Responsively Yours: Break Stalemates to Peace
Have the tragic shootings around the country this year prompted you to prayer and action or are you stunned? Like Jesus’ lament in Luke 19; for we do not know the “things that make for peace.” Large magazine automatic weapons have been used to kill people on military bases, in movie theaters, in a Sikh gurdwara and in an off-campus house near Texas A&M University. People have been shot on the street, in homes and in workplaces, but even when these deaths make headlines, their impact soon fades.
In the wake of these episodes, I wonder if God is calling us to examine whether our culture or practices need to change. Either-or thinking, hate speech, failure to examine systemic issues and an emphasis on exacting retribution are yielding disastrous results:
- Blaming, and name calling. Today’s political rhetoric seems to depend on objectifying others, “winning” rather than working out a way forward together and using coercive tools to control behavior rather than developing shared norms.
- Separating rather than knitting people together. Categories of race, ethnicity, immigration status, religion, economic level, etc., can help us to understand who we are. However, they can also create small zones of control with boundaries that lead to clashes and hide our common interests, so we do not even begin to forge alliances needed for change.
- Little understanding of mental health. Fragile people may be aggravated by failure and isolation and unable to get, or regularly take, needed medication. Without systems of support — family, friends, community and clinical care — the mental distress of persons who need help may escalate to the point that they take violent action. The criminal justice system is not the best way to address mental health. Rather than neglect followed by incarceration, how could we address underlying causes?
- Depicting violence without results or consequences. Violence permeates our culture in movies, video games, etc. Even the way we limit reporting on U.S. service members killed and the total number of people killed in Iraq and Afghanistan disconnects the violence of war from its consequences.
- Availability of weaponry. Children and youth with guns and have shot others in their schools. People with mental problems and those who just mean harm have shot masses of people in public places. It does not seem that making guns even more available is the right approach to stop such events when we know that even U.S. military, marshals and police officers have shot innocent bystanders in chaotic situations.
Can’t we maintain our Second Amendment rights without letting isolated persons in precarious mental health build arsenals?
United Methodist Women, with our prayers, our commitment, our skills at “out of the box” thinking, our faith and community relationships, we can work with others to break through these stalemates, build up the things that make for peace and change the world.
Harriett Jane Olson
United Methodist Women