Murders, rapes, beatings.
How do we begin to make sense of senseless acts of violence that leave lives lost, both through death or imprisonment, families distraught and grief stricken, and communities dismayed?
How do we wrap our minds around such horrible acts and find the strength to move forward rather than retreat and die ourselves?
The thing about these kinds of acts is that they carry a two-edged sword. No matter what, there is pain and loss, violation and shame, humiliation and suffering on both ends, not only for those involved, but for those connected to those involved. Even the murderer and rapist, gangster or batterer is somebody’s son or daughter, grandchild or cousin, nephew or niece. There is a profound sense of loss to speak of when the violent act of one, essentially takes not only his/her life, but the life of another.
It is so unfortunate that the kinds of crimes that occur in our streets and fill our television airwaves on the evening news or the pages of our daily newspapers are so often at the hands of young people. I have often wondered about how limited and constricted their outlook on their own lives must be that they can see no value in another’s life. How clouded their vision of a future for themselves must be that they can see no possibilities. I have wondered what horrible experiences must be a part of their reality that they have no regard for humanity.
In a reflection on the possible meaning to be derived from such meaningless acts, I don’t know that there is any degree of constricted outlook, or diminished vision, or horrific experiences that would add any ounce of sense-making ability to most people’s capacity to comprehend them. But, I think that we have to try to be curious about how people, young or otherwise, in our communities can act in these criminal ways. We have to try to understand, because the moment we are stuck only being able to label and pathologize these people; we miss the opportunity to move toward the possibility of change.
I believe that all behavior makes sense in context and as difficult as it is to do sometimes, we have to begin to consider how people’s context, their frame of reference determines their actions. We all operate from different frames of reference, our realities and truths are often different and while it is hard to wrap our minds around this difference being so great that one can find that it makes sense to kill, beat, or rape, it remains a reality in our communities.
Senseless acts of violence in one part of the community affect the whole community. Some have grown comfortable with the idea that homicides happen “over there” and so they distance themselves, in ways, from the reality of the far-reaching consequences of such acts that twist and wind and intersect and connect with many aspects of the lives of everyone else in the community. We are all impacted whether we are aware of it or not. Being angry alone doesn’t curtail such acts, neither does pretending it doesn’t happen, even if it is “over there”.
I began this article with a couple of questions, but not with the intent that I might provide answers to them. I have none. I did, however hope to invite you, the reader to a moment of reflection about what’s happening in the community. I wonder if greater demonstrations of compassion shown toward one another might be one piece of the puzzle to changing, expanding people’s frame of reference.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.