A Culture of Violence? The US Can Switch

“Culture of violence,” “culture of violence.” If I hear that phrase wheeled out one more time to excuse a mass shooter, I’ll scream. That doesn’t mean I’ll head to the gun shop. 

Which is to say, when it comes to cultures, here in the USA, we’re lucky enough to be able to take our pick. 

Even a cursory scan of history reveals that we have a vast variety of options. 

Starting in the way-back 1600s, the nasty Pequot Wars were bloody, but only the plundering pilgrims were set on “wiping their enemies off the map.” As historian Bernard Bailyn once put it memorably to the Smithsonian Magazine, “The Indians were not genocidal on the whole.”

The Africans dead from slavery and the North Atlantic slave trade number in the tens of millions. Probably 30-60 million. The Equal Justice Initiative has documented 6,500 white terror lynchings after that. As soon as freed Black towns got up and running, and possibly competitive, white mobs burned them to the ground, as they did immigrant Chinese settlements in the same period once the dangerous work on the Transcontinental Railroad was complete. Many thriving Mexican towns on what whites wanted to be Texas met the same fate. 

Given the bloody, butcherous history of white racist violence and slaughter, it’s remarkable that aside from a few smart, self-defense committees, non-violence, lawsuits and honest journalism have been, and continue to be, the dominant tactics of the civil rights movement.  

Does the US have a culture of violence? Not the United States of women. Even after witch burning and sexual slavery and rape in marriage and rape in bondage and domestic terror and forced childbirth and forced sterilization and sex work…. When it comes to gender-based violence, women have mostly turned to mutual aid, not mass murder. One wonders how history might have been different. 

In a “culture of violence,” you’d think LGBTQI people, and especially trans women of color — the most targeted group when it comes to hate crimes — would have every right, and most certainly the urge, to commit hate crimes right back. But they don’t. They — we — make their own culture instead, and it’s a hit. 

Finally, kids. In 2016, the latest year for which I could find numbers, 1,637 children died from firearm related violence, and thousands more fear gun violence in their schools. And yet, no kid-led army has staked out the National Rifle Association and its toadies. Not so far. They demonstrate and organize. 

To repeat, when it comes to cultures, the US has lots. We’ve simply allowed, until recently, a bunch of white western guys, rooted in one particularly patriarchal, white, hierarchical and militaristic set of values to write and enforce their own rules. That said, segregation, spousal rape, white crime on indigenous land, anti-LGBT hate crimes and domestic child abuse were all legal until very recently. The white, male, militarist culture of violence isn’t inevitable. It’s a societal choice. Let’s switch.

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  1. Dear Ms. Flanders,

    Namaste, Salam, Shalom, Peace, Sohl, Pyeongwha!

    To change from a culture of violence to a culture of peace, I humbly, but boldly, would like to announce that a new global peace movement, led by WOMEN is prepared and it is one step away from beginning.

    After Atlanta and Boulder, after the violence against women in London and Australia, and after the UK announced they were expanding their nuclear arsenal (a threat of future violence), this would be the perfect time for a “movement of nonviolence,” a Gandhi / King-like people movement — a Global Movement of Nonviolence, For the Children (GMofNV)– as an illustration, “For the Children,” to illustrate that we, the adults, can resolve our conflicts nonviolently. We will be promoting a new narrative of committing to nonviolence and committing to working together for humanity – helping others.

    There are obstacles to finalizing the last step that we are attempting to resolve. The movement is all about creating the “POWER” to make it happen!

    It is time for a CALL to WOMEN, a World-Wide Unity Campaign to lead a new global peace movement to “Reach into Every Household, to promote a GMofNV. I have presented the plan to U.N. Secretary-General Guterres’s staff and hope to be returning soon to set the last step in motion.

    I would love to tell you about it. It will include the largest outreach and promotional campaign the world has ever seen. The objective is to unite the people in every country to create trust and respect between nations and people.

    A GMofNV is an anti-war movement but it is also a movement of “good will” with a “constructive segment” designed to enlist everyone to participate – the “piece de resistance’.

    I have an introductory letter to send you. The world needs women now because the world’s crises are on the precipice of falling into the abyss. Or we can reach new heights with women leading the way to create social, economic, and political paradigm change. All the mechanisms are in place.

    It is time to set a precedent for all time! Please ask me about the CATALYST.” “Let’s switch!”

    Please contact me at your earliest availability.

    Peace and Love,
    Andre Sheldon
    Director, Global Strategy of Nonviolence

    Sister Joan Chittister, September 11th, 2004, at the Omega / V Day conference: “Women and Power, Our Time to Lead” said, “Indeed, women must have a role, not only in the reconstruction of societies already ravaged by war, but more than that, they must take a voice until they are given a voice in the development of peaceful alternatives to war, as well!” (I was there) Sister Joan is a supporter.


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