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Category Archives: culture of violence

I’m BAAAAAACK!

I’ve been away.  Not away, per se, but away from writing.  I took a writing break.  A pause.  There is no reason except to say I needed a break.  Maybe it’s because I write about social justice and sometimes you just need to take care of yourself.  Maybe I was overwhelmed with all the killing of black men and women.  Maybe my work was calling my attention.  Maybe I needed to be present for my stepmother’s cancer journey.  I can’t exactly pinpoint it, but I just couldn’t force myself to sit down and comment on the world.

I’m giving myself permission to take that break.  I wouldn’t have done that before going to an ACPA  (American College Personnel Association) Mid-Level Management institute a week ago.  It was there that I realized it was OK to take care of yourself.

So how do I make up for the last six blogs I haven’t written?  How do I comment on the strange that is our present moment in this world?  I can’t.  I can only try to look at the positive (one of my strengths, by the way) and hope that all this sadness is taking us to another level.  A recent poll stated that 60% of people were concerned about race relations in the U.S.  Three years ago, it was only 30%.  I think that is positive.  The more folks are concerned, the more they will, hopefully, begin to look inside themselves and uncover what their own biases and internal oppressions are.

I love this post by a colleague  The Perpetrator was Caught, but the Killer is Still at Large.  She says everything I think and feel and said years ago.  I wrote an op-ed in the local newspaper after the Jonesboro shooting in 1998.  17 years later, here we are.

Painful realities like this are the ones that call me to escape, to use my privilege and drive away, running to nature where you can feel protected from the hostility and hate in our world.  As much as I would like to do that, I know I am called, instead, to speak out against injustice and to educate others about it.

I was a witness and a participant last night at our First Year Orientation’s program by the Social Justice Institute.  It was moving and powerful.  I never expected that a group of almost 400 students could come together over their differences and similarities in a large group format like that.  The facilitator did an activity similar to the “Step Forward/Step Back” activity where he would read a slide and students would stand up if the slide resonated with them.  I was astounded by the numbers, students who spoke more than one language; students who grew up in homes with violence; students who knew someone who had attempted suicide; students who had attempted suicide.  That moment gave me pause.

What have we adults done to allow this world where so many young people are witnesses to violence and anguish?  I wanted to run through the crowd and hug everyone one of them and say “You are here now.  You are loved.”  But I can’t save any of them.  I can only continue to be a model and a guide.

How are you adding to the conversation to make this world a better place?

 

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A Culture of Violence

I remember vividly, age 10, and Dad taking me on vacation.  In Houlton, Maine, where we lived, school started in mid-August so that the last week of September and first two weeks of October school could close for Potato Harvest.  I had lots of friends who picked potatoes.  I never did.  It was a good excuse to stay with my mom for a week or two in Massachusetts.  But this year, Dad decided he would take time off and take me to Boston and to see my Grandparents (his parents) in Worcester.  He got tickets to see The King and I with Yul Brynner.  He had the lead in that play forever, playing the King 4,625 times. I was not impressed with his acting.  Clearly that part was too familiar to him.  I couldn’t understand a word he said. (A theatre critic at age 10, who knew?)  He’s also the guy who filmed a commercial about the dangers of smoking before he died that went something like “‘Now that I’m gone, I tell you: Don’t smoke. Whatever you do, just don’t smoke.”

During this trip, we also saw my first 3-D movie, some strange western. 3-D tumbleweed rolling toward us. The point of this whole trip was really to show me Boston. Dad loved Boston.  He grew up in Worcester and to this day loves every Boston sports team. That is a story for another day.  He spent a good amount of time teaching me the importance of offensive driving in a city. While I was 5 years away from getting my license, he wanted to show off his city driving skills.  He also drove me through the “combat zone,” explaining what all the XXX signs were about.  At one point, we were crossing the street and he pointed to a woman and said “that’s not actually a woman.”  Who knew back then that I’d be advocating for transgender rights as part of my work?

Suffice it to say it was a memorable trip to Boston, mostly because my Dad was so passionate about it. 

A few years ago my brother and I spent two nights in Boston seeing the Dave Matthew’s Band at Fenway.  We did all kinds of touristy things like the Duck Boats, tried to figure out the T, took a pedi-bike after dinner, ate on Newbury Street, walked along the Charles.  It was really fun.  We stayed on the Cambridge side at the Hyatt Regency with a gorgeous balcony looking over the city. 

Two days after the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, I feel like I cannot write about anything but Boston, even though I want to write about how sad I am that we live in a world where people want to kill each other, where people want to slaughter innocent people to make a point about something or to express their own anger and rage.

I often tell my students and my friends that I don’t watch any of those CSI shows (that often have strong female characters) because I cannot support the culture of violence.  These so-called detective shows are all about women –mostly– being murdered.  I don’t need to spend my day dealing with rape on my campus and then come home to watch women be murdered.  Real life violence is too much for me as it is, I don’t need to veg-out on fictional violence.  I don’t watch horror movies either.  These movies always slaughter women.  

So maybe we should take a pause from these events in Boston.  Stop wondering who is behind all this and ask ourselves, what have we done to promote, ignore or remain apathetic to a culture of violence in our world?  Yes, someone needs to take responsibility for the killing and maiming of hundreds of people, but we live in this world too.  We need to look in our own mirrors and think about the ways we promote and support a culture of violence.  What do you watch?  What do you read?  What video games do you play?  How do you talk about people?  Do you say about a hot young thang, “I could hit that?”  That’s violence.  How does your language perpetuate that culture?  How do you support a culture of violence?  Mull that one over.

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