Psychologists, including those at the University of Massachusetts, have long debated whether violence is a part of human nature, or if there is hope for people to learn to resolve their problems without spreading destruction. A society without violence is possible, but the presence of violence is cyclical, buried beneath a lifetime of American culture.
Thanks to decades of acceptance and indifference to war and bloodshed, the idea that violence is inevitable has moved from our foreign policy and now permeates daily interaction. Americans are furious at violence among civilians, but nothing will change unless the government and parents challenge the acceptance of violence.
People are not even fazed anymore when they read that hundreds of young people are murdered in cities throughout America or when another kid brings a gun into school. We accept the false idea that violence is inevitable, but examples from around the world can discredit the notion. Australia enacted firearm laws and saw an elimination of gun massacres, a reduction of gun homicides and the creation of a less violent society. Many European nations have lower gun homicide rates than the United States, despite having access to firearms. Mass gun violence is mostly an American problem.
“Violence is like the greatest infectious diseases of all time,” says Gary Slutkin, founder of Cure Violence (formerly known as CeaseFire), which seeks to end Chicago street violence by treating violence like a plague. According to Cure Violence members in a Frontline documentary called “The Interrupters,” the group aims to prevent the transmission of the idea that grievances must be solved through expressions of strength instead of finding brotherhood.
Cure Violence’s work has been emulated in cities throughout America. Similar groups explain to those involved in street wars that the “death before dishonor” mentality is a part of these city communities because no one has stopped it from being passed down through each generation. The roughest of American neighborhoods deteriorated as we used prisons as a replacement for college and rehab. We now face a population that only understands life gripped by the disease of violence.
The notion that only certain people are susceptible to violent behavior, whether they are of a certain race, community or are fans of certain kinds of art, is proven false when we see the change Cure Violence brings about. Although youth gun violence is often seen as a socioeconomic problem, recent school shootings lead to the belief that it’s also a failure of parenting in our society.
Many blame the entertainment industry, and it is easy to blame hip-hop, heavy metal, MTV or violent movies for kids bringing guns into schools. But this is too convenient an excuse that politicians and special interests groups would love to have the American people believe. Our disease of violence comes from the proliferation of guns and the neglect of larger problems by the people who influence America.
Gun control must be the first step in curing the epidemic of violence. If our society cannot hold firearms without killing each other at record numbers, then we need to use background checks and bans on certain weapons to limit our murdering ability. While the founding fathers were right to make sure Americans could bear arms to defend themselves, our constitution predates technology that allows weapons to have incredible killing capabilities.
Congress cannot pass gun control, despite overwhelming public demand, because it’s more obedient to special interests. Politicians want us to accept gun violence as a reality of life instead of a fixable problem so they will not be forced to stand up and act. Congress will act when Americans force an ideological change that rejects the notion of a country plagued by violence. This ideal is possible, as Slutkin’s group reveals in “The Interrupters,” which reveals how parents and people can still convince our nation’s kids to put down the guns. We still have a long way to go; we just need to understand that the NRA does not know what life is like in the cities and abandon their idea that video games are to blame. We must instead take individual care of the people society pushes to the brink of shooting.
Brian Bevilacqua is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]