Monthly Archives: January 2013

Passing the Buck to God

In the weeks since the Newtown massacre, opinions about the role of God in what happened have dotted both traditional and social media.  Some people have proclaimed that tragedies like this occur because we’ve removed God from our schools and other public arenas.

Hmmm.

What exactly is that supposed to mean?  Is this a reference to the ban on prayer and Bible reading in public schools?

Lots of folks believe that God is an all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful being.  That means God is still around when prayer is not.  You can’t remove God.

Many believe that God is also a merciful and benevolent being.  That means God is not the type to seek revenge because prayers went unsaid.

I realize what people probably mean is that we would be better behaved if we paid homage to God in every aspect of our lives.

Really?

I guess we’re supposed to conveniently forget that people have used their version of God to justify the most horrendous behavior throughout human history—while some of the kindest souls on Earth do not believe in God.  People have free will, and they can decide to do terrible or wonderful things whether or not they pray to God.

When people say that the problem is that we’ve taken God out of the equation, isn’t it just another way of saying that they think we should all believe exactly what they believe religiously?  For example, proponents of public school prayer may embrace the Lord’s Prayer, but what about Elohai Neshamah, a Jewish morning prayer?  Or Dhuhr Salah, the Islamic noon prayer?  Or a Hindu mantra?  Or a Buddhist prayer?  Or how about a truly American prayer, an Ojibwa prayer?

It’s pretty clear that the school prayer proponents don’t want just any God; they want Christianity in our public schools.  Christians have a long history of imposing their religion on others in a variety of thoughtless, cruel, and violent ways.  This is a past we can do without repeating.

Whether it’s God or a gun, each of us decides whether we will use what’s before us for good or evil.  We decide whether we’ll profit off the sale of assault weapons to civilians, or super-realistic killing-spree video games to young men, or other forms of violence as entertainment.  We decide whether we will accept, condone, or promote violence through our silence, our wallets, our victim-blaming, our refusal to hold offenders accountable for their actions, our denial, and our lack of self-awareness.  Yes, that’s right—our violence is not about God or Allah or Yahweh; it’s about us.

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Resolutions

Advertisements for diet programs, gym memberships, and exercise equipment have been dominating the television screen lately.  Of course!  It’s the time of year that many of us make New Year’s resolutions.  Often, we aim to change something about our individual selves for the better; we resolve to lose weight, stop smoking, or pay off our credit cards.

Rarely do our resolutions focus on making a change that has broader impact.

In consideration of the epidemic of violence facing our nation, wouldn’t it be wonderful if more of us made and kept resolutions to strengthen the health and safety of our communities?

Here are a few ideas for resolutions that can promote wider change:

  1. Make a commitment to stop using “the language of violence to communicate opinions and/or beliefs.”  For the full pledge, go to Know More.
  2. Make a commitment to “stop demeaning the feminine by saying things like ‘you run like a girl,’ ‘you throw like a girl,’ or ‘he cried like a little girl.’  That includes referring to men or boys as ‘girls’ when you are meaning something derogatory. Don’t refer to a woman as a ‘bitch,’ ‘ho’ or ‘whore.’”  Read more at Care2.
  3. Make a commitment to “challenge comments that tease or harass men and boys for not being ‘manly’ enough. Let people know that you find it offensive and limiting.”  Thanks to A Call to Men for this idea and many others.
  4. Make a commitment “to take the time to listen to the women in [your] life and acknowledge that their perspective is valuable and is as equally important as [men’s perspectives].”  This is one item on the Stand Up Guys pledge.
  5. Make a commitment to “interrupt sexist and rape jokes.”  This action is included in the Clothesline Project pledge.
  6. Make a commitment to stop funding sexism.  “Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.”  This is one idea on Jackson Katz’s list of 10 Things Men Can Do to Prevent Gender Violence.
  7. Make a commitment to “ask first.  Whether it’s holding hands, kissing, or more, it’s important to communicate.”  This idea and others come from White Ribbon Campaign.
  8. Make a commitment to support passage of the Violence Against Women Act and/or other policies that hold violent offenders accountable.  For the latest developments on VAWA, go to http://4vawa.org/.

Here’s to 2013!  May we each take steps to promote safer, more peaceful places of learning, working, playing, worshipping, and living.

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The SHES – VAWA Connection

Media coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School (SHES) massacre has focused on the 26 children and women who were murdered in the school on 12/14/12.  However, let’s not forget that the gunman first shot his mother to death in their home.

And let’s keep in mind how often gunmen kill the women they allegedly love or have loved.  Here is a sampling of incidents that have occurred since the Newtown incident.

  • On/around 12/14/12, a Missouri man shot his wife, the teenage boy for whom they were guardians, and then himself in their home.
  • On 12/17/12, a Michigan man shot the mother of his 2-year-old son, shot her sister, and then shot himself in their van.
  • One day later, a Colorado man was released from jail on domestic violence charges.  His ex-girlfriend had taken refuge with her sister and brother-in-law, so the Colorado man went to the home of his ex-girlfriend’s sister and shot his way into the home.  Then he shot his ex-girlfriend, her sister, and her sister’s husband before killing himself.
  • On 12/20/12, a Pennsylvania man broke into the apartment of his ex-girlfriend and their 4-month-old baby, and shot his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.  A North Carolina man shot his mother in her home and then shot himself in a parking lot about a mile away.  An Arizona man, whose ex-girlfriend had a restraining order against him, shot his ex-girlfriend, and later shot himself in his own home.
  • The next day, a Texas man shot his mother and then himself.  An Indiana man drove his vehicle literally into the home of his ex-girlfriend, went into the home, shot his ex-girlfriend, and then shot himself.
  • On 12/23/12, a Utah man, whose wife had a protective order against him, went to his estranged wife’s house and shot her boyfriend, whom he encountered on the back porch, before turning the gun on himself.
  • On Christmas Eve, a New York man, who served 17 years in prison for bludgeoning his grandmother to death, apparently killed his sister, set the house they lived in on fire, and then shot four of the firemen who responded to the blaze before killing himself.  A Georgia man shot the mother of his 6-month-old son and then shot himself in the apartment that they shared.  A Wisconsin man stalked and then shot his wife while she patrolled the streets in her job as a police officer.
  • A Pennsylvania man shot his wife during an argument and then shot himself on Christmas.
  • A couple days later, a Kansas man shot his grandmother and her husband before shooting himself.
  • On 12/29/12, a Virginia man shot his wife and then himself, leaving their 12-year-old daughter an orphan.  A Texas man stabbed the mother of his children to death during an argument and then killed himself with a gun later.  Another Texas man shot himself after shooting his wife.
  • Today, a Kansas man killed his grandmother and her husband before shooting himself.  And Illinois police are reporting the death of two people in what appears to be a domestic related murder-suicide.

We don’t just have a school shooting problem, we have an epidemic of gender-based violence on our hands.

According to a national survey conducted by CDC, millions are harmed by severe physical violence, sexual assault, and stalking each year.  Most of the victims are women, and most of the perpetrators are men.  To put the numbers into perspective, imagine that the four or five women you care about most in your life are standing before you; one of them will likely be physically assaulted and one of them will likely be raped in her lifetime.

In an effort to address this epidemic, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted in 1994.  VAWA works to hold offenders accountable and to provide services for victims.  Despite its name, VAWA’s provisions apply to both women and men.

Every few years, Congress reauthorizes VAWA, and VAWA has had a history of strong bipartisan support until recently.  Most of us believe that VAWA’s provisions should protect all victims of domestic, sexual, and dating violence, but some elected officials don’t seem to share that conviction.  The current version of VAWA that passed the Senate includes new provisions to better protect immigrants, members of LGBT communities, and Native Americans.  As of this writing, VAWA reauthorization remains stalled because House leadership opposes the protections for Native Americans.

Right now, jurisdictional loopholes exist that allow non-Indians to commit violent crimes against Native women on tribal lands without consequence.  And non-Indian men know it; non-Indians commit 88% of violent crimes against Native women on tribal lands.  Is it any wonder that native women experience much higher rates of violence than women in other groups?  Once again, think of the five women you care about most; about two of them will be raped and three of them will be physically assaulted in their lifetime.

So what does the beating of a Native woman by her non-Indian husband on a reservation have to do with a school shooting in a Connecticut town?  Everything.  Both are examples of men’s violence against women and children.

We need to work harder at sending the message that we do not condone violence against any person or group of persons.  We need to recognize when our policies themselves are violent, and we need to take steps to change them.

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