It is the Christmas season, and I am distressed that in our own country, one of the hallmarks of democracy, we have so much violence and rancor. Just this weekend two policeman were shot in Brooklyn. According to the reports, the alleged murderer wrote about killing officers on social media. No one stopped him, and it was allowed to be out there for the world to see.
It can only make me wonder why we do not stop people from saying and doing things that can lead to commission of crimes later. There are three areas that should get more of our attention: micro-aggressions, social media and violence in movies and television. The three areas together make for a mix that can't be great for our country and our democracy.
People do not understand that micro-aggressions, when they are allowed to fester, add up and can lead people to acts of greater aggression. What is a micro-aggression? It is treating people as if they are less than. Examples of this include not letting someone speak or not asking their viewpoint, cutting in front of them in line, treating a person differently because of his or her race. It is well-known in New York City that a taxi cab might not pick up someone trying to hail a cab because he is black.
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Another area that can lead to violence is the acceptance of violent acts as entertainment. I went to see "Intersellar" last weekend. As I sat waiting for the movie to start, I was subjected to several trailers that were "PG approved" for audiences but were filled with violence. It was shocking how many movies are now made with violence as the norm. As Barbara Osborn of the Center for Media Literacy says in a piece on television violence, when people watch violence the killed person simply disappears and no one is seen mourning them. She continues, "Children model behavior they see in the media. If kids don't see the consequences of violence, it teaches them that violence doesn't cause serious harm. When heroes use violence it sends a message that violence is an appropriate way to respond to problems. If you were a child, what lessons about the world might you learn from the program you just watched?" If we want to have a peaceful society we need to make sure that the media we consume reflects what we want young people to learn. Currently there is so much violence in the media that younger people learn that there are few consequences for violent behavior.
Social media is perhaps the "wild west" of our current society. People can write trash about others, can say how they want to destroy people who do not think or act like them, and somehow no one stops them. It is not just what is said on the Internet, it is that people can actually watch violence on the privacy of their own computers/tablets. Brittany Bostic, writing for the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center, says that "Meta-analyses of the unhealthy effects of media-violence have shown that youth who view media-violence on a regular basis are more likely to exhibit antisocial behavior, ranging from imitative violent behavior with toys to criminal violence, acceptance of violent behavior, increased feelings of hostility, and desensitization toward violent behavior. This information is not applicable to all youth who view it, but imagine a young impressionable pre-teen that may think this behavior (hostile fights) is acceptable.
"Youth who oftentimes are continually exposed to violence in the media result to violence to solve their problems. This can partially be attributed to what they see and who they're around, because youth learn their social skills from their surroundings."
I am not suggesting that there should be a government shutdown of free speech or what I call "free violence." However, it is time we take a neighborly approach and respond to social media violence, violence on television and in movies as well as the micro-aggressions we all often witness. In the words of one of the most effective public campaigns ever, "if you see something, say something." It is important to remember not to wait till senseless violence takes place. Catch it as it is fulminating, and do it every time so next year's holiday season is much more peaceful and shows a democracy that is moving forward and is an example for the rest of the world.
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