What can I do about violence in America?

I am a pacifist.

I have been for a number of years now and my feelings of pacifism have not only grown, but they have become an integral part of my psyche. They shape my worldview. They shape my attitudes toward being pro-life. And I am not simply talking about the unborn, but all people in this world no matter age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, political views, etc. I am simply pro-life. All life.

I think I often forgo talking about being a pacifist because of how much it enrages people who are not. And being a pacifist, I want to avoid any potential violent situation. (It may also have something to do with me being non confrontational, too.)

Events like the Sandy Hook shooting and the Aurora Movie Theatre shooting, among others, make us all reflect of the horrors of gun violence in America. Gun control discussions flare up nearly instantaneously. While many point to these tragedies for further evidence for the need of more gun laws, thousands go out and by guns in response. Facebook becomes a polarized battlefield of opinions on what should be done about guns in America. My newsfeed perhaps is filled with more pro-gun photos, statistics, calls for overthrowing our President, and comparisons to Nazi Germany than most because I am Facebook friends with a lot of people from college, which happens to be one of the largest and most conservative Christian Fundamentalist schools in America. For some reason Fundamentalists love their guns. A lot. I mean, it’s nothing new. It’s kind of been a thing for a long time. (Consider J. Frank Norris…)

I’m a stay-at-home dad of a four month old. While taking care of him, I see a lot of the news. Recently the news has been quite focused on the discussion of gun control in America. People like Piers Morgan, who are for more gun laws, rightly calling such laws “common sense laws,” are trying to ask the obvious simple questions like “Why would someone need a semi-automatic assault weapon?” People who are pro-guns respond, “It’s not about needs…It’s about our SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHT to have such a gun!” (I write in capital letters because they yell and get enraged at such questions.)

Who cares about our rights if it means people are dying in association to these rights? If the complete foundation for the argument is the second amendment, then let’s please get rid of the second amendment. That can’t be the basis of your argument. It was written by musket carrying men over 230 years ago. Do people honestly think the reason the President of the United States wants stronger gun laws is because he is afraid of a country in which its citizens have guns and the supposed ability to overrun the government? No. That has nothing to do with why Obama wants stronger gun laws in America. Zero.

Also, I have never really paid attention or given too much thought in the past to the power that the NRA holds in America, but it is kind of scary. It’s scary in a number of fronts. 1) The political clout they carry in this country has traditionally been quite impressive. They have incredible influence over elections, laws, studies, and media. I would argue from what I know about them that they have always been out of touch with reality, but their most recents efforts in this “debate” have clearly shown that they are not only out of touch with the facts and the common sense realities of what guns do to our country, but their tactics are pretty sinister and uncalled for. (Take the YouTube commercial they made railing against Obama and where his children go to school.)

I shy away from political discussions normally. They are usually not worth entering into for me because no one ever seems to change their mind. But this topic is different for me. I’m upset by the Christian response for one. (That’s another topic for another day…) But I am also deeply concerned about this topic because I see that there is potential for change politically. President Obama is really pressing for more gun laws. (Can you imagine what this would be like with Mitt Romney? I can’t.) I want to do everything I can to encourage a country in which people don’t kill each other.

So what can I do? I’m a pacifist. I don’t and will never own a gun. I challenge people and their view of their “unalienable right” to own a gun. I value all human life equally. I promote hearing the stories of those who have to deal with gang violence and who live with the reality of fearing for their own life due to gun violence in their communities.

I want to do more.

When I see all the pictures and responses on Facebook and Twitter I totally see the love and glorification of violence in America. I’m not saying that video games and movies make people shoot people. But they do normalize violence. They make violence entertainment. And even for me, a pacifist, it is super hard not to play video games in which the goal is simply to shoot people. A lot of this has to do with the fact that some of the best and most popular games in the industry are the violent ones. They are the games that my friends play. They are the ones that are visually the most impressive.

As far as movies go, a large percentage of the top movies every year are focused around violence. Like video games, they make violence be entertainment. It’s so entertaining that we shell out large amounts of money a year just to watch it. As a country we pay billions of dollars a year to witness violence as entertainment.

I must say, as a pacifist, when I watch these movies and play these games there is a sense of conflict for me. If I play a violent video game, I feel pretty hypocritical. I can talk myself out of it in a number of ways, the easiest being that it is virtual and has nothing to do with reality. But if I am spending my time, and considering it entertainment, to shoot people…what does that do for me? I shouldn’t find that entertaining.

The hook with movies is that usually violence is also coupled with a sense of justice. It isn’t usually violence for violence sake, but violence with the purpose of enacting justice upon those who deserve it. For most, there is a satisfaction in witnessing that. It makes us feel good. We allow violence to comfort us.

I am always wanting to be a more consistent person in my walk and my talk. Always improving. With this in mind, I am now making the hard decision to not allow violence to entertain me. This means not playing video games in which violence is the focus of the game. This means not watching violent movies for entertainment. I want violence to disturb me, not comfort me.

People are so shocked by events like the Sandy Hook shooting and the Aurora shooting. When I turned on the TV and heard and saw the horrible reality that more people had been slaughtered, I was sad. I was not surprised. I was not stunned. This should not surprise us. There are so many aspects of our society which allows for these tragedies to happen. Our laws, lobbyists, entertainment, selfishness, supposed “rights,” sense of justice, etc. all lead to such tragedies.

I continue to try and value life more. I continue to learn what it means to love my neighbor and also what it means to love my enemy.

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