By Ryan Hall
Once again our country is faced with yet another mass shooting. This time in Las Vegas, NV and it is now considered the deadliest in modern US history. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those killed or injured as well as to all those impacted who witnessed this horror of violence.
While I don’t live there anymore I did spend ten years of my life growing up in Las Vegas and in many ways it still feels like home to me. That connection make this tragedy hit closer to home. When something like this happens in places you know, you’re compelled to reach out to all those you know and love to make sure they are ok. This has now become a common occurrence for so many people as mass shooting after another continues nearly every few months in this country. Yet, what will be done about it? If, as the past has shown us, nothing will happen to try and change tragedies like this from happening again. More shootings will occur, more people will be killed, more will be impacted by unnecessary violence and within a week, the news will move on to something else.
If we really wanted to though, we could do something. The left in this country says we need to just get rid of guns or at the least, highly regulate them, and the right says the problem has to do with mentally unstable people, not guns. But what if we met in the middle, let’s talk about the culture. I believe gun violence is a symptom of our larger culture of violence that needs to be addressed. As a nation we must admit to ourselves that we have a problem with violence. Violence is our preferred method of solving foreign conflicts, it is our preferred sport in football and it is our preferred entertainment at the movies and TV. It should not surprise us that tragedies like the one in Las Vegas occur when we celebrate violence everywhere else.
Maybe if we admit these things to ourselves we can find a way to have an honest conversation about gun violence, then we can start to address this deeper culture of violence that we find ourselves in. From the perspective of Pace e Bene, we believe that nonviolence is the way forward. Let’s find ways of bringing nonviolence education into our schools, into our local communities, our police forces and prison systems, like organizers are doing with the Nonviolent Cities Project. Let’s find forms of nonviolent entertainment and strengthen nonviolent conflict solutions. These things can be done, but one thing stands in the way.
My colleague, John Dear, spoke to the Albuquerque Forum on Gun Violence last year and he said that “one of the casualties of our culture of violence is the loss of our imagination; people can’t imagine Albuquerque or New Mexico without gun violence, or bombs. We have no vision, we can’t see the way forward. Our violence has blinded us.” In other words, as a nation we’ve told ourselves that violence is natural and we simply have to accept it, there is nothing we can do. We know this is not true though. Now is the time to reclaim a new vision, a vision of nonviolence. If we pursue this vision and embrace nonviolence, then sooner or later, going to war will seem unthinkable, supporting violent entertainment will be unwatchable and perhaps even owning a gun will be unnecessary.
As the country begins to debate who and what is to blame for this latest tragedy, let’s also start a discussion on our addiction to violence and the role that nonviolence can begin to play going forward. When I lived in Las Vegas, it was where I first learned about nonviolence through Pace e Bene which was founded there in 1989. Nonviolence has roots in Las Vegas and I believe a nonviolent approach to this tragedy will also help heal its wounds.