The Escalation of Social Violence

Verbal and physical violence are becoming the norm for settling conflict. It is very troubling to think that the first means of settling a disagreement or difference in opinion is by using physical violence. It ...

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Verbal and physical violence are becoming the norm for settling conflict. It is very troubling to think that the first means of settling a disagreement or difference in opinion is by using physical violence. It is equally disturbing to watch teenagers and young adults resolve conflicts with their parents by shouting vulgar epitaphs and making threatening comments.

Unfortunately, in too many venues, we accept violent behavior as the norm. More and more adults tolerate this form of social expression and in some cases where it relates to their children, they make excuses for the behavior.

Under no circumstance, should violence be accepted as a form of conflict resolution. People should not be able to intimidate others with verbal abuse or threats of physical violence. Collectively and individually, we must challenge people to be more accountable in how they express themselves.

Why is social violence escalating all around us? Social scientists suggest that television and movies exploit violence and it subtly influences us. People in general have become more tolerant of violent behavior. Violent behavior has become more socially acceptable in a wider range of social venues.

Twenty five years ago if high school students were competing in an athletic contest and violence erupted, all the participants would be severely consequenced. It was understood that fighting of any kind was grounds for suspension or dismissal from a sports team. Today, too many sporting events on the high school and college level have ongoing physical altercations among players. A growing number of adults involved with youth athletics feel we are becoming too soft and tolerant of this inappropriate behavior.

In addition to the rise of physical altercations among young people both in and outside of athletics, there is a disturbing rise in violence among spectators who attend athletic competitions. In the past year, there have been at least half a dozen stories in the national press about the fights and brawls that erupted in the stands at various athletic events. These circumstances made the national press because injuries occurred. Unfortunately, one brawl between two parents ended with one parent dying of head injuries.

Recently, I asked a number of college students about their thoughts relative to the escalation of social violence, especially in social venues. Each college coed, without prompting, said that in every social venue they participate in before they leave there is some kind of physical altercation. They acknowledged that most of them are quickly defused, but nonetheless, they are on the rise.

A while back, I was at the national college football championship. The stadium held 80,000 spectators. The lines getting into the stadium were endless. It was the middle of the afternoon. People were talking, laughing, singing and just seeming to have a good time being there.

On my line, most of the people were alumni from the two colleges playing for the championship. There was a wonderful spirit of camaraderie and celebration. People were chanting, singing and laughing. Then all of a sudden, a guy in front of me pushed up against the guy in front of him. In an instant, these grown men almost came to blows. Hostile words were exchanged, and immediately before others intervened, they were going to resolve this ridiculous circumstance by fighting.

Even more disturbing were the attitudes expressed by those who witnessed this little mishap. A number of people around me didn't see it as a big deal. Some even said flippantly they should've punched each other out and gotten it over with. No one felt embarrassed by two grown men acting so ridiculously over nothing.

A ninth grade boy and a few of his friends were walking in their neighborhood; they saw a pickup truck in the driveway. As they walked by they noticed the keys were in the ignition. They were bored and decided to take it for a joyride. Within a mile from the house, they crashed it. They left in the street and ran. Someone saw the crash and called the police.

Upon investigation, the police and witnesses identified the ninth grade boy and his friends as the culprits. Two weeks after the crash a detective came to the ninth grade boy s home. He was out with his friends, but his mother was home. The detective indicated that the boys did about $3000 worth of damage to the truck. He also indicated that the owner wasn't sure if he wanted to press charges. He really just wanted the truck fixed.

When the ninth grader got home his mother confronted him about the accident. He went ballistic. He started cursing at her and became threatening. She was adamant that he needed to tell the truth. He continued his meltdown, and then started to push his mother. After he calmed down, he did admit to being a part of the group that took the truck. He minimized the circumstance. He arrogantly said he would help pay for the damages, and saw nothing wrong with the way he treated his mother. Ultimately, he tried to blame her for why he had the meltdown and had gotten physical with her.

Two weeks ago, a college student from our community, who lives in Buffalo, was finishing a shift in the restaurant/bar he works in. He and the owner had words. It escalated and the owner assaulted the young man with a baseball bat. That young man is struggling for his life in an induced coma in a Buffalo hospital.

Violence only begets violence. It is a behavior that is learned when we are very young. We must hold people accountable for the way they express themselves. We must have a zero-tolerance for physical violence as a means of resolving conflict. That accountability must start when our children are very young. As adults, we must lead by example.