In the wake of continued, unabated and virulent outbursts of savage behavior in our country, I am experiencing a welling up of judgment about the shooters. Quickly, I dump into that cauldron of bitterness those politicians whose language and actions incite more division and violence. Sometimes the feelings I have border on rage.
Marshall Rosenberg, the father of Nonviolent Communication, said something to the effect that “all violence is an expression of an unmet need.” That goes for the violence of mass murderers as well as the violent reaction such events trigger in me. If I am able to calm myself down and realize that these killers - and the politicians - are all suffering, I will in the process have come to empathize with my own suffering. We all need empathy, more than self recrimination or condemnation. Suggesting we kill the offenders amounts to adapting a failed strategy to meet needs of safety, harmony and understanding. There are other, peaceful, ways to meet those same needs.
And yet, Rosenberg also included a chapter in his book about the “Protective Use of Force.” A classic example is how one might choose to intercede physically to protect a child running in front of a moving car, or to interrupt an act of physical abuse in a domestic relationship. Can we draw any lesson from Rosenberg in light of these years of increased mass murders in America? Are there ways that protective use of force can be employed as a society? Would deescalating our military presence in the world leave more room to talk about peaceful accommodation of differences? Would domestic gun control legislation set the proper intention? Would more commitment to mental health screening and treatment be beneficial? what about more sex education for children and families? How about rules against hate speech on TV and the Internet?
How far can we go to prevent violence before the actions we take become oppressive to the expression of others’ speech and action? What is more sacred, the right to possess lethal weapons or the right to live in peace?
In setting an intention many years ago to contend with rage, my own violent tendencies, I’ve developed a strategy, and a set of “tools.” Tools against the tirade, I call them. While they have yet to become habitual, part of the wallpaper of my natural response to stress,. they have proven useful in finding balance, consideration for others and peace. Here are some of them:
A routine of mindfulness meditation, vigorous exercise, healthy food, a lot of sleep, and nurturing personal relationships
Working daily with my violent thoughts and transforming them into something positive and personal…a way to get back to balance and calmness
Practicing nonviolence as if it mattered, as if my acts could help transform others’ attitudes about violence…because they can
Being active in my community, aiding those whose lives are not as healthy, productive or privileged as mine
VOtING, every opportunity I have…because not voting is giving up on the practice of mass-spectrum democracy…and we have few opportunities to do so otherwise.