This week in my life I had a lot of small frustrations at work and large successes out of work, running my first public 5k ever. This week in my home country, I looked on as a film played out, the stars being the SWAT teams and individuals in the Boston area searching for some justice. A man who looked under the boat in his backyard to find a bloody 19 year old holding on to life.
What just happened? It would be easy to claim that part of US cultures are predetermined towards violence, that the lack of functional regulations on weaponry for mass murder in the states permits this, that movies and TV shows that glorify shoot outs and explosions perpetuates it, and that overwhelming anti Islam and anti foreigner sentiment felt by some fueled this catastrophe. It would be easy to blame: politicians, filmmakers, actors, news reporters, bullies, Chechnyans, Muslims, family members, etc. But none of this will ensure that these actions are not repeated.
I want to say that there’s a solution to this problem. That the suspects are innocent until proven guilty (at least of the bombing) and that there is some logical explanation for this complete rejection of social norms, of anomie to such an extent that it becomes pathological. I want this to be understandable, quantifiable and preventable. But the more time I spend in conflict, the more time I spend looking on to conflict, in any form, the more I think that it is a disease. Violence in general, that is. The symptoms can be addressed in childhood, they can be addressed in open conversations, but they cannot be cured until the host of this disease takes steps towards a cure, until the fighter puts down the weapons, until the student realizes that researching how to make bombs is not worth their time, is not worth sacrificing their life. Perhaps a Violence Anonymous would do the trick, without the heavy emphasis on Christianity of AA. As a culture, it is important to emphasize this transformation, to encourage it, and to be knowledgeable about how it can happen. Obviously, there will always be individuals who fall through the cracks, but they do not have to fall so far and so frequently.
1. An addition to public, private, university, etc school curriculum on peace brokering and negotiation. Something to cover both introspection and focus on warning signs of others. There is already a system in place to support curriculum additions.
2. Disarmament will have to occur in the states to some degree. Let the politicians fight it over but more to the point of reaching those who feel that without a Semi-Automatic, without the know how to make bombs, they are not protected. This is, as they say in development, an awareness raising campaign. In the rest of the world, organizations and government sponsored projects go city to city to encourage individuals to reflect on their beliefs and provide them with evidence to how disarmament can be beneficial. Obviously there will also be weaponry in the states, but it need not be to this degree.
3. Reintegration in the US requires not just the support of the Penal System, which to this day continues to struggle to rehabilitate inmates, but communities at large. It requires open conversations about forgiveness and violence. It requires individuals and communities to recognize unhealthy behavior and to address it. It also requires programming and support for individuals who are at risk of falling through these cracks. In the rest of the world, international donors come to meet this call, it would be interesting to see the same sort of multilateral collaboration to support US citizens who require assistance.
As an American, I know that many of us believe the US to be above this, that we think we are somehow exceptional compared to other places. But our problems are not exceptional. Our problems are the same and we need to use and fine tune the tools at our disposal to address those problems. If we want to be exceptional, we need to start acting like it.