Tucson: time to wake up and tone down

By Sr. Mary Ann Walsh Spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops The violence in Tucson is one more … Continued

By Sr. Mary Ann Walsh
Spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

The violence in Tucson is one more wake-up call to an increasingly violent U.S. society.

While no one knows what made a man decide to spray bullets at a simple political event for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords January 8, one only has to read newspapers, listen to talk radio, surf the Web and watch “reality television” to come away concerned about the violent imagery and demonization of so-called enemies that have entered into public discourse.

How does an ordinary citizen deal with this situation?

Part of the answer may lie in Scripture, where we learn that we are all children of God, and brothers and sisters to one another. Cain and Abel are not our role models.

The answer lies in the image of Jesus, who boldly said to love your enemies. It lies in New Testament images which herald caring figures, such as the Good Shepherd and Good Samiaritan, not Rambo or mass murderers.

On a practical level, are there things we can do as individuals to reduce violence overall?

Perhaps we can promise to not participate in violence even as an observer. We can eschew, for example, the verbal sparring on TV where the rule is take a one-sided position and ridicule the opposition, without being open to the fact that even a scintilla of truth may lie in another’s view. We can ignore the talk radio hosts who are more famous for put downs than intelligent commentary. A drop in their audiences would be a message to be heeded by media management and advertisers. We can refuse to follow blogs that demean individuals and toss about half-truths and lies.

We can educate ourselves in modern media. The Web that gives everyone access to the masses is not necessarily a great equalizer, unless you consider the informed and ignorant to be on a par. With nearly everyone having access to the Web, editors and fact-checkers are in short supply. That means users have to bring skepticism to what they read. If it seems unbeleivable, it probably is.

We can protect the young. Bullying has been a part of young lives for as long as we can remember. Now, with the Web, it has a huge impact. Someone making fun of you to a few people when you’re a teen is troublesome; having someone bad mouth you to half the world via Twitter and Facebook is overwhelming. The huge impact of such bloodless violence calls for stepped up protections, perhaps safeguards or monitoring for the Web. Parents and educators need to assert themselves in this regard. Just as they wouldn’t permit children to beat one another to a pulp on the front lawn, they have to be sure their children aren’t pummeling one another in cyberspace.

In the entertainment realm, parents also may be called to act against violent video games, movies and so-called reality shows, which de-sensitize us to violence overall. Surely the more we expose ourselves to direspectful treatment of others even in the make-believe world, the less horrified we will be of violence in ordinary life. Remember when saying “damn” was shocking? Now we’re so used to bad language that only the vilest seems to disturb us. Rememeber when young men settled things with a punch? Now a response to feeling dissed seems to be a gun.

Another way to combat violence is to look at our own attitudes toward those with whom we disagree. When faced with such a person can we pause to see if he or she has a point? Can we dismiss the impulse to disregard someone and try to understand what life is like in his or her shoes? Can we bring a voice of reason to what may seem like an unreasonable situation?

The violence in our society affects all of us. We can’t hide from it. It behooves us to see what we can do to tone it down.

  • usapdx

    The American must demand that his or her government change the path that we are so that it reflects the past where the family was the nucleus of society with the parents in charge. The schools must take a tougher approach to discipline, one that is required by government regulation nationwide. Likewise, the media must be required to meet better standards so that what children see, hear and read is suitable for their age. The current philosophy of “do your own thing”, continual acceptance of excuses, and widespread disrespect for authority must be stopped. Groups that encourage people who have violated our laws as if it is o.k. like the illegally in our country or to weaken our laws such as capital punishment then the groups turn around and claim tax exempt in violation of the rules when they are to be a model example for all to follow. Just stop and think what our nation’s life was like when you watch a old ” I LOVE LUCY” or ” FATHER KNOWS BEST ” show vs today. If America continues on this path, we as a country are going down the tube big time. So Americans, speak out from congress down to the school board for enough voices will bring CHANGE.

  • areyousaying

    “We can protect the young”Except, of course, victims of your pervert priests.How’s that humongous, puss-filled prom night zit of hiding predators coming on the end of your pretty little pompous nose? Has your Pope turned all of them over for civil prosecution yet or are your American Bishops still hiding some?Before you answer, which I doubt you ever will, remember your Ninth Commandment.

  • cornbread_r2

    With nearly everyone having access to the Web, editors and fact-checkers are in short supply. That means users have to bring skepticism to what they read. Sister, you owe me a new

  • WmarkW

    The role of violence in media is ridiculously overblown. Canada watches the same media we do, and has a fraction the homicides. Same is true of virtually every other high-income nation on earth.Instead of discussing whether Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh motivated a should-have-been-certified nutjob who never indicated he was a fan of theirs, why don’t we discuss the homicide rates in place like Prince Georges County, MD, known around the metro area for its bad schools and numerous mega-churches.

  • WmarkW

    Oh, and while the Sister is at it, maybe your organization should start acknowleging the legitimate points about the need for contraception in poor communities and nations. For the Catholic Church to accuse others of not listening to and respecting legitimate disagreements is a pot-kettle dialogue.

  • ThomasBaum

    usapdxYou wrote, “Just stop and think what our nation’s life was like when you watch a old ” I LOVE LUCY” or ” FATHER KNOWS BEST ” show vs today.”Are you comparing these TV programs to today’s TV programs or today?You do know that neither “I LOVE LUCY” nor “FATHER KNOWS BEST” were documentaries, don’t you?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThishowIseeit

    You wrote: Jesus said to love your enemies. But Jesus also said: beware of the false prophets. He said beware, did not said to embrace the false prophets. And there has been many false prophets since Jesus, some with horrendous consequences.

Read More Articles

This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

Hey Bart Ehrman, I’m Obsessed with Jesus, Too — But You’ve Got Him All Wrong

Why the debate over Jesus’ divinity matters.

Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.

How Passover Makes the Impossible Possible

When we place ourselves within the story, we can imagine new realities.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This Passover, We’re Standing at an Unparted Red Sea

We need to ask ourselves: What will be the future of the State of Israel — and what will it require of us?

Just As I Am

My childhood conversion to Christianity was only the first of many.

shutterstock_127731035 (1)
Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church?

In an age of rising singlehood, many churches are still focused on being family ministry centers.

Mysterious Tremors

People like me who have mystical experiences may be encountering some unknown Other. What can we learn about what that Other is?

Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing

That verse you keep quoting? It may not mean what you think it means.

What C.S. Lewis’ Marriage Can Tell Us About the Gay Marriage Controversy

Why “welcome and wanted” is a biblical response to gay and lesbian couples in evangelical churches.