It’s time to rethink violence.
While writing this blog, I discovered the following facts from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Statistics. Studies show that teenagers and young adults are more likely to become victims of violent crime than older persons. About a third of all victims of violent crime were between the ages 12 to 19, and almost half of all victims of violence were under age 25.
In this country, more than 100,000 students carry a gun to school on any given day. Revenge is the strongest motivation for most school shootings. The desire to get back at those who have hurt them, picked on them, made fun of them or bullied them causes many teenagers to turn to violence in the schools. A school shooting is among the worst outcomes. Some situations can steadily escalate, or build, to that level.
Childhood fights used to be considered a rite of passage by many– something that every kid experienced at least once. But times have changed. A few swings in the schoolyard or a scuffle on the pavement during recess were enough to resolve whatever started the fight in the first place. In most cases, the kids involved in the fight were friends again by the time the dismissal bell rang that day.
I know this from experience. I fought a kid named Leo in the fourth grade who ended up becoming a friend not too long after the fight. If you asked me today what Leo and I were fighting about, I couldn’t tell you because I can’t remember. I guarantee you that it was something stupid though.
I also know that things are different now. I’m not sure if we live in a more violent society or if people have become less sensitive to violence. It could be both. Reality television shows are full of violent confrontations between people. Video games are violent enough to come with parental ratings. Some music even sets violence to a good beat. Young people are surrounded by violent images all the time.
When it comes to fighting, students can give many reasons for engaging in it. “I heard that she started a rumor about me.” “He disrespected me.” “I thought she was laughing at me.” “I didn’t like the way they were looking at me.” “He stepped to me the wrong way.” So many reasons– though none strong enough to defend an act of violence. Certainly none of those reasons are worth a situation escalating to the serious injury of another person…or worse.
If you are involved in a situation that might potentially result in the worst outcome of violence, fighting is where it can all begin. I know a group of young people who believed that they were “settling a problem” last week by retaliating against a group who jumped one of their own. They fought. That fight led to another one. In the aftermath, there have been black eyes, broken bones and school suspensions, but the problem has yet to be settled. That’s the thing with violence. It’s rarely an end and will likely continue. Violence is never a solution.
The next Be Unlimited (Rethink Violence: Part Two) will offer ideas on how to stop violence before it escalates to the point of no return.