Saturday, July 6, 2013

Violence prevention

According to Shankar Vedantam's July 2 story "Therapy Helps Troubled Teens Rethink Crime," often violence is not a calculated thing, but a matter of someone getting mad and out of control.  That seems consistent with many cases I've heard about.  On Tuesday, in a neighboring town, at a youth baseball game, an umpire made a call, and as a result was assaulted by a parent and a coach.  Even in cases where it's a little more pre-meditated, often it is still the same dynamic where someone feels disrespected and is filled with rage, so they decide to go after the person who angered them.  A recent case in the news is that of Aaron Hernandez.  After he was arrested for murder, more stories came out of his reacting violently when angry.

The article tells about a program in which young people were taught to slow down and think before acting.  During the year the program was going on, the students in the program had a lower arrest rate than the control group.  However, the change did not last after the program was over.

I think it's a step in the right direction.  Making guns less readily accessible would help too.  So often criminal justice focuses on punishment.  By then it is too late.  I hope we can continue to work on preventing crime before it happens.  When crimes happen, the victims and the perpetrators can have their lives ruined.  Let us teach our young people not to ruin their own lives and other people's lives.

It is present in human nature, this ability to burst into violence.  It bursts out in certain circumstances.  It seems to have to do with feeling disrespected.  It has to do with anger, and anger seems to come from hurt.  Can we care for our young people so they don't have to erupt into anger?

Maajid Nawaz grew up feeling alienated, and became an Islamist radical.  When he was in prison in Egypt, he was adopted by Amnesty International.  Because of this experience of being embraced, he changed, and became a counter-terrorism activist.

Rejecting people, we alienate them, incite them to violence.  Embracing people, we inspire them to compassion and reconciliation.  No, it doesn't always work that way. It doesn't guarantee safety.  But people are more likely to be nice to us if we are nice to them.

It seems so simple and obvious.  Why do people not do it that way? Why when my country feels another country is a threat, do they drop bombs on that country?  We have made more enemies in places like Iraq and Pakistan than we had before we were bombing them.

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