Confronting our Culture of Violence

“The United States was respected and loved throughout the world in years gone by because we exported ideas and ideals; not guns and tanks and bombs.”
Sargent Shriver | Chicago, IL| June 16, 1956

Our Quote of the Week laments the fact that as a nation, we have become more successful in disseminating weapons than ideas. Our current state is indicative of a culture in which conflict and trauma are more easily addressed using violence rather than other methods.

In 1956, Sargent Shriver, a World War II veteran himself, gave an Address to the Illinois Veterans of Foreign Wars. In the speech, he discussed the nature of power, showing that ultimately, power lies in the hearts and minds of human beings, and not in weapons or military strength. The most important investments we can make, therefore, are in the education and the spiritual well-being of people.

The case for investing in the hearts and minds of people to grow our power, rather than stockpiling weapons is, tragically, a difficult one to make in the country today. We continue to cling to a culture of violence, one in which we perpetuate fear of the “other” and the irrational need to defend ourselves with violence. It is a culture that makes the escalation of violence lucrative. Weapons and force are considered symbols of power. We value and glamorize violence, making it the focus of so much of our entertainment. We uphold myths about our neighbors that have been held for centuries, “othering” those who are not part of the perceived White, upper- and middle-class “mainstream”. We silence those who wish to depict the brutal history of a country born out of slavery and White supremacy. We demonize immigrants from large swaths of the world -- from Latin American, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. We struggle to have our major technology companies regulate disinformation and hate online, which results in the radicalization of some of our young people and which further ignites the culture wars. And we deny the damage done by a system that floods our communities with weapons that kill and maim on a regular basis, whether intentionally or by accident.

As we reach the end of May and move forward from Memorial Day, let us ponder all of the losses from violence we have endured. We’ve seen over 60 mass shootings this month. We marked the anniversary of the killing of George Floyd, a victim of police brutality who was killed two years ago over the suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. We’ve mourned the soldiers who have been killed while serving in the US military. And we’ve mourned countless other acts of everyday violence in communities around the country.

Let us work together to bring an end to our culture of violence. Doing so will not be easy and will require nothing short of a societal transformation. We must all work together -- industry, government, and citizens -- to change the minds, the attitudes, and the policies that keep us locked in these cycles of violence. But the effort will be worth it. It will allow us to finally show the true power of people, which lies in our ingenuity as well as our ability to love and care for each other.

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Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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