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The Normalization of Extreme Violence

What can be done in an era of school and shopping center shootings every couple of months?

Police tape outside the shopping mall in El Paso

Extremism and all the other -isms that exist out there are not usually pretty things. They instigate us, embroil us, and fuel us with unhealthy emotions: for most of us, rage (at the idiocy of the fundamental ideal) and sadness mixed in with a little bit of fear (would be classified as the healthy response, by most psychologists).

But for some this extremism is justified. They see an invasion of immigrants, even though it is literally at the foot of the statue of liberty: "bring me your tired, your poor, your hungry..." and has been a staple of who Americans are—whether escaping persecution (like the Protestants in the 16th century) or exploring (Columbus and Lief Erickkson), this country is made up of outsiders. Well, except for the Native Americans, of course.

People always tend to forget that little tidbit. But I digress.

My point is that we should be engaging in conversation with the extremists among us, because in shutting them out, we don't give them another option. Communication is key after all. The United States of America is a conglomeration of immigrants; even the Native Americans had migrated over the Bering Strait, and it was much longer before any of us. In all matters of time, it happened before written history itself.

We have, like time, become better in matters of communication. This is in both the ethical sense of pragmatic law as well as the technological sense, insofar as we can now communicate with people across the globe quite easily. Social media has afforded this luxury, despite having the double-edged sword effect of decreasing our personal privacy. Regardless, there seems to be more extreme violence now more than ever. The increase in this communication has created more exposure for these events, yet still we are left wondering, “Why? How can we avoid another tragedy like this?”

There always seems to be only one or two of these extremists willing to do these terrible things. These are not army veterans but “Lone Wolfs,” people who have grappled onto fundamentalist ideals of one sort or another. In any case, it is obviously hard to empathize with these kinds of people, as it would be hard to empathize with serial killers. But these acts, these tragedies, must be understood if we are going to avoid them in the future. We must try to understand these people and where they came from.

There are a few factors that, besides being solitary individuals, are common among these types of extremists. There is usually a troubled upbringing, coupled with psychological disease such as depression or paranoia (Source—NPR). So how do we, as a culture, reduce these illnesses? I think the answer lies in education.

There were things that I found, in adulthood, where not taught to me in grade or high school. Or if they were, they were paltry to say the least. Things like: basic finance, law (in politics and state versus federal law), and ethics & morality.

Yet some things cannot be taught, and because Western Culture has appropriated the rite of passage (into adulthood), I was left to learn things on my own. Ironically, I ended up getting my undergraduate degree in philosophy and ethics, as a nod to my search for spiritual growth (something that began when I was only 14 and continues to this day). But as a whole, our culture does not rely on education to teach us such basic things as how to pay rent or how to be a good person. In fact, I would argue our culture has turned us into more immoral individuals.

So, we need to engage in communication with extremists and reform our education. One is (more or less) easy while the other will take some time. That is my little idea as to reduce these terrible events, both in the US and abroad.

Not much, but it could be a start.

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The Normalization of Extreme Violence
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