After reading Dr. Walt Menninger’s guest column in the Topeka Capital Journal, I read it again. He had the privilege of serving on the “Violence Commission,” a National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence created by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The commission was created to answer many questions immediately following an assassination of a United States Senator some 42 years ago – Robert F. Kennedy, then running to become a candidate for president.
Dealing with reality
From June 1968 through December 1969, the “Violence Commission” explored “the causes and prevention of lawless acts of violence in our society including assassination, murder and assault; and the causes and prevention of disrespect for law and order, of disrespect for public officials, and of violent disruptions of public order by individuals and groups.” We were confronted with the reality that our country has a long history of violence. The tendency is to minimize the extent to which our past is replete with incidents of violent – crime, riots, assassinations, etc. – and by the pervasiveness of violence in our literature and entertainment.
As Dr. Walt reports, many reports were generated from the findings, including “Preconditions for Assassinations” and what can be done to address what they found.
Here we are 42 years later and what has changed? The names, dates, locations and some details. However, we are not free of violence in our society. We can change the players, locations, dates and maybe some of the rules by which we live and continue to have the same outcome. Until we begin to change the only thing over which we have control – ourselves – nothing will systematically change.
Can I implement the suggestions from 42 years ago? Can I be less critical and more conciliatory toward others? Can I listen more and have less rhetoric in how I think and talk? Can I cut out inflammatory and demeaning thoughts and words? Can I celebrate our differences? Can I be more alert and tuned into who may be struggling with destructive thoughts around me and not depend on someone else to address those in need? Can I identify and appropriately respond to the pain of emotional vulnerability, lack of hope and access to the means which can lead to acts of destruction for those in my world?
Of course I can. Will I? Will you? It is up to me and you.
Editor’s note: for more on the tragedy in Arizona, check out: