It’s Up to Us All to Fix This

After the Alexandria baseball field shooting, it’s time to push back against America’s trend of violence.

It’s Up to Us All to Fix This

(Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

By Peter Fenn | Opinion Contributor

June 14, 2017, at 5:15 p.m.

What is happening in our country? Whether it is attacks at schools in Colorado or Connecticut; carnage at a gay nightclub in Orlando; the shooting of a congresswoman and others in Arizona; or the latest premeditated attack in the early morning against members of Congress on a baseball diamond, we are confronted with that question.

What drives people to mass violence? And when politics or a public statement of hate is involved, how do we process that? Is violence more acceptable? Is the heated and nasty rhetoric possibly becoming a trigger? Are we, as a country, degenerating into a vicious and violent cycle that we cannot control?

Hard to say. I hope not. But one thing is clear: If any responsible public official or politician begins to condone violence, or suggest that doing harm to another with whom they disagree is tolerated behavior, we are on a very slippery slope. President Donald Trump has let his temper show at rallies and taunted demonstrators. Democrats’ rhetoric has become heated as well. The decibel level has been turned up. I, and many others, are not immune from that criticism.

We will surely find out more about this latest attack in the coming days. But for those of us old enough to remember the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy, this is a scary time. Unsuccessful efforts to murder former Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan are fresh in our minds as well. Violence in our politics has been an integral part of American history, but for a society that believes it should become more civil, more humane, more kind, what happened Wednesday must give us pause.

We need leaders who condemn such violence in the strongest possible terms. We certainly need leaders who do not incite others to violent acts. We need leaders who control their tempers and carefully weigh their words, their speeches and their off-the-cuff comments. We need leaders who calm the waters, not stir them up.

Most important, we need a public that pushes back on these societal trends and rekindles the move to a more civil society.

To quote Robert Kennedy, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. :

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black … Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

It is up to all of us to say a prayer and to do all we can to make gentle the life of the world.