We read nearly daily of mall and school slaughters in our country? Our prisons and courts are brimming with violent offenders. Petty garden variety shootings are an everyday occurrence on our city streets. New and better data on physical violence within families and rape and molestations in the military suggests we’re just discovering the tip of the iceberg on violence in our society. In this the richest country in the world? What are your solutions?
What got my notice was a 2012 report from the U.N. suggesting the the USA is #15 of our 85 countries studied for its rate of homicides per 100,000 population. Our rate, 9.4 per 100K. We are exceeded by countries and territories like Columbia, Armenia, Brazil, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Latvia and Russia, all well into the double digits and above. Homicides are not the only violence indicator per my opening comments but a pretty good start at understanding the level of our problem. Yes, the data collected from 85 countries may be suspect in terms of the accuracy of their reporting and measures but the homicide rates are most likely actually higher, not lower; under reporting of bad news is pretty endemic, even here in the USA.
What are the common elements between these high rate countries? The homicides are committed overwhelmingly by young, undereducated, poor men. What do you think this tells us? Here’s my take. I’d like yours.
We live in a country with a history of the institutional use of violence, per the “taming of the west” . Our early history indicates its use not only to acquire control over the land, but also as a means of “taming” offenders, both native people and the euro-Americans. This is still a country that loves the death penalty for violent offenders such as the recent report on the Boston bombers federal charges levied by President Obama’s Justice Department.
Yes, the Spaniards and Mexicans share similar violent histories with us on this land. But the dozens of wars launched by the USA in the lifetime of our country, rationalized as a means to protect our freedom supports this take on our institutional history. Almost always there was land and property, ours or others that we claimed to be protecting.
On an individual basis, turf, personal prerogatives or possessions or means of generating self-supporting income are the described motives for these homicides. Sometimes, often the motive is further shaped by mind altering substances or mental health issues.
So, my solutions. Education, poverty relief and intense support to teach the very young, especially young boys and men appropriate means of solving disputes and provision of alternatives to drugs, such as recreational outlets and mental health therapy. And major changes in our public policies in managing international disputes. Yes, and removal of easy possession and acquisition of firearms, our major means of rendering homicidal violence. And damned good research to better understand potential causal connections, if any between on the ground violence and violence depicted on t.v., movies and video games? And while were at research, also definitively understanding whether the death penalty, and yes, hunting and killing of animals (hunting) actually deters violent criminal acts or models them. Expensive? you bet.
I’d like to know your solutions or whether this issue requires solutions.