Notes from Home: Senseless Violence
By Trudy Wischemann
For two weeks now, if we watch the news, our eyes and ears have been riveted to the multiple outcomes of the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida. As before, we review the mass shootings that preceded this one, looking for clues about why this keeps happening and what we might do to prevent another.
One TV program about church shootings put this effort under the title “what we can do about senseless violence.” Hearing it advertised repeatedly broke my mind open to the definition of that term, wondering if there’s such a thing as violence that isn’t senseless, and where to draw the line between violence and something lesser, like petty theft.
Surely the violence in Syria right now is as senseless as it gets, as was the violence in Vietnam or any of the other countries we’ve sent troops. I have a little less trouble seeing the violence of WWII as necessary, if also senseless on a spiritual level. Did the world really need an Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin? Did it need Pol Pot? Did it need George Custer?
See what happens when you start asking questions? I’m sure I’ve already stepped on a few toes with that last name. But I learned an interesting definition of violence from a book by Fr. John Dear: violence is anything that divests a person of his or her true identity as a child of God. The whole effort to eliminate the red skin threat to white settlement as Americans (many of them recent immigrants) pushed westward in search of free land, a place to live, certainly falls into the category of violence. Was it senseless? If not, was it any less violent?
I won’t touch the rhetoric of our current commander-in-chief. Someone might decide to divest me of my true identity.
On a more human level, I’m wondering about the technological advances currently ongoing in our region, everywhere from the groves and fields to brick-and-mortar work environments where jobs are being eliminated faster than we can count. One particularly attractive “advancement” displayed at the farm show two weeks ago was GUSS, “the world’s first unmanned orchard sprayer.” GUSS “removes the operator from the tractor, thus eliminating the chance of driver exposure to the products being applied.” It also, by the way, “eliminates” operator error and 10 minute breaks, lunchtimes, Sundays, and quite frankly, jobs. When faced with the choice of being exposed to pesticides or not working at all, people have for years chosen exposure over unemployment. But now they will not have to choose.
We are a violent people. If we’re going to find ways to stop senseless violence, we’re going to have to look at all the ways we accept violence as necessary, even when there’s a better way. May someone brave lead us in that direction.
Trudy Wischemann is a neophyte Quaker who writes. Send her your suggestions for becoming a non-violent culture c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.