From mass shootings to police brutality, the United States is notorious for its high levels of violence. Every day there’s another news story about senseless acts of aggression, naturalized as the American way of life.
The roots of this toxic culture run deep, but that doesn’t mean we should give up hope for change. In this blog post, we’ll explore the history of violence in America, its impact on society, and steps you can take to help break free from this cycle.
by David Stone
The American Way Is a History of Violence
The history of violence in America is long and complex. From the genocide of indigenous peoples to the violence inherent in slavery, this country was built on brutality.
Even after the Civil War, lynchings and other forms of violence against Black Americans persisted for a century.
And we still see systemic oppression in the prison industrial complex, where the vast majority of inmates are people of color. Law enforcement has a long history of targeting and murdering Black people. The rise in videos exposes practices that persisted for decades unseen.
Additionally, our foreign policy often relies on violence, including wars and drone strikes, perpetuating a culture of aggression and domination.
A Broader Alignment
But the harm of this violent culture extends beyond its historical roots. Studies show that exposure to violence, whether in real life or through the media, lead to negative outcomes. Those include PTSD, anxiety and increased aggression.
The American Psychological Association states that “media violence poses a threat to public health by creating a culture of violence and contributing to antisocial behavior.” Yet we see violence glorified in our movies, video games and recently in political rhetoric.
So what can we do to break free from this cycle of violence?
One step is to recognize and challenge our own biases and actions. All too often, we contribute to violence through our own microaggressions, perpetuating harmful stereotypes or engaging in verbal or emotional abuse.
By practicing empathy, mindfulness, and self-reflection, we can work to become more aware of our own actions and the impact they have on others.
Another important step is to support policies and organizations that promote non-violent solutions to conflict.
This involves advocating for restorative justice programs, which prioritize rehabilitation and community involvement over punishment, or supporting organizations that work towards peace and diplomacy on a global scale.
Somehow, we must demand that our political leaders address the root causes of violence, including poverty, inequality, and lack of access to mental healthcare. Treating symptoms with prison sentences and restrictive laws perpetuates the American way of violence because it ignores root causes.
Consistent activism, both in the form of voting and participation in grassroots movements, as well as intentionally seeking out and elevating voices that offer alternatives to the status quo is essential.
Violence may be a part of America’s past and present, but it doesn’t have to be our future.
By recognizing the historical and contemporary causes of violence, taking individual responsibility for our actions, supporting non-violent solutions, and demanding systemic change at all levels, we can work towards a more peaceful and equitable society.
It won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.