Cataclysmic gun violence is the quintessence of the American narrative. Photo after photo of disturbing faces behind masterful plans to cleanse America of its ills pervade our newsfeeds. Meanwhile, Law enforcement officers have killed in cold blood and have walked free. Each are not different from the other, save a uniform.
There is no such singularity as a peace culture or violence culture. There are aspects of both in each. But I do not believe that if we want to prepare for peace that we must engage war. Mass shootings are a symptom of a greater problem; we can no longer ignore the pungency of our festering American wounds.
In the Journal of Peace Research, Johan Galtung’s article Cultural Violence defines the function of cultural violence as follows:
One way cultural violence works is by changing the moral color of an act from red/wrong to green/right or at least to yellow/acceptable; an example being ‘murder on behalf of one’s country is right, on behalf of oneself wrong’ Another way is by making reality opaque, so that we do not see the violent act as fact or at least not as violent.[i]
While attempting to cope with the present reality, America has yet to heal from witnessing heroes of justice and equality killed in front of our eyes: sniped from the grassy knoll, killed in private quarters. Miles of white headstones scattered on rolling hills between amber waves of grain document the anthology of American expendability.
These slaughterous contributions to collective society cannot be seen in any other way but as vile seeds of more violence. This level of violence seen in America has birthed a fatalistic loyalty, once again, to slavery. Money, particularly the profiting from acts of violence, is the master with the whip. Those at the top are enraptured by the destructive allure of increasing wealth.
The majority of the American population sits complacently, watching storylines unfold without a desire to take action. After all, if it isn’t happening to me, it’s entertainment. Right?
If we were to theorize how to redistribute power within the top-heaviness of American structural violence, we would see a people afraid, bound, and chained. As we remember assassinations, unlawful arrests, and ruined lives, the majority of the American population is too afraid to take action. All of us right now, unified in this moment, are being held at gunpoint. Inherent human needs for survival, identity, well-being, and freedom are used to blackmail us into cooperation. We are being fleeced by distracting rhetoric and held hostage by corrupt moralism while we have the American dream stolen beneath our tired feet.
The archetypal violent structure, in my view, has exploitation as a center-piece. This simply means that some, the topdogs, get much more out of interaction in the structure than others, the underdogs.[ii]
This gangrenous wound is what kills people, not guns. The necessity of regulation is apparent. The caveat to this issue is that regulation must first begin with the redistribution of power.
A person shouting, ‘Killing is self-realization!’, may prove that the English language is capable of expressing such thoughts, but not that the English language as such is violent. [iii]
Instead of looking at our crumbling societal infrastructure, the incumbent powers that be formulate an intricate plan of scapegoating, a sleight of hand that causes a ripple effect of rage and prejudice among the American people. Make no mistake, the war on terror begins here.
The war on terror is not a tangible war. It is a war of minds, a subversive pogrom aimed at free-thinkers, impassioned educators, and seekers of knowledge, pitted against systems of belief that empower xenophobia and isolationism as predestined fundamentals of the common good. Such miseducation suffocates cultural evolution. When the brave speak out against this philosophy, they are marginalized, dissocialized and face expulsion from the flock (another form of structural violence). These acts of violence are so subtle, so seemingly benign, that when each of us act them out in some way every day, we feel better, empowered. This is social cannibalism.
Regular criminal activity is partly an effort by the underdog to ‘get out’, to redistribute wealth, get even, get revenge (blue collar crime), or by somebody to remain or become a topdog, ducking the structure for what it is worth (white collar crime).
Social equality is an imperative to eliminate turning guns on one another, ourselves. Our decisions to elect officials must solely rest on trustworthiness and ability to be an active voice for the people.
A culture of peace is derived from impenetrable faith in humanity. We must rely on our neighbors and call them friends. We have to resolve conflict from a place of self-acceptance to ward off the desire to cast judgment. We cannot forcibly impress our beliefs and call such an action the greater good. When we have the courage as individuals to call ourselves to task, create change within, we will transcend this dark age in our zeitgeist.
READ MORE: AMERICAN DEATHS IN TERRORISM VS. GUN VIOLENCE IN ONE GRAPH
[i] Galtung, Johan, Cultural Violence, P. 292
[ii] Galtung, Johan, Cultural Violence, P. 293
[iii] Galtung, Johan, Cultural Violence, P. 291