I’ve been writing about hate and killing for some time now since they’re hardly compatible with my goal of helping us create less-stressed American cities. I agree with many of the suggestions offered by caring people about these matters, and here add my own specific ones, some of which may seem naive but–some readers tell me–that help them to feel more hopeful. I realize some of these suggestions will seem extreme to some (such as no guns, period). Yet in the end we have to get our heads out of the sand and acknowledge that the problems we to need solve in order to stop the violence are deeply embedded in our society, encouraged by leaders who are part of those problems. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the changes needed are dramatic.
Our problems are not just from the bigotry now being considered fine by some, or from fear of those not like us, but also from our general acceptance of violence and weapons as necessary. Neither prejudice nor guns are necessary in a civilized society, and if we made the society more civilized with laws and whatever else it takes to show we value lives and peace, more of us would see that. (Isn’t a civilized society the goal? ) It’s not normal that some people see hate and violence as normal.
Each time there’s a massacre and whenever there’s cruelty or killing, I find I’m thinking the same thought. That is that along with gun control (at least) and the other changes most sensible people want, we also need deep and thoughtful change in our culture, and much of it should involve promoting kindness and empathy at every level and in every corner of the culture. Maybe that kind of change is what will finally convince those in elected office or otherwise in power that when they don’t act to stop mass murder and suffering, when their own personal goals come before the lives of others, they must accept some of the blame.
FOR THOSE WHO HATE
(The bold print below is accidental and so far we’ve been unable to return it to normal print. Please read as regular print–thanks.)
If you hate a certain group of people, or even one person, there are numerous ways you can turn off that hate, and it’s a good idea to try to do that. If you were trained to hate–and most people who hate have been trained–you owe it to others, to the world, and mostly to yourself to un-train yourself. There are many ways to do this. Practice empathy and kindness even if that’s new for you. Stop hanging out with other haters, and do whatever else you can to get yourself to the other side where you can learn about and begin to care for your neighbors. If you get to know your neighbors or acquaintances of other colors or backgrounds you’ll likely find they’re really cool people, nice to be with, and often have interesting life stories to tell. If you ask you’ll learn about their cuisine, how they like to party, what they miss from back home and what they love here. Your own life story is also of great interest–everyone’s is. So why not tell it to them, while removing prejudice, fear, rage, and cruelty from your mind. Then your life has a better chance to end up a happy and peaceful one, which is much harder to accomplish if you live in a cloud of hatred.
Remind yourself that people can’t help where they were born, what color their skin is, or who their parents are. Put yourself in their shoes if they’re not like you, and stay there a few minutes. Realize that all most of them want is a chance to have a reasonably happy, healthy life, like you do. Many of us struggle with how to do that, and the struggle is hard enough without having to deal with hatred, violence, and the horrific loss of life mass shooters cause.
If you’re still consumed with hate or the urge to harm, ask for help. One place you can get it is to google local mental health resources in your area and try to connect with one. One helpful national site (and group) is MHFA or Mental Health First Aid. Try going there to see their huge list of resources that can help with any kind of mental illness or pain. One of many helpful pages there is https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/
Or go to a place online that’s about more positive emotions such as ways to be happier. One of many sites that may be helpful is https://www.sparringmind.com/be-happy/ . Or learn about how prejudices are formed, at a site like Very Well Minds, on this page: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-prejudice-2795476
If you’ve read any history you may know that often the reasons people are taught to hate are based on false premises. A common human weakness is to find someone else to blame for our troubles even when it makes no sense. Other people may harm us at times, sure, but when entire groups, races, or religions are made into scapegoats you can bet the reasons for it don’t ring true. So stop believing things you hear coming out of the mouths of racists and bigots and get over your prejudices that some pathetic, clueless website, friend, or relative taught you.
Look the rest of us straight in the eye and tell us that if you didn’t live here and were being persecuted or threatened, that you wouldn’t want to come to a freer country like this one where you thought you could be safe and have at least some kind of work. Persecuted people and refugees have done this throughout history. You know you’re a hypocrite if you say you wouldn’t do the same. Many immigrant families by the way come from places where family ties are close. This often makes them secure and loving people just because close families often foster those good feelings. That means they’re very nice people to know. All such families I’ve met tend to be warm, caring, and kind.
So please come out of the dark ages and stop accusing them of things they aren’t doing, and stop trying to hurt them. Maybe even try this: help them. Helping people makes the helper happier–too many researchers have found that to be true for you to doubt it. Try it. You’ll like it.
GUNS & THE ACT OF KILLING
A great many people, myself included, believe there’s no excuse for killing for any reason, period. In fact by now we should have evolved enough as a species to be done with all killing including that done in wartime as a way to solve problems (we should be done with war as well). But even if we’re temporarily forced to participate in or suffer through wars by greedy, angry, selfish, and power-mad leaders, we don’t have to also kill each other at home.
As for guns themselves, they don’t belong in a peaceful, civilized society, end of story. Hunters, you won’t like this, but even killing animals for whatever reason has got to bring out something in you that cringes, doesn’t it? Truly evolved humans, in my view, should abhor inflicting pain on any other living thing. As long as a bunch of us go ahead and kill things (and most of us really don’t need that deer meat do we?) it will be easier for humans to find killing and maiming okay.
That’s why I believe guns of ANY kind should be banned, and nothing short of that is acceptable. I’m not a naive wacko, I’ve just had enough. Haven’t you? Let’s say you still insist on having a gun. Whether or not you’re a member of the NRA, don’t you find it outrageous and kind of sickening that this group that tries to keep lots of guns around at all costs actually controls many of our elected officials?
TO CERTAIN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
You’re not fooling anyone when you act only to protect your title as representative or senator or President, while letting suffering and injustice continue. No rep of mine who does that will ever get my vote again. Act to protect people from hate and gun violence now, and get ALL of it done, not just tiny steps. And no I don’t want the death penalty–that’s just more violence, cruelty, and death. Enough.
OTHER KILLING IN OUR CULTURE ADDS TO THE GENERAL VIOLENCE
Because I believe that killing anything makes killing something else easier, I also believe we should stop the horrifying practice of animal agriculture. We may not personally hear the tortured, terrified cries of animals headed to and going through slaughter, but we know they’re out there, 24 hours a day. We know unless we lie to ourselves that that pain we cause, directly, or indirectly with our dollars, can’t be good for us either. When we do such things to other living things it should ring alarm bells in us, and I believe it would go along way toward creating a happier, more peaceful culture if we paid attention to those alarms.
Besides it also being awful for the environment and the fact that we can feed many more people with plants, continuing this practice means a certain number of humans–many who would rather not have such jobs but can find no other—will be forced to carry out that cruelty for hours a day even if it causes them great personal pain (the evidence is that it does for many of them, and they are never the same again).
I’m convinced that one day slaughtering for food as well as hunting for “sport” will be universally decried for the barbarous acts they are, that we’ll be seeing very few mass killings of people then as well, and that those two changes will be at least somewhat connected. This is why I include comments about animal killing when I write about hate and mass shootings of humans. Killing and causing suffering is too widely accepted in our culture, even though most of us don’t participate. It’s in the air too much. So I’m suggesting a holistic approach to stopping violence by stopping all violence of all kinds, so we get out of the habit of seeing and accepting it.
(Note: For a more detailed piece on some of these ideas, go to this blog’s first-ever post, written after the Parkland massacre.)