Eye for Eye

By Mary Nelson 2-26-2008

We are painfully reminded once again of the cascading violence in the U.S. after the senseless killing of six and wounding of many others at Northern Illinois University. But in my low-income Chicago community, the violence and killing have almost numbed us. I hear gunshots out my window regularly in the summer, and the annual homicide toll from guns in our two-square-mile community is often more than 30. The Children's Defense Fund indicates that almost 3,000 youth die in the U.S. annually from gun violence.

David Walsh points out the strange dichotomy between our shared nonviolent, cooperative values and the values of the marketplace and TV programs imposed on our children. Eighty percent of Nintendo games have a violent theme. Violence, sex, and humor are the themes that sell TV ads; 80.3 percent of all TV programs contain acts of violence. It's hard to find a popular movie without significant violence.

We are a violent nation. We label people enemies, inflict shock-and-awe violence, and promote first strike weapons. Soldiers come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with violent responses and post traumatic stress disorder. Kids bring guns into schools, women carry guns in purses, and automatic weapons abound - doing much more damage than good. One hundred twenty U.S. mayors have called for national leadership to wage war on gun violence. Marian Wright Edelman urges, "There must be a movement to end gun violence and stop the proliferation of guns."

A recent Christian Organization Board discussion of a group of parents whose children died from gun violence admonished the leader/speaker not to get "political." When are we going to say "enough is enough" and get political? Jesus challenged us to try a different approach to violence. Why not do it?

Mary Nelson is president emeritus of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation on the west side of Chicago. She is also a board member of Sojourners.

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