• A model for violence
    December 28,2012

    A model for violence

    It was good that President Obama visited and spoke in Newtown, Conn. As with all of us, he was deeply moved by the tragic deaths of so many children and adults. Wouldn’t it be extraordinary, and cleansing, if he evinced the same depth of grief over the dozens of innocent women and children, whose deaths he is responsible for, by his drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen? Strangely, I find myself agreeing, in part, with the National Rifle Association in their rather belligerent defense of gun ownership. Statistically they have a strong argument. It is true that the U.S. is No. 1 in per capita gun ownership — 89 guns per person — but we are 12th in total firearm-related deaths per thousand. What’s more, although South Africa ranks 49th in per capita gun ownership with 12.7 guns per person, it has at least three times the number of firearm-related deaths, at 32,000 per year.

    In seeking root causes of this culture of violence and death, we can begin with indisputable statistical evidence, which has been known for decades: Children who come out of homes where violence is a common, almost daily occurrence, tend to be violent in their adult lives. It is a logical segue from the family to society at large.

    The United States is a violent society. We have been at war almost every decade for over 100 years. The slaughter of nationalist insurrectionists in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, the multiple invasions of Central America and the Caribbean to protect business interests, the genocidal Vietnam War to hold back the communist chimera, Grenada and Panama, Afghanistan and “shock and awe” in Iraq, and the ongoing drone attacks, which even the Pentagon admits kills innocent bystanders — women and children. As an educator I believe in the power of behavior modeling in the lives of young children. What is the modeling our leaders are signaling to our young people? What is assassination without due process modeling? What is Obama’s “kill list” modeling? What is the summary killing by drone of an Islamic cleric, a citizen of the United States, and his 16-year-old son modeling? What is the choice of not capturing Osama bin Laden for trial, but killing him and dumping his body in the sea, modeling? What is modeled by the White House assertion that one man, without judicial review, can sign the death warrant for any other human being in the world? And what is modeled by the exultation over these inhumane acts by our leadership?

    Al Salzman


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