It’s hard to know but it seems like I have heard of increasing numbers of acts of violence (mainly shootings). I currently serve in a parish about thirty minutes outside of Rochester, NY. Last weekend, Rochester had three separate shootings in 24 hours. I grew up in the Southern Tier area of New York State. Elmira, part of the Southern Tier, likewise seems to be growing in the number of shootings.
I think there may be several reasons. First, while some things have reopened, our lives are still very much impacted by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. We need to wear face masks and social distance in public (I stress need because it is one thing we can all do to limit the spread of the virus). Other things to consider include the fact that some people are still out of work, leaving them without things to do and with financial problems. There are no or little sporting events, concerts, or movie theaters to go to relax. All of these can cause stress. When our stress levels are high, it affects our ability to deal with things. Things that might not normally be hard to deal with suddenly become harder. How much this relates to increasing number of violent acts I don’t know but it is a real possibility. It is not an excuse but someone who is stressed might be more likely to “blow up.” Think of this example, you have a bad day at work and are stressed. You go home hoping for a quiet evening. Instead, the kids are acting up. Isn’t it harder to properly interact with the kids when you come home stressed?
We also face ongoing racial tensions. This might make us more fearful in our interactions with people of other ethnicities or race. We rely too much on stereotypes. Even when we are not racist or prejudice, the stories of protests and riots, can cause us stress and impact our ability to deal with things that ordinarily won’t bother us that much.
I also wonder about the relationship of drug use and violence. I see at least two possible connections. First, if one is high on drugs (or intoxicated), it impairs our judgment. We react poorly, including the use of violence. The second possibility is one’s addiction to drugs may lead them to steal to obtain drugs. The stealing may include the use of violence. What difference can we make here? First, we shouldn’t use drugs or drink alcohol in excess to avoid impaired judgment. Secondly, look for opportunities to improve the lives of others so that they might not turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve their stress. We need to help people have healthy ways to relieve their stress (not to mention that reduced drug use can result in less theft, and, thus, less violence).
We should also consider how desensitized we have become to news of violence. As we hear more about it in the news, we can become used to it and no longer pay attention. Or to avoid hearing about it, we stop paying attention to the news. Either way, the danger is that we also don’t pay attention to what is going on that leads to the violence. We lose perspective on how we might help people have better lives, avoiding violence.
Now, I turn to where my own recent thoughts on the increasing violence started, the lack of respect for all life. If one does not value life in general, then murder might not seem so bad.
One might think here of racist attitudes that might say a person of different color or ethnicity is of less value. Yes, some people incorrectly think that way. They are wrong. All human life is sacred. It does not matter what language we speak. The color of our skin does not matter. Our dignity comes from God and that cannot be taken away. This is true even when one does not believe in God. God still loves them. All life is sacred.
There is another point that I wonder if you have considered. Yes, maybe the shooter doesn’t value the life of their victim(s). Have you ever considered that maybe they don’t even think their own life matters? Maybe they have never felt loved? Maybe their life has been so hard that they figure life is not worth living? They won’t care if they were killed. Maybe they think no life if sacred.
Here, I will never forget a conversation I had with a man several years back. He was a volunteer, as I was, at a food pantry. His had been a life of drugs, adultery, and hardship. He actually said to me that he figured things would have been better if he had never been born.
I will never forget that. What can we do to help others to have a good life so they don’t feel this way? We need to show them God’s love and our love. This means showing that we can. They aren’t going to believe anyone loves them if they don’t have a home, or even food to eat.
I don’t know how much violence is related to what I have written here today. I do know some is, especially regarding respecting life. What can you do to help others know you care and that God cares? Do what you can to help others. It may not seem like much but God can multiply your efforts, thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold.
How true this is. Stress causes people to do many things they don’t do normally.