Voice of Peace in a Culture of Violence

whyYesterday started out pretty simply. I had posted David’s “Silent Night” for my Friday Carols series because I just love his exquisite take on the carol – subtle, beautiful, even with a tinge of sadness.

I then got ready to go in to work to meet with a graduate student finishing up her thesis in time for her December graduation and, later, to attend an office holiday party, now that we’ve come to the end of the semester and I had finished administering final exams.

December 14 in the northeast, and I didn’t need hats or gloves, so feeling extra happy for the mild sunny weather.

And then, I returned home – only briefly – because I had forgotten a package I was supposed to have mailed out to the post office during my after-work errands.

Why I turned my TV on, I do not know (considering it was a quick stop to pick up my package).

But I did turn on my TV and saw the breaking news: 18 to 20 children killed in a school shooting.  Newtown, Connecticut.

I was gutted. I was floored. School children? Elementary school children? Why?

I was then glued to my TV afterwards and couldn’t stop crying.

It took awhile, later in the evening, before I returned to this Soul David blog and listed to David’s “Silent Night” with a newfound sadness. Think of all those families, getting ready for Christmas. And now Christmas will be a much more “silent night” with so many missing children’s voices.

But I’m really tired of it all, folks. I’m tired of the conversations on gun control that go nowhere. I’m tired of the stigmatization of mental illness, as if we have to point to mentally ill individuals to blame for these random acts of violence and not a “mentally ill society.” God forbid we talk about our culture of violence that breeds fear, hatred, indifference, and that normalizes guns and violent language and images in every aspect of culture.

The last movie I went to – “Lincoln” – was filled with so many movie trailers where guys were blowing up stuff with guns. And as we worry about David’s music career when he returns from his mission, Interscope is preparing a debut album for  a well known Chicago gang banger, picked right off the bloody streets of Chicago this year.

I’m also flabbergasted when I hear townspeople describe their little neighborhood as “safe” – what does that even mean when earlier this week, another lone gunman went about shooting up folks at a shopping mall, and earlier this year, another lone gunman shot up a Sikh temple while another shot up a movie theater?

Implied in the description of your quiet and safe little town is the notion that there are other places in American that are “unsafe,” and so  I wonder: if you live in a “safe town” while some other mother and her children don’t have the resources to leave her “unsafe city,” how safe are we as a nation?

Our media and society are quick to point to dysfunction in marginal communities – poor communities, inner-city communities, communities of color – but somehow we’re just so baffled and at a loss for identifying the dysfunctional individuals in more affluent, rural or suburban communities. Why is that?

So now we have an out-of-control problem – rural, suburban, or urban – violence is everywhere in our culture, and we believe we need “guns” to feel safe.

When David first appeared on the scene, and he sang “so that others could understand it,” I had such high hopes for his music career.  When we debated that his “good boy” image was not marketable and not “cool enough,” I wondered: how do we hear a Voice of Peace in a Culture of Violence?

David singing his carols far away in another part of the Americas really drives home just how much darker we feel right here in the U.S. without that glimmer of hope. Like the ancients who feared that the sun would forever disappear – not understanding how the winter solstice worked – it’s easy to feel the darkness of December, but our lights, our celebration of our winter sun eventually rising high again, our conflation between that ancient custom with the Christian point of view of a newborn Saviour of the World, remind us that there is a brighter sun and warmer lights soon to come our way.


Twenty children will not get to open their presents this Christmas, but I can only hope that their lives have not been given up in vain.  May these new angels make the heavens shine brighter down on us, as we really need some new light to guide us out of this darkness. Maybe the Mayan prophecy envisions a new earth and new worldview, one that we must embrace to fight back against these paradigms that insist that men must be killing machines (and not givers of life) and that guns make us a safer society.

In the midst of this culture of violence, at least we have a Voice of Peace that still has to power to fight back against the dark.

Posted on December 15, 2012, in current events. Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. HG, this is a beautifully written article. I shed tears again this morning while reading it, as I did yesterday hearing the details emerging about this tragedy. It actually felt too heavy for me to discuss on any form of social media yesterday. It felt like something that just had to sit on my heart for a while before I could talk about it or even logically process. Sigh. So much sadness.

    What also made me sad though was hearing so many people say that there was nothing good left in this world, that it was all violence and killing and essentially that we were doomed. That’s so not true. Yes, we need to fix this culture of guns but there is SO MUCH good that we never hear about on the 5 o’clock news, that’s never sensationalized in 3 inch font on the front of CNN. I am not trying to diminish in the least the magnitude of this atrocity but I also hate that many times all we hear are the bad things that have happened because that’s “news”. Or maybe we hear the bad because the good is the norm. And it really is. I see so much good every single day in little gestures and in grand projects. But now I’ve gone off on a tangent, I apologize.

    HG, I also wanted to say that one comment you made really reminded me of an article I read a few weeks back after another tragedy — this one with Jovan Belcher. It’s an op-ed piece about how we need to change the ideals that boys are raised with to include ways to express themselves without violence or being seen as ~less of a man~. This part especially resonated with me:

    “For the past several years, I have privately advised and counseled several professional and amateur athletes, and entertainers, all men, all grappling with very warped definitions of manhood. The recurring theme over and over is fear of expressing themselves fully, fear of letting others down, fear of not being the tough and rugged men they were told they had to be. And on the inside so many of them are damaged as a result. The very definition of manhood they’ve embraced is more an emotional prison than anything else. …

    We must struggle, harder than ever, as men, as boys, as a nation, to reach the point where a heart-to-heart conversation is the first and only option, not a gun, not gun violence. The lives of Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins will have been in vain completely if we do not go deeper within ourselves to teach and show our sons, our husbands, our boyfriends, our fathers, our men and boys, that there is another way.”

    It’s a really good article. If anyone wants the read the full piece, http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/03/opinion/powell-football-manhood-suicide/index.html

    I do hope that we find a way to create goodness out of this tragedy, whether it’s through gun control or (imo) an even more important discussion on how we can raise our children to know there are much better ways than violence to resolve problems.

    I hope you all find peace in your hearts today <3

  2. Such a well written and thought provoking post hg. I think that this tragedy just hits home with everyone because we all realize that could have been our loved ones that were shot and killed yesterday. It does not matter where you live or how safe you believe your community is. There are also those inspiring and positive stories from yesterday about how some of those teachers and school staff protected their students from harm. Things need to change in regards to gun laws and violence that is so evident in some movies and video games. David is a soothing Voice of Peace. Well stated hg.

  3. HG, thanks for the thoughtful post. My feelings right now are still all over the place. Something has definitely got to change.

  4. I do not see everything that happens through a “David prism.” However, I do turn to his music — for me it was “Broken” on replay.

    FYI, it has come to my attention that an “Anon” has posted at least once on another fan site and that some of you responded to that “Anon” as if you were responding to me — the one who posts here. I assure you, we are not the same “Anon.”

  5. As a rule, I don’t watch graphic, sensational TV or listen to music that glorifies guns and killing. But if I did, I know it wouldn’t make me want to go out and use my gun to kill people. Where there is good, there is evil. It’s been there since the beginning of time. It takes a village to raise a child and our villages have become obsolete.
    Grammyj, how to raise children like David? His Dad said he just “came like that”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to “patent” him? :-)

  6. I do not see everything that happens through a “David prism.”

    Which is why it’s so odd that you choose to frequent and post on a fan blog, whose very mission it is to interpret things through this “David prism.”

  7. off topic – i just read that hilary clinton fainted, fell and suffered a concussion.

  8. I am devestated by what happened. I can’t even put it into context or find a frame of reference to fit.
    I am struggling to make sense, and to me, it feels like Sept 11 did.

    • I do appreciet your thoughts and insights , HG. I want to honor the families in some way, and find a ways to support them… but it is hard for me to even think about it or look at the coverage.

  9. ‎”When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Mr. Rogers

    On another tangent, mental illness doesn’t always depend on how well or badly someone was raised. It’s so true that David is good largely because “he came out that way”. I have many fears on both sides of this tragedy, because not only do I work in an elementary school classroom, but on the other hand, I have experience with the alienation and rage of several very well-raised boys (even from a Mormon family, fwiw) who suffer from conditions like schizophrenia, bi-polar, depression, and Asperger’s. Their thinking isn’t always rational or empathetic, no matter how much love and care they’ve been given. All they know is that life is so unfair and they want to lash out and hurt everyone, as they are hurting.

    This is why the gun part of the equation is so important. All the mental health treatment in the world may not be enough, if the person can’t be compelled to get help, or if the help isn’t really helping them. People who have had a mental health hospitalization can’t own guns for five years in our state, but it is way too easy to get them anyway. The real insanity is the idea that there is a legitimate use for assault weapons.

    I could go on and on about the fallacy of guns for self-defense in our society, but I’m probably preaching to the choir.

  10. Thank you HG for your article. I agree with you Raelovingangels.
    I thought I had lived through the worst tragedy I would ever see, 9/11 – but this feels just as bad. Perhaps not as many killed, but the fact that they were children so young and so close to Christmas, just makes me ill. Just hoping and praying they will find strength through all of this knowing they are not alone in their grief and that the world understands and feels their pain and grief too.

  11. Fantastic article Hg, you have such a gift, don’t ever stop writing.

  12. SNL payed tribute to Conn. shooting victims last night by having the NYC children’s choir sing Silent Night. ” Beautiful tribute. I thought of David’s stunning performance of that song.

  13. from “the voice”, post #43, it appears that an archie flew with her mom from peru to chile to attend last nights devotional. she discusses it on her twitter feed; some of it will need to go thru google translate.


  14. Beautiful, helpful article and comments. Thanks, HG and all. I’m also at a loss for words right now. I do know that as I spent some time yesterday shopping for my college daughter’s visit home, I noticed so many parents, guiding their children with loving hands. Holding them close, talking to them gently — enjoying them. Over and over, I noticed this, and maybe this is their normal interaction and I was merely noticing more. Or maybe they, like many of us, appreciate even more, the preciousness of the very young in their lives and care.

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