I believe many of us are questioning things very deeply right now.

What happened in Boston on Marathon Monday really rocked people’s worlds. Many people seem to think it’s the first real terrorist attack to happen in the United States since 2001. The truth is, it isn’t. There have been countless terrorist attacks in the United States, before 2001 and after. The United States has always been a target, but other countries have as well. The Netherlands has been a target of Islamic extremism as well. And don’t even get me started on the middle east itself.

After the bombings in Boston, it seemed like the week couldn’t get any crazier. But it did, with the showdown trying to hunt the two suspects who were identified in the bombings. Bomb threats being found even in the city where I live (which ended up being nothing). Possible explosives found in Colorado, and then 3 people shot at the 4/20 rally in downtown Denver. It seemed like the week of April 15, 2013 couldn’t have gotten any crazier. Someone on my friends list on Facebook updated her status to say she was feeling scared, and was wondering if anyone else was. People are questioning what was going on that week. Why were there so many similar incidents happening afterwards? Is it safe to live in our world?

The fact is, violence has been a common theme in human history, and it goes back as far as having to fight other humans for the wildebeest you just shot with your bow and arrow to eat and another tribe running in and stealing it, as silly as that sounds. People fight for what they think is right, and we don’t always agree with each other on what that is. The men who set off the explosives at the Boston Marathon and then who littered the area of Cambridge, Massachusetts with explosives as they were pursued by authorities probably thought they were fighting for something meaningful – though the media hasn’t released anything about their motives, probably because the older brother is dead and the younger one is still in the hospital recovering from his shootout with the FBI and police. I don’t like that violence is the first thing many people use to “solve” their problems. But it has always been a phenomenon and probably will continue to be.

But does it have to be? What can violence teach us?

An article was posted by a Facebook friend of mine recently that I found very fascinating and quite enlightening. The tagline at the beginning says it all:

Feelings of fear and powerlessness are driving the cycle of violence that surrounds us. To change that, we need to recognize that we need each other to thrive as individuals.

The article’s author, Frances Moore Lappé, says that he has asked prison inmates, “What do you want so badly that you would sacrifice everything in order to get it?” The answer, according to the article:

Pride. Dignity. Self-esteem … And I’ll kill every motherfucker in that cell block if I have to in order to get it.

Or, another’s answer:

I’ve got to have my self-respect, and I’ve declared war on the whole world till I get it.

People want respect, to be recognized, to be appreciated, and to belong. Not only do prison inmates want this, but every day people want this as well. I know I want this. For a long time, there has been the notion that our compartmentalized society is the root of (most) evil – we are not supposed to live and work in boxes, separate from everyone else. We are supposed to work together, live together, raise families together, prepare food together, even grow food together. Our separation has led to the alienation that so many people feel, and the only way for them to be heard is through violence. Most people do not want to listen to someone complain about their lives, or even talk about the good things in their lives. Most people want to talk about their own lives, and as soon as someone else starts talking, they tune out. No wonder people turn to violence – the one thing that will make people pay attention – to get their points across.

The article echoes this sentiment about separation:

But could it be that for human animals fear itself has become a danger? To explore the possibility, a place to start is asking what humans fear most.

It is the loss of standing with others, the fear of being cast out by the tribe. Rather than being hyper-individualists, Homo sapiens are profoundly social creatures—the most social of all species. This sense of standing is inseparable from trust. To thrive, we need to trust that we count in the eyes of others and will, therefore, be treated with respect. In a word, our fear is loss of dignity.

 In addition, “Human beings need to feel that we make a difference.” And, “When these essential needs for connection and agency are unmet, we go nuts. We try to get respect by whatever means possible. If peaceful means seem closed off, violence it is.”
Lappé goes on to say the solution is recognizing we’ve become out of touch with how social we are, and how social we must be. That it is essential to create “communities of trust without which we destroy not just others, but ourselves as well.”
It all comes down to questioning. The people who turn to violence because they aren’t being heard or appreciated are questioning as well. They want to know where they fit in, and how they can fit in. They want to know how they can be heard if being peaceful isn’t working. Unfortunately, they usually end up fitting in to a prison block, and while they are certainly heard when they become violent, they are not understood. And then we question them and their motives, and we question where the world is going, where our place is in it, and why these things are happening.
According to this article – and I agree – the answer to “why?” is that we are too separated. We must come together as communities and support each other. We must stop questioning open-endedly, “Why are these things happening to us?” and ask, “How can we prevent these things?” We must figure out how we can go back to our natural state of being – collective, supportive, collaborative.
I personally don’t have the answer as to how to make that happen. I think it starts with communication about these issues. I think local governments can make a shift to creating more community within cities and even small towns. But it’s something we have to want – and at this point, I don’t seen alternative.

Hey guys! I just want to belong!


***This post is part of the Blogging from A-Z April challenge. Starting with A, every post in April will be about a topic starting with a letter of the alphabet, consecutively. For more information, please visit the official page.***


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