Communities and Violence – Insights by Dr. John Plodinec

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Reprinted with permission of Dr. John Plodinec and Community and Regional Resilience Institute (CARRI)

Another school shooting and another round of “Ban all guns” vs “Save the Second Amendment.” I don’t know about you but I think that both sides are a bubble off – I don’t really care about guns, I just want our kids to be safe. Not just in school, but in all public places and in their homes. And that means that it’s not just guns, it’s knives, bombs, cars driven into crowds and all of the other myriad methods of mass destruction.

It goes beyond even those. The perpetrators seem welded to their violent acts by mental instability and some form of humiliation that drives them over the edge. We can ban guns – merely one tool – but that will only reduce the body count; it will do little to make our kids safer. And passing new laws when the laws we have now are not being effectively enforced seems like insanity at best, and political pandering at worst.School children

Maybe it’s time to step back and take a different tack. Maybe it’s time for us all to rethink the problem. What happens if we stop demanding national action and realize that each act of violence is rooted in its own community? Maybe we should see what we can do at the community level.

Inherent in the concept of community is caring. Caring about each other and about the community as a whole. One element in the violence seems to be a lack of caring. Whether it’s an unhinged individual shooting up a school or a gang of thugs beating someone with chains and fists, too often someone (probably several someone’s) didn’t care enough to say there’s something wrong here and then do something to make it right.

In other cases, a family member or a member of the public did notice and did ask for help to make things right. But making things right doesn’t fit within the mission statement of many bureaucracies. Even when it does, the organizations who could make it right are too often understaffed and overworked.

And that care-lessness is manifested in other ways. Kids (especially girls) on social media tearing others to shreds – trying to build themselves up on the rubble of others’ reputations. Rampant bullying in some schools and neighborhoods. A growing fear of exerting parental authority (Asking a baby if you can change its diaper? Really?). Over-medicating our boys and young men to tame their high spirits while not teaching them to be responsible for their actions.

If we want our kids to be safer, we must reinvigorate the sense of community in our communities. Whether we are religious or not, we must recognize that we are all our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Communities can be – must become – our bulwark against barbaric violence. Guns, knives, bombs are mere tools; if we are to stop the violence – and make our kids safer – we must care enough to stay the hand of the unstable. And that requires a community that cares.

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