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“Violence IS the answer?”

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been quoted as having said, “Violence is not the answer.” But undeniably, much of America (and the world for that matter) did not believe him.

Looking back on the 20th Century, famed film director Martin Scorsese remarked: “Violence is not the answer, it doesn’t work anymore. We are at the end of the worst century in which the greatest atrocities in the history of the world have occurred… The nature of human beings must change. We must cultivate love and compassion.”

Well, perhaps that makes two “Martins” to whom our society responds with an unrelenting, dogged grip on the violence that we have learned as part and parcel of the culture that is America. Whether the weapon of choice is an insult, a racial slur, a fist or open hand slap, a knife, a hammer, an AK-47, or anything else within reach, we seem to adhere to the inbred and embedded mantra that “Violence IS the answer.”

But to what exactly is violence the answer? Well… pretty much everything, according to the behavior played out in households, on playgrounds, in our streets, and yes, even exported to foreign lands. But if, as Scorsese suggests, violence doesn’t work, then why do we continue to practice it so vehemently and across most any sphere of human interaction we observe?

Will the cultivation of “love and compassion” really remedy this pervasive reality of ours?

Could the easy rock duofrom 1977 be right when they told us “Love is the Answer”? Hmmm. Maybe, but if so it cannot be the way we have seen it portrayed and practiced all too often. It cannot be a peaceful love and compassion that doesn’t upset the status quo and modus operandi of America.

Author, professor, and self-proclaimed “Bad Feminist” Dr. Roxane Gay suggests that “Violence is not the answer but neither is peace.” I think she may be spot on, if she means to say that what we install as an alternative to violence must come with a force and conviction that isn’t afraid to rock the proverbial boat of our common culture. It must be nonviolent, but not peaceful in its operation. It must be a disruptive love and compassion.

Perhaps that is in some way what the “Martins” looked towards. A bold and unrelenting love and compassion that is unimpeded by the necessity of being “peaceful” in the process of its commitment. A commitment to the dignity of all persons and an unconditional positive regard for human beings everywhere.
Perhaps then we can finally get off this continuum of violence that starts with a thought or a word and frequently ends in the loss of life. But we must begin by seriously entertaining the notion that “violence is not the answer.”

     Mark A. Dixon
     Springfield NAACP Religious
     Affairs Committee Member

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