Once again, we are undergoing national trauma induced by a barrage of violent incidents. Here in Virginia, a six-year-old shot his teacher. In California, eleven people celebrating the lunar new year lost their lives at the hand of a gunman. In Tennessee, police tased and beat an unarmed Black man who died days later, and EMTs declined to render him aid while other police watched.
Some may wonder why this is the topic of this week’s E-newsletter highlight. We thought it was essential to address these issues because we risk normalizing such gross violence by shrugging off, numbing out, and moving on without thoughtful reflection together.
We experience violence each time we see the video of Tyrie Nichols being brutally assaulted by police in Memphis. Every time we hear the news story about the six-year-old in Newport News, we feel a pang. These acts of violence cause us to feel mixed emotions anger, sorrow, fear, and hopelessness because we can’t make logical sense of the violence.
Unfortunately, the violence we see in our society is the logical result of failed politics and religion. A child of six years who would bring a gun to school, threaten classmates, and ultimately shoot a teacher is not responsible for his actions. Yes, they did the deed, but we taught them how. Someone that young cannot understand the import or consequences of their actions. We have normalized violence.
As a nation, we practically worship guns. Gun ownership has been elevated to a sacred right. Over the past four decades, we have seen the proliferation of handguns and handgun ownership. Our television hit shows often feature police dramas with car chases, extended gun fights with automatic weapons, and brutal violence.
Hundreds of violent people stormed the U.S. Capital, beating police and threatening to kill legislators. Many in leadership around the country continue to ignore or justify their behavior. We often justify violence perpetrated against Black and Brown people by the police. We are told they resisted or, in some way, they were deserving of the violence they experienced as if any rationale justifies frenetic violence.
As a grassroots interfaith environmental justice organization, we work daily to address and disentangle the violence-based policies and practices against our environment and neighbors. We work to protect our air, water, and soil for the people who live, work, and play in our communities and deserve fresh air, clean water, and healthy soil. The violence we see acted out through mass shootings, merciless beatings of the unarmed, daily gun violence in places like Richmond and Petersburg, and domestic violence stem from the same place as violence against our environment.
These acts of violence come from a profound disrespect for life, a claim to superiority over other forms of life, and the quest for power and greed. They come from a warped religious worldview that ranks human life over different life and individual human lives over all others. These are challenges we face as we work to halt climate change and protect our planet, people, and creatures.
The opposite of violence is peace. We have released our 2023 Lenten Calendar based on the theme, Resilience: Cultivating Peace with Nature, which speaks to our need to divest our society from the violence that fuels climate change and kills unarmed Black and Brown people. As people of faith, we are called to live simply, practice love, create community, and care for our neighbors and planet. If peace is the most cherished value, we will develop a non-violent world.