Monthly Archives: April 2015

Can Violence Bring Change?

 

There’s a knee-jerk reaction that I would say most people have when it comes to the question of whether or not violence can solve anything.  Most would probably say that violence isn’t an answer to any of our problems, and in fact, often makes the situation worse.  The riots in Baltimore this week have me pondering this question, and increasingly wondering if that automatic response is actually correct.

I am beginning to wonder if, in certain contexts, violence such as what’s happened in Baltimore can actually spur action from the powers that be when all else has failed.  Of course, the moral question of whether it is right or wrong is pretty simple.  It’s not right.  But I wonder – is it sometimes a necessary evil?  

The events that have unfolded this week are a small portion of the overall protests, which have been peaceful.  But I think the violence in part stemmed from an ongoing frustration with that fact – that protests have been going on for weeks and months concerning the issue of police brutality, and nothing seems to be changing, and nobody seems to care.  The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the media chooses to focus on the issue only when they deem it newsworthy – that is, when windows start getting smashed and things start getting set on fire.  You could say that the attention that is received when this happens is mostly negative, but it is attention, and maybe that’s what matters when the situation becomes so drastic in the hearts and minds of those most affected. 

Throughout our history, we have had to resort to violence and destruction to spur change, for the sake of the greater good.  The American Revolution was hardly peaceful.  Neither was the Civil War.  Or World War Two.  Of course, those are examples of war, which is not the same as a riot or insurrection.  Nevertheless, it is violence.  The changes that came about as a result of resorting to drastic measures might not have happened if peace and non-violence was adamantly adhered to.  Which begs the question – where is the line drawn between accepted, necessary violence and that which is deemed counterproductive?  

Say what you want about people destroying “their own” city or communities.  What people forget about rioting is that it is a complete rejection of the institutions and established order that people feel no longer serve them.  It might be ugly.  It might bring pain.  But one thing that’s for sure, those in power certainly don’t like to see people start to rebel and revolt against the status-quo, and it certainly won’t be ignored, for better or worse.

Photo credit – Pixabay.com – OpenClips

Baltimore Explodes

Riots and looting have broken out in Baltimore, after the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died after sustaining a nearly severed spinal cord while in police custody.  Property has been damaged, fires have been set and several police officers have been injured in the destructive rage that has spread throughout the city.

When things like this happen, people often try to find things to blame – be it the “race-baiting” media, or our “race-baiting” president, or just the fact that rioters are no-good “looters” and “thugs.”  

My view of the violence is that no, it is not right.  And I feel for those who have been injured or whose property or livelihoods have been damaged or destroyed by it.  Unfortunately, it happens.  But I would ask of people who are inconvenienced or bothered by the violence – what else should be expected?  A strongly worded letter?  Harsh language?  It might not win hearts over for the cause, and might actually backfire in the minds and hearts of some people who might have been on the fence on the issue at hand, but it certainly gets people’s attention, doesn’t it?  

Change happens slowly, and these incidents don’t just happen overnight.  This is not just about Freddie Gray.  It’s about Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice, and any number of the other people whose deaths happened without repercussions for their killers, be they authority figures or just wannabe-cops.  I look at situations like this as an inevitable by-product of a violent culture’s justice system, which serves an economically disparate society that sadly disenfranchises many, and has for years.  Face it, Americans are violent.  Our police and criminals are violent.  Patience and restraint are not really our forte.  Hell, the founding of our country was rooted in violent uprising.  And when you have people that don’t have much, with not much in terms of future prospects, and who are left to feel like society as a whole does not value them at all, that powder keg is bound to explode at some point.  True, there are opportunists and people just looking for an excuse to satiate their appetite and propensity for destruction.  But those people alone wouldn’t be able to start and maintain such widespread unrest. 

I wish things like this didn’t have to happen, and I wish they would stop.  But unfortunately that’s not the way people work, especially when they are at the end of their rope.  And ultimately, that’s what it boils down to.  When collectively held down and pummeled long enough, people are bound to reflexively and instinctually lurch back with resistance at some point.  Even if it’s just an involuntary, defensive motion, and a small part of the larger picture of attempted survival in the face of attack.

Photo credit – Pixabay.com – OpenClips