Charleston Showed How Racism and Violence Are American Values

Charleston Showed How Racism and Violence Are American Values

Why we need to change NOW

It happened again. Another mass shooting with the same reaction from American politicians. Democrats say we need more gun control, and Republicans say the shooter was mentally unstable. Neither party is going to do anything. Just watch.

Both parties are incredibly flawed in their reasoning and actions. Democrats immediately jump to gun control, because they see it as the easiest option and think that removing guns will reduce violence. Which doesn't really work. And Republicans always say that people commit mass shootings, because they're mentally unstable. Which isn't always true.

Gun control is always brought up after a mass shooting. It seems like an easy solution to reducing gun violence, but it's not. Simply making less guns available on the free market doesn't work. If it did, Washington D.C. wouldn't have the highest gun crime rate in the nation, and Barbados wouldn't have a gun crime rate twice that of the United States.

In the wake of the Charleston attack, Obama said we need more gun control, because we "don't see murder on this kind of scale, with this kind of frequency" in foreign countries. That is not completely true. Take a look at this graph, taken from an Independent Journal Review's article on mass shootings.

It shows that out of 12 advanced nations, the United States is 6th in rampage shooting fatalities and fatal rampage shooting incidents per one million people. So while the United States had the most incidents from 2009-2013, it only had the 6th most per one million people. Also note how out of the 12 countries, all but the United States and Belgium have restrictive gun policies.

Look at these facts and statistics as well, gathered from various anti and pro gun-control websites, as well as school and government reports-

  • The NRA reported that the U.S. murder rate lowered 43% from 1991 through 2008, while at the same time, the number of privately owned firearms increased by 70-75 million.
  • Washington D.C. has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, and has the highest gun crime in the nation. Utah has some of the least strict gun control laws in the nation, and has the lowest gun crime rate in the nation
  • Guns are used 2.5 million times a year in self-defense, according to a Northwestern University study. The Brady Campaign reports that 31,537 people are killed from gun violence each year. That means that guns are used 79.27 times more often to save a life than to take one.
  • A University of North Carolina study showed that twice as many children are killed playing football in school than are murdered by guns.

Aside from any sides' facts and statistics however, people are obviously still using guns to murder. But why is that? America's love for violence has to be at fault.

Take Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA 5) for instance. In the game, you have to shoot and kill people, steal cars, run from the police, and beat up and kill prostitutes to succeed. And people laugh when they play it. They think it's funny to run over people in the street. I have yet to meet a single person, including myself, who has not laughed while playing GTA 5. We know it's not real, but we still laugh and think it's funny when we kill people. Why? Because America loves violent video games. Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, Destiny, Halo, and Grand Theft Auto are all among the most popular video games today, and every one of them requires you to kill. I personally enjoy some of those games, and don't think they are necessarily bad, but it just goes to show how much we love violence.

The problem doesn't just lie in our video games though. It lies in our movies as well.

Consider that 80% of the top 20 movies on the All-Time USA Box office chart feature violent deaths, murders, and/or gun violence. That's the stuff that excites us. If The Avengers featured a bunch of heroes fighting bad guys with karate, no one would see it. If Transformers fought the Decepticons with bows and arrows, no one would see it. Our thirst for an incredible amount of violence is why Iron Man has three movies and Hawkeye has zero.

We all love the movies how they are because we can, and frequently do, imagine ourselves in the characters' shoes. Who hasn't imagined themselves as Iron Man, Hulk, or Captain America after seeing them in action? Almost everyone does, because we think it'd be awesome to save the day by beating up or killing a bunch of bad guys. We think it would be cool to be those heroes and commit those acts of violence. We get an adrenaline rush just imagining it.

Now, take a look at this graph and just think about what it means.

This graph, taken from a 2013 MSNBC article, shows that six of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history happened in the last six years. Since 1949, 28% of the deadliest shootings have been in the last five years, and 92% have happened since 1980. Meanwhile, gun control in America has gotten more strict. Is that the cause? Maybe. Or is it more likely that America's increased love for violent movies and video games- which took off in the 80's and 90's- might have something to do with it?

This is where both the Democrats' and Republicans' arguments on guns fall apart. The amount of privately owned firearms from 1991 to 2008 increased by 70-75 million, while at the same time, America's gun control laws have become more restrictive. The murder rate decreased by 43%, but mass shootings have become more frequent. If gun control worked, then Americans would have bought less guns, and the amount of mass shootings would have gone down. If those 70-75 million guns reduced the murder rate, then why did mass shootings go up? There clearly is another factor or factors at play here.

Our violent video games and movies have become a reality for too many people. You can see violence any time you turn on your TV or X-Box. People who watch movies or play games like this their whole lives know violence all too well. It becomes normal to see someone or something getting shot and killed in a movie. It becomes a reality. People like to imagine themselves or imitate what they see on their TV. It's why anime and comic-con conventions are so big and why superhero costumes and sports jerseys are so popular. We love imitating what we see on TV. If people watched shows and movies and played video games with little violence, where would they find something to model their violence off of?

I'm not saying that video games are necessarily the cause for America's violence. I understand studies show that they don't make people more violent. I'm just using them to show how much more America has come to love violence, and that if someone is already violent in nature, they could possibly use video games or movies as something to model their violent outbursts on.

Should we ban those video games and movies? No. They are fun and don't always have a negative effect on people, and we have the right to enjoy them. But should we, as Americans, try to pursue a values change? Should we try to reduce our love of violence? Should we try to make our violent desires less of a reality? I don't know how anyone can say no.

Speaking of things we need to change...

America has a problem with this.

Look, the Confederate Flag is a symbol of hate and racism. Period. The Confederate States of America formed and failed because they were relentless in maintaining a country that lived off of enslaving other human beings. Does the Confederate Flag stand for states' rights and a way of life outside of slavery? Sure. Are the majority of people who fly it racist? Probably not. But it's like the Nazi flag. The swastika itself is not a racist symbol, as it actually means "good fortune" or "well being" in Sanskrit. But it was ruined by racists, and we don't use it anymore because of the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Like the Confederate States, Nazi Germany had some good aspects in their culture, as they made great technological and medical advancements that changed the world, but blatant hate and racism overshadows everything else.

"But the flag represents states' rights!" Yeah, so does this one...

"It represents our way of life!"

Ok, but do you know what flag represented the South's way of life before the Confederate Flag? Yeahhh. This one (minus a few stars though, of course)...

The American Flag has stood for terrible things in its past, but we as a country have realized our mistakes and are doing our best to make up for them. We are constantly changing our values to reflect a society where everyone is equal. And we still do have problems. You can still hear the "n-word" in almost every rap song. We still define each other by the color of our skin or the continent where our ancestors came from, instead of just calling everyone an American. But we as a society have the ability to quickly move on and make up for our past problems.

Now, I feel like greatly reducing mass shootings can be easy. In terms of laws, maybe we should look into background checks. If you're mentally stable and aren't a criminal, your right to own a gun is not infringed upon. Proper background checks only take about 2-3 days. If that's what it takes to keep guns out of the hands of people who would want to harm others, then I think that sounds like a fair sacrifice to me. If I can help prevent another Sandy Hook or Charleston shooting by waiting three days to buy a gun, then sign me up.

Look, if your kids are doing this shit in your back yard, don't buy them a hand gun for their 21st birthday! Whether they have a mental illness or not, something is clearly wrong with them.

If you kid is exhibiting behaviors like this, chances are he or she has some serious issues. I don't get it. It seems like mass shooting after mass shooting, the gun itself was legal, but it was from a parents' gun safe or in Dylann Roof's case, was bought for him by his dad. If your kid has issues, don't tell them the password to your gun safe. Don't buy them a gun. If parents were more responsible in situations like this, I guarantee we would have way less mass shootings in America.

Let's wrap this up. Racism and violence are not one-way streets. There are racists in all races and creeds in America. If we foster our youth to understand that racism is wrong, that the Confederate Flag is a symbol of hate and racism, then maybe we'd have less Dylann Roof's in America. If we stop using racially-driven words and stop worshiping the racist symbol that is the Confederate Flag today, then maybe we could have a little less racism tomorrow.

If you want to watch and play violent movies and video games, have fun. But just try to include something else except violence in your lives or your kids' lives. Binge watch Planet Earth on Netflix with your friends. Play a board game with your family. Go on a hike. Just do something calm and relaxing. Our love for violence and support for racist symbols has gone too far. Enough is enough. It is time to change.

Cover Image Credit: Alan Henry

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.

It won't.

Wait, what?

SEE ALSO: To My Closeted Self, I Have Something To Tell You

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. (Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.)

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town. Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community. I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK. What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives. What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all. Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back; same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others. As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being. My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Say "I Love You" More

Sometimes, people need the reminder.

You assume they already know.

You look at your best friend and think about how lucky you are that they are in your life, how much you appreciate their presence, how much you love having them there. How much you love having them. But they know that already, right? So you smile and shake the thought out of your head and carry on with what you were talking about.

Sure, they probably already know. But sometimes, people need the reminder. Think about the last bad day you had. The last time you laid in bed, stared at the ceiling, cried and felt totally unimportant. Wouldn't it have helped if you were told at that moment that you are loved? That someone cares about you? That you matter?

I've heard it said a lot that you can't love someone until you learn to love yourself. This is just nonsense. The amount that someone loves themselves does not reflect how open their heart is, how much they give to people. Many times, the ones who are struggling love the hardest, regardless of what they feel when they are all alone.

They need the reminder too.

Every time someone has shared with me how they feel about me, that moment has stayed on my mind for months. In fact, they still are. It's important for people to feel like they matter. It's necessary sometimes to remind them that they do.

What's the point in holding it in? What good does it do anyone to not share what you feel, to not share in the love and compassion you have inside of you?

I am a very emotional person. Not only that, but I am a very vocal person. This is because I once spent too long holding in my feelings, only to be burned by that. Now I share. Sometimes, I overshare how I feel. This includes telling people who are very aware of how I feel about them that I love having them in my life for the thirteenth time that week. I feel annoying sometimes, being compelled to do so. However, my friend told me once that through me, he is learning how to love better. How to love more.

That never left me. The idea that because I am loving someone, they can love more too shocked me. I didn't think I had anywhere near that power. But, it made me realize how important it is to make sure people know how much you care. Even if they already do. The reminder can do much more than you will ever realize.

Tell people you love them. Don't be afraid of being honest, real, true. We only have a limited time to live our lives. Don't waste time not spreading the love you can.

Cover Image Credit: Scott Web

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