Our Assimilation to Violence


I don’t like to watch the news. Yes, I am uninformed to some extent. But, I hear about mostly everything I need to know. I heard about Robin Williams’ death at my brother’s dinner table. I heard about Jim Foley’s beheading when a friend asked if he could do a guest blog on him as he was a personal friend. I heard about the 9/11 attacks when my boss yelled the news to me in my cubicle at work. It works for me. I get along just fine. I have never liked horror movies, violent movies and even some action-adventure type movies which involve violence. I have been in relationships that are emotionally violent, and I don’t enjoy feeling unsafe … emotionally, physically or spiritually. I don’t enjoy arguing about politics or religion. I like harmony. But, the world is not harmonious.

My friend Elizabeth posted this plea on her Facebook wall this morning:

I am sick and tired of the overblown, reactionary, bullying and insulting liberal-bashing memes out there. I’m pretty tired of the ones making fun of conservatives, too. They just make things worse, people. They make it harder for either side to learn from the other. And you know what? We’re all actually on the SAME FREAKIN’ SIDE!!!! I’m just putting it out there that I’m going to unfriend you if I see any more of these things. Yes, you. I don’t care how long we go back or how much I like you personally or whether you’re bashing the Right or the Left, I get too worked up about these self-righteous, close-minded bits of “humor” that only drive us further apart spiritually and as a nation. Do you have an actual question or an actual point of view about an issue? Want to share an editorial? That’s fine, I can get down with that and I might learn something new. Otherwise, I don’t have time for all this juvenile namecalling.

I, for one, have been in a process of blocking friends on Facebook when they post alienating political statements, religious beliefs and any photo that portrays graphic violence. I know most people post those because they are outraged and are looking for support, but I can’t unsee that crap. I saw a particularly graphic photo that keeps popping up in my mind whenever I don’t want it to. It turns my stomach, yes. My main complaint is that I need to have a better view of people than that. I know people are capable of all kinds of evil, and it sucks. But my being outraged or repulsed by it, is not DOING anything about it. It makes me afraid to go out at night. It makes me afraid of meeting new people. It definitely makes me afraid of getting in relationships. The more I see of the sickness and craziness in the world, the less trusting I get. So, if someone posts that stuff, I block them. Unfriending them doesn’t help as that stuff pops up in my news feed anyway. I have to make them disappear … whether I actually like them or not.

This month’s Psychology Today has an article about how it is normal for a person’s behavior to escalate if they get away with smaller crimes. For instance, the guy that steals office supplies and cheats on his expense report regularly will find it much easier to then siphon funds if the opportunity arises. After he does that, he might move onto outright embezzlement. The point is that if he was honest about all of the smaller things, he would be much less likely to embezzle straight away. But, the ‘assimilation’ to dishonest behavior allows him to ‘step up’ to harder crimes. The article had a chart that showed several modern-day criminals’ progression from smaller crimes to much more heinous ones. I’ve often wondered if this is the reason that media impacts the level of violence and irrational behavior in our society. Once my eyes get used to seeing something on a regular basis, I assimilate, and it’s not as horrifying as it once was.

One of the things that scared me about my second marriage was the level of emotional violence that took place. It happened on both sides as we both were not well, and we were fighting for our very sanity. But, I knew in the back of my mind that the journey from emotional violence to physical violence was not a long trip. At times, I could see how partners involved in abusive relationships could murder their spouse and kill themselves. The blindness of rage and the gradual escalation of dysfunctional behavior could easily lead there. It was that thought that scared me most and eventually got me out of there in one instance of further escalating violence. I knew it had to stop there for me. I’d reached my limit.

I talked to an expatriot from Brazil when I was at FedEx. I asked him if he missed his home country. “No,” he said. “There’s so much crime there. If you go out to a restaurant for dinner, there are criminals that will come in the restaurant and rob you at gunpoint.” I had no idea. I talked to another woman in Dallas recently who moved here from South Africa. In answer to the same question, I got the same answer. We are really lucky in this country that we have some semblance of safety. Yes, there is crime. There is more than there needs to be. Yes, there is violence, and none of it is acceptable. But, we are relatively safe here in this country. That, of course, depends on who you are talking to, but I can only speak for myself.

Another article in this month’s magazine was about group narcissism. It explained the phenomena that Elizabeth is talking about in her post. We may not be narcissists as individuals, but when we affiliate with a group, we become very narcissistic – believing anyone that is not with us is against us. Worse than that, we start to believe that anyone that is not on our ‘team’ is stupid, deranged, or dangerous. If I take the data from both articles, why wouldn’t this narcissism increase from emotional violence against others to physical violence. Do we really think that Hitler could have accomplished what he did without first laying the groundwork that the Jews were to be denigrated? And, he did it with emotional violence first and then escalated it to the one of the most heinous and unforgivable acts in history. And, normal people like you and me participated in this. They were not born murderers. They were caught up in a progression that was instigated by a sick governmental leader.

I believe we are all one step away from being somebody we don’t want to be. But, if we keep traveling in that direction by assimilating to ever increasing words of hate, brutal images and deeds, we can move effortlessly to a level where there is no turning back. I imagine there are many who commit heinous crimes that one day look back and wonder how the hell they got there. For many, the violence was in their homes. They were programmed for violence. That’s why abuse runs in families. And I imagine the violence in our world will increase as we get more and more used to it. The generations will assimilate.

If you are born in this country, you won the lottery whether you realize it or not. And the person next to you – whether they are gay or straight, Christian or Muslim, male or female, American or immigrant, Republican or Democrat – is in the same group as you. They are in the human race. Group narcissism? Let’s be narcissistic about the human race and get militant about getting rid of all kinds of violence … starting with your own.



4 Comments on “Our Assimilation to Violence

  1. I felt really uncomfortable clicking on the title of this post to read it. I can relate to what you wrote on a lot of levels, and I can definitely feel the fear that comes along with it: maybe I’m not as “naturally good” as I want to think I am. I also found myself recently letting people use words I find offensive around me without standing up for myself. I’d love to educate them on being less ignorant, but really, I found myself needing to educate them on what was okay behavior if you are going to be around /me/. Whether I’m silent or I speak up for myself, either way I’m making a choice.

  2. Sharon,

    I totally agree with you on this one. Well written! I don’t like scary movies either, or violence or any kind; however, I do watch the news because I think it is important to be aware of what is going on. I have been accused of being one to “stick my head in the sand,” but when there is nothing I can personally do about a situation I choose not to dwell on it. I have seen the assimilation that you refer to first hand. A lot of “kids” today think nothing of spewing filthy language from their mouths b/c they have grown up hearing it on movies and in the music they listen to. I find it offensive when I hear it or see it b/c I choose not to watch and/or listen to it. I totally agree with you…you can’t un-see something. I don’t need those disturbing images in my mind. I’ll go with the happy thoughts. If that makes me an ostrich, so be it. 🙂


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