CL Response: Overview

 

1996

 

There has been a near unanimous call to address the issues of violence in the United States. Our cities, our neighborhoods, our schools, our families, our media, the very fabric of U.S. life seems to be crying out for peace -- peace between us, peace among us, peace around us, peace within us. This call has come from religious leaders, political leaders, leaders in the helping and teaching professions. 

 

A few percentage drops in the most heinous of personal crimes is broadcast as a symptom of some relief. Yet, as happy as we are for these victims who have escaped physical violence, we somehow know that these points on the crime-rate scale do not measure the real indicators of the violence that surrounds us everywhere we look.

 

Violence is not only about crime. Violence is a negative term that bespeaks violation, whose Latin root it shares. Behind our concern about violence is concern for the protection of the intricate web of life -- all life. Violence is a violation of the consistent fabric of life that leaves all of us wounded.

 

A few comments on violence itself are in order. It is always defined as a force that inflicts injury. Force is a neutral term that can include acts of nature and accidental occurrences of violence. When we place violence into the human situation, the word force is closer to the meaning of power -- the intentional use of force by a human being or human group. Power is the ability to influence. So violence in the sense that it is being used here has to do with power and its abuse against life. In groups, organizations and societies, it can mean setting the power of the group against one or more of the members in a way that inflicts injury on them. Unfortunately, therefore, violence can be done by the formal and official power of groups and societies -- it can be done in the name of law. It is why the issues of violence and the consistent protection of human life almost always end up policy issues -- the way a society will use its power to uphold or to destroy human life.

 

Losing sight of this seamless garment leads us to lose sight of the true significance of some of the most pressing social and policy issues that confront us as a society today. Abortion, war, economic injustice, militarism, racism, euthanasia, and the death penalty are not disconnected and disjointed items of an agenda that splinters us into competing interest groups, setting us off against one another in a zero-sum game that generates winners and losers. We all lose when the fabric of life is torn. We all win when the fabric of our life together is protected, mended, renewed and rewoven.

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