this manner. In the past, I may have been aggravated, but not let it known for the sake of decorum. Today, I said directly to this man,

“You’re going to need to look at me and talk to both of us if                                           you want this luncheon to continue.”

He played it off as if he didn’t realize it and didn’t mean to do it. There is no doubt in my mind that if I didn’t call him out on it, I would have been ignored the entire luncheon. My boss was wonderful and directed the conversation my way in an attempt to fix it. But afterwards he admitted that it was very awkward for him to watch; he was truly surprised that something like that could actually happen.  It’s tough to relate to that if you don’t experience it.

I am educated, I am competent and I will not be ignored. I hope every woman who experiences this kind of nonsense cuts it off right there in the moment. There’s still a great deal of work to be done.

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Prioritizing Peace

As I’ve mentioned so many times before, I’ve lived inside of my head for years and years. That is good in that I have a rich inner life complete with vivid dreams and deep reflections. I have learned to use those advantages to help me write. Of course, that characteristic is also bad because of all the hours of sleep I’ve lost to constant head spinning.
In trying to relax, I’ve read several books on the Buddhist way. One of my most recent finds, “How to Solve Our Human Problems” by Kelsang Gyatso, discusses how important it is to lose our preoccupation with self-absorption. It discusses how stress finds its way deeper and deeper into our psyches through our ruminations on all the negative possibilities that could possibly occur, however remotely possible.

The key to peace is that you are supposed to focus on everyone else around you and how to make their lives better. You are supposed to view every living being as your equal counterpart and ensure that you are empathetic towards all. When you do that, all narcissism falls away and we stop causing non existent issues and solve actual pressing and important issues by working together and striving for peace.

I can’t help but reflect upon this ideal way of life during these incredibly challenging times. Our culture specifically has thrived economically for many people through complete self absorption. But we are leading the human race in the wrong direction. We have to put serious thought towards those countries who put human lives first and becoming wealthy a distant priority. We can learn much from those places that put a premium on their quality of life, not the quantities in their wallets. I truly believe that there is hope for humanity if we can see peace as the ultimate goal.

 

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Violence and Humanity

I would very much like to describe and solve the issue of violence and humanity within four nice, neat paragraphs. I would like to lament about the state of humanity but end with an optimistic last line about how we will all get through this together. But forgive me, I can’t seem to muster up that kind of optimism today.

Violence is a constant in our lives as human beings. Vegas was massive in the number of people killed or wounded in such a short period of time. The horror of Sandy Hook  has been resurrected, reminding us of a slew of 5-year old lives lost. Terrorists were carving people’s heads off with saws and blasting it across the internet, not to mention driving planes through buildings and vans through crowds.

Violence is happening every second of every day across this entire planet. It is normalized in certain countries and is happening to the young and innocent in countless circumstances. Shootings are common in inner city neighborhoods and just part of the normal course of the day. Domestic violence lives behind closed doors every second and terrorizes everyone within the household while people pretend it’s none of their business.

I have searched for answers in religion and looked for hope in constant daily acts of kindness. For the most part, most people are fundamentally good and we should be able to find solace in that. But it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me with every passing news story; we are in complete crisis as human beings. And it’s going to take more than “sending thoughts and prayers” everyday on a facebook page to fix it. No one has all the answers but we all better start at least trying to come up with some. We don’t have the luxury any more to standby and believe in the good in everyone. It’s not enough. And it’s time to put some energy into figuring this out, every- single- day. Not just on the days where there is horror on the news to remind us of how little progress we’ve made for humanity.

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People Make Mistakes

“Making mistakes is better than faking perfection.” -Unknown

As someone who has spent her entire life trying to meet unrealistic expectations, I have overthought, over analyzed and become more than paralyzed over trying to be perfect. It’s crippling often times.  But the truth is, no matter how many times you go over something, when the grand moment finally arrives, mistakes will happen. The worst part is that those blunders are the ones you never saw coming; the situations you were absolutely sure you had totally together.

I’ve often noticed many political figures tear their careers apart by lying when someone calls them out on something only to be caught in the end. It’s a sad situation for a few reasons. Often times they are the ones to blame because they had touted themselves to be completely infallible. When you claim to be perfect and above everyone else, you had better be able to prove it time and time again.

But at the same time, I also wish there was more of a culture to allow for failure when someone admits to an honest mistake. We force ourselves into a corner when we don’t accept that we are fallible. I’ve taken the fall for probably too many situations in my time. But there have been plenty of times where I truly was at fault and took my blame as appropriate.

I’ve always admired the quote by Vince Lombardi,

                     “Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.”

If we’re trying to get to excellence, giving it every effort we’ve got, let’s try to forgive a bit more when we don’t make it. It’ll be a happier world for us all.

 

 

 

 

 

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How Can We Help?

On NPR this morning I tuned into a discussion with a journalist who had recently spent time in North Korea. I instantly thought of when Otto Warmbier was “released” earlier this year, right before his death. I watched the TV in complete horror as I became sick to my stomach imagining what awful things they could have done to him.

The journalist went on to discuss how in North Korea, they have a way of ensuring the people don’t rebel. It’s known as the ‘three generations of punishment” rule. If you organize rebellion, not only will you be sent to prison camp, but your children and your children’s children are doomed to live out their lives there as well. The North Korean people only know lives full of constant fear and complete lack of hope.

Atrocities against humans happen everyday all over the world. Basic human rights are violated every second. I don’t pretend to know the answers to solve these problems. But we can not live in a bubble saying we don’t know how to help either. We are incredibly lucky to live in this country where we are free; so many lost their lives so that we may enjoy that reality. And when we band together, we always make a difference.

What are your thoughts on how we can help?

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Do Something

“To me, freedom entitles you to do something, not to not do something.” -Shel Silverstein

This week, I encountered several major instances of social injustice, just within my small circle of influence.  The phrase “no good deed goes unpunished,” by Clare Boothe Luce,  echoed loudly and repeatedly in my head, as if by megaphone.

My friend was in a store with her son, who happens to be on the Autism spectrum.  Three teenage employees were hanging out in the corner, blatantly laughing at him.  My friend’s son is one of the happiest, nicest and most loving kids I have ever met.  He would do anything for his friends, family or for that matter, anyone he just met on the street.  My friend’s heart was broken when she witnessed the situation. She was put in an uncomfortable position because it was now up to her to address it. She handled it beautifully and held those teenagers accountable for their behavior.

A teenager in the Bronx was charged with manslaughter.  His mother’s ex-boyfriend, drunk and on PCP, attacked her in her home.  This teenager jumped to her defense.  In the scuffle, the ex-boyfriend was killed. Now the son is the one who faces prison.  I do not have any evidence in front of me. But I have to assume that if I were the son in that situation, I would have done anything possible to save my mother from this horrific attack.  I’m sure he did not intend to kill him, but I also assume that it is difficult to pinpoint and calculate the exact amount of force necessary that will keep you out of prison and save your mother from certain death.

I have another friend who was held responsible for someone’s suicide, even though she had never even met him.  I cannot give details of the situation, but rest assured, she had done nothing but build a support network from scratch, with the intention of helping individuals in need. She simply became a scapegoat and was blamed for years of mental issues blatantly ignored by all those around him.

The common point of these three situations is that there are so many people out there driving swiftly and aggressively towards disaster; teenagers publicly exhibiting egregious ignorance, extreme chemical addictions robbing people of their senses, severe domestic abuse perpetually cycling through generations, and individuals not getting the mental health help they so desperately need.  But by the time concerned people get involved, they are often blamed, when they had absolutely nothing to do with the root cause. The action-oriented people discussed in the above three scenarios had no choice other than to get involved. But they had to make up for the inaction of so many people who should have been heavily involved in the first place. Studies out there have proved that people often recognize bad behavior, but remain silent.  It takes effort to get involved and most simply just don’t want to bother.

The teenagers that laughed at the boy; their behavior had been witnessed before. But instead of someone standing up and saying that it was wrong, it was simply laughed off.  The ex-boyfriend on drugs and alcohol; many unscrupulous people were profiting from his addictions. Chances are, the neighborhood knew about the awful domestic abuse that son had witnessed repeatedly over many years but no one wanted to address what was going on behind closed doors. The person who was lost to suicide; he was not getting the mental health services he so seriously needed because it was easier to look the other way.  As a society, we all bear collective responsibility for holding people accountable and getting them help if they need it. They might refuse upfront, but we must continue to try. We cannot stand by and let problems grow into insurmountable issues with dire consequences.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard passing comments, “Don’t get involved, it’s not your problem.”  We also have to support people who do take a stand, as often times they will suffer largely negative consequences just for doing the right thing. As June Jordan ignited the oft-repeated words in her 1978 poem entitled Poem for South African Women, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

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