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Jonathan Gramling
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Vol. 11   No. 14
JULY 7, 2016
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UNIQUE HITS
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                              So Much Violence!
I have been in a funk these days and what hasn’t helped my spirits is the level of violence that I am seeing
in the news. And I have to emphasize “seeing in the news.” There has always been a certain level of
violence in the world. A lot of the organized violence, that is violence perpetrated by nation-states or by
militias or by religious groups, has gone on for centuries in Third World countries from Syria and Turkey to
The Philippines and every area and continent in between.

During the Cold War from the late 1940s to the late 1980s, that violence was often times financed through
weapons sales by the Soviet Union or the United States in their chess match for world dominance. We
helped out Saddam Hussein and others in Iraq as a counter-point to its next-door neighbor Iran. We helped
out and trained folks like Osama bin Laden and the Afghan rebels in their fight against the Soviet Union,
which had invaded and occupied Afghanistan. The United States and the European powers have supplied
arms to rebels trying to overthrow left-leaning governments and to right-wing governments trying to put
down insurrections. Many times, this has been done to make the world safer for U.S. corporations to do
their brand of business on their terms in the rest of the world. The U.S. intervention in Central American
countries throughout the 20th century is a classic example of that.

Military coups, successful or unsuccessful — like the recent attempt in Turkey — have routinely occurred
in Asia, Africa and Latin America. And if one dug deep enough, one could see the “invisible hand” of
Western powers at work.

So there has always been a level of organized violence in the world. But what is relatively new is that the
organized violence — or at least violence promoted by organized groups — is now cropping up in Western
countries. France, England and the United States have all experienced mass terrorist acts perpetrated by
or encouraged by ISIS or Al-Qaeda. It started with the bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa and the bombing
of the USS Cole in Yemen during the 1990s, although there had been scattered incidents of terrorism in
Western Europe from time to time. And it was taken to a new level of violence when on September 11,
2001; Al-Qaeda terrorists flew three airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

There were Hollywood movies produced in the 1990s like Executive Decision and Air Force One that
portrayed the potential crashing of airliners into public buildings by terrorists. Did anyone check to see if
any of these movies were in Osama bin Laden’s VHS collection?

The method of terrorist attack has evolved since 2001. Instead of sending foreign nationals to do the work,
there are now citizens of the Western powers who are perpetrating the terrorist acts, citizens who have
either been trained by their own governments in how to kill large numbers of people or who have been
trained and gotten experience in war-torn Syria and Iraq. The unintended consequence of U.S. militarism —
and those unintended consequences are always harsh — has been that the U.S. has trained and in many
cases equipped individuals and organizations that have turned that training and equipment back against
the United States. In that sense, the chickens always come home to roost.

I hate the violence. I believe in non-violence and the precepts of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Community and world change must come through the moral force that comes with non-violence. Non-
violence is not a quick solution and violence is never a solution as one can see from the recounting of
history above. Violence begets violence.

During the past 20-30 years, the United States has promoted an extreme brand of individualism. Now I like
individualism, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the privilege of producing this newspaper. I enjoy being
responsible for what I do and reaping the rewards or the consequences of my actions. But equally
important is that the individualism occurs within the context of community, being a part of something larger
than oneself. Promoting individualism in a vacuum while tearing down our community institutions like
government and religion leads to the destruction of our civilization and the norms that keep violence and
anti-social behavior in check. Tear apart the community fabric and you set free loose cannons who
perpetrate violence because they feel a connection to nothing. That is an unintended consequence of our
ultra-individualistic society. Isolation begets isolation. The chickens come home to roost.

I am also concerned with the impact of all of this violence on our political landscape. I keep hearing the
phrase “Donald Trump is unelectable.” Well I remember back in 1980 when people said the same thing
about Ronald Reagan. And then the Iranian hostage situation happened and this stoked the fears of
everyday Americans.

Well all of this violence — foreign and domestic — is also stoking the fears of many Americans, particularly
Euro-Americans. And it just might drive them, especially Independents, into the waiting arms of Donald
Trump. And they may just turn out in record numbers while doubling down on voter suppression of voters
of color and students and other constituencies who probably wouldn’t vote for Trump.

I fear for what this violence is doing to our society. I fear for what it will do to our freedom. We must believe
in non-violence if we are to have a better world for all of the world’s citizens.