In the Wake of Violence

Someone tried to assault me Monday – to seriously do me harm – and I was fortunate enough to get away. I had, foolishly, left home without any method of defense, lethal or non-lethal, and so consider myself fortunate to have gotten out of there by the skin of my teeth. I was working the other business at the time, and afterward I reflected that I had risked my life for less money than it takes to purchase a Happy Meal at McDonald’s. I confess that’s a bit unsettling. What’s even more unsettling is that if I had been carrying some self-defense device I would have deployed it. That, in turn, would have escalated the situation in the neighborhood and the vicious cycle would have been started and no doubt would have  moved full speed ahead to an undesirable conclusion.

Having had some time to reflect, I haven’t stumbled across any easy answers. People with little to control will violently control what little they have – that’s a given. My choice to counter-attack wouldn’t have changed the culture anymore than building a wall around our urban areas (ala “Escape from New York”) wouldn’t solve anything, either. Both responses come from a place of knee jerk reaction, and the results have more jerk than knee to them.

The solution is to change the culture, and I am convinced the only way to change the culture is to change economic conditions. There will always be those who say that such solutions simply reward bad behavior and change nothing. Such claims are based in a profound selfishness that has no contact with the real world, no idea what it’s like to live in poverty, no idea to know what it’s like to sit around with nothing to do all day. We can call people like the young man who attacked me animals – but do we recognize that we are placing them in sub-human conditions while standing guard over every exit? If you treat people like animals, they will become animals. If you treat them like valuable children of God, they become precisely that.

We need to change things and we need to start right now. So much damage has been done that it will take a long time to turn the tide – but every second we wait means that it will take even longer to see any change. What are we waiting for, why do we listen to politicians and self-appointed social critics to see the light before we start acting? History has shown that the government won’t change anything until we demand a change – and the truth is the overwhelming majority of Americans stand a good chance of becoming a victim of either our economic mess or those who live in the middle of it or both. In light of that reality, do you really care what the Donald Trumps of the world want you to believe? Are our children not worth more to us than the ability of the wealthiest 1% to increase their fortunes?


12 thoughts on “In the Wake of Violence

  1. Nice piece. I’ve been digging around economic and politcal commentary today and I’ve read through about 25 hateful pieces in a row, everyone hates, taxes, crime, politician etc but knowone talks about building the society they want. It’s honestly a relief to read something where the instant reaction to that experience wasn’t “I wish I had my f’ing gun”.
    We’re all at a crossroads where we need to build what we want the world to be, little by little and while no-one wants to let someone get away with a crime, we seem to spend so much time focused on revenge or punishment that there’s nothing left to create with. Keep it UP!

    1. Thank you! I believe that it was Albert Einstein who said that no problem can be solved by the same thinking that created it. That would seem to mean that we can’t solve violence with violence, even if our instinctive response is to meet violence with violence. Part of evolving as a human being would seem to me to be growing more and more into a place where all of our choices are volitional – even in the face of a potential response rooted in the fight or flight response.

      I absolutely agree with you that we are obsessed with punishment and completely uninterested in rehabilitation. We want to do the social equivalent of putting a band aid on a sucking chest wound and wonder why the patient doesn’t survive. Even worse, very few people even want to have an honest conversation about why the things we do don’t work. It’s essential that those of us who are willing to have the conversation start having it, even if there are only two people in the room! If you haven’t come across it already, you might want to check out my friend and brother Gerardo Serna’s blog at . HE is spot on about violence and addressing it!

      Thanks for engaging the conversation!

  2. Thanks to The Privileged Contrarian, I was able to stumble upon your piece here, and am glad to have done so.

    My dad and mom worked for the police department, I’m a former Marine and also served with the Army. I’ve done other “enforcement” work here and there, both armed and not. I have seen a small slice of the greater pie as it were and from my point of view, it has always been paramount to be prepared for such situations.

    The past year, maybe two, I have begun a new journey in my life, physically, spiritually and mentally. Part of this is accepting what may come my way in whatever means it is delivered. Knowing there is a greater purpose to any given circumstance and my choice of how to respond to it determines less in the grander scheme, but much in the way of my life’s path and the lessons this life has for me to learn from. I have slowly began leaving my defense weapons at home, once or twice a week, sometimes for the whole week. I’ve considered selling them, some or all. I’m currently at a place where I’m no longer nervous or regretful for having left it at home and feeling so “unprepared” because I can now acknowledge that I am MORE prepared now because I am spiritually, mentally and even physically ready to meet any circumstance as they come my way in a more enlightened way – to take each encounter at it’s lesson’s value.

    Your statement really resonated with me: “What’s even more unsettling is that if I had been carrying some self-defense device I would have deployed it. That, in turn, would have escalated the situation in the neighborhood and the vicious cycle would have been started and no doubt would have moved full speed ahead to an undesirable conclusion.” It did so because it put into words what I have been feeling now for quite a while. What would happen if I discharged my weapon in defense of my life or one of my childrens’ lives in a similar situation? 1.) Immediate arrest, 2.) My firearm would be impounded as evidence, 3.) Personal economical disaster, 4.) Psychological fallout of my loved ones and myself during the process. The list goes on. Weigh, weigh and weigh again. And again. Try to figure out what is most important. Would it be worth it if I saved my life or my child’s life? Perhaps. Each situation would have to dictate, and is hardly predictable.

    It’s a tough call, but more and more, I’m leaning on reacting the way you had to in your circumstance, and for a former Marine, that is a blow to the ego, but what personal progress is made when our ego and pride can be made submissive to the way of Spirit?!

    Thanks so much for writing about your experience.

    1. Thank you, and thank you for your service. It’s such a complicated issue. Our young grandchildren live with us and there is no doubt in my mind that were someone to try to hurt them I would kill them in an instant and not look back – but that’s an awfully unlikely scenario.

      There’s an old Zen story about the Zen master who was confronted by a Samurai. The master was singularly unimpressed by the warrior, leading the warrior to exclaim, “Don’t you know I am a man who is capable of running you through with my sword without batting an eye?” The master replied, Don’t you know that I am a man who is capable of being run through with a sword without batting an eye?” The Samurai laid down his sword and became a student of the master.

      Moreover, there’s the experience of Thich Nhat Hahn during the escape of the Vietnamese boat people in the mid to late 1970s. He reported that dangerous situations often arose and that people would often start to panic, but if just one person remained calm then the whole boat became calm.

      There is definitely a self-preservation instinct that arises in times of crisis, but if we can learn through spiritual practice to remain calm I believe the odds of a satisfactory resolution are much better than if we allow our instincts to prevail. Now, to be sure, there are times when the best choice is to run like hell and there may also be times when we are forced to act violently to protect innocents – but hopefully only after all other options are exhausted.

      I believe we have to shift the culture, and the only way to shift the culture is to lead by example. It’s been my experience that when I am able to stand by calmly while someone rants and raves, they run out of energy rather quickly. If we can stand by with an attitude of bearing witness, me may open the door to dialogue.

      Thank you for your insightful comments and for sharing your experiences. At a time in my life when I was feeling particularly vulnerable I rarely left the house unarmed. I am also one of those throwbacks who believes a knife in a pocket is a tool, not a weapon, though I no longer take one with me everywhere I go and the ones I do carry are much smaller than the ones I used to carry. I feel that change motivated by spiritual growth is always healthy, and if it’s authentic it’s also gradual. Rome was neither built nor destroyed in a day, and human beings evolve over time. It’s a very interesting journey, isn’t it?

  3. Thank God you got away from this crime against you. I understand your concern: The south side of Chicago is a war zone. Frankly, I am afraid to take our #4 Cottage Grove bus because I will surely be only one of two white people on the bus, and we will not go unnoticed, and we will not be protected if someone decides to engage us in “conversation”. I have taken that bus as it goes into a Posher area (erm, Univ. of Chicago hosps), but the area is quite different and “out of control” as you say. EVERYONE is at risk honestly. I hope enough people care to turn the tides. I fear if we want quick results we will be disappointed. And if we want long-term results, that will take a lot of commitment from a lot of people. Can we do it?

    1. I really hope we can do it, and I think the biggest impediment to changing things is the expectation that we should be able to arrive at the solution in three or four easy steps. Since you are in the Chicago area (thought I highly recommend his blog to everyone), you may be interested in my friend and brother Gerardo Serna’s blog at He is in Chicago and working to reduce the violence there is realistic ways, and he speaks from experience.

      1. Thank you so much! I am VERY INTERESTED in what your brother is doing for/with South side Chicago. Help is needed. Thanks sir.

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