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Refusing the “New Normal”

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It has been a rough few weeks, to say the least. Philando Castile, killed by police during a traffic stop, July 6, 2014. Dylan Noble, also killed by police during a traffic stop, July 14, 2016. Both unarmed.  Five Dallas police officers are killed, and nine others wounded in alleged “payback” for police violence, July 7, 2016. Some 40 people, including women and children, executed by the Islamic State in Um al-Housh, Syria, July 5, 2016. Two dozen local soldiers killed by al-Qaeda suicide bombers in Aden, Yemen, July 6, 2016. Noncombatants killed by US bombs against ISIS and unknown US drone civilian victims in up to seven nations. Seven killed and 11 injured in Rashidiya, Iraq suicide attack, July 13, 2016. At least 84 people killed in terrorist attack in Nice, France, July 14, 2016. Sadly, but surely, there are more.  So much heartbreak. So many questions.

Pundits and social media alike have discussed that global violence may be “the new normal.”  In these troubled times, some turn to their faith, as evidenced by the hashtag #prayfornice or the like. I do not write to judge that response, but it is not for me. It’s easy to see how these events and the belief that violence is ubiquitous lead to hopelessness and despair.  While I understand it, my heart heavy as well, that too is not for me.

Both these responses, I believe, do not challenge this so-called new normal. They leave me, and perhaps others, feeling powerless. And that is something I refuse to feel. I know that I personally cannot end gun violence, terrorism or any of these major problems.  But I will not pretend that I there is nothing I can do, that even my simple daily actions have no impact on the world.  I by no means want to be sanctimonious or to bury my head in the sand about the seriousness of these issues. But, reflecting on what I can do, I offer the following list:

* I can believe in the humanity of all people and treat each person I encounter with respect and dignity.

* I can reach out to people I don’t know, making them feel comfortable and included.

* I can do good by my family, my neighbors, my colleagues and others, offering a helping hand, encouraging word, or even just a smile.

* I can share what I have with others through donating my time, skills, food, money, or other things.

* I can speak up when I hear people speak with hatred or prejudice.

* I can make my voice be heard politically by educating myself about candidates and about their voting records so that, perhaps, elections at all levels are won by people who are determined to reduce the violence.

* I can continue teaching my daughter about both the problems and the beauties of the world today, and can help her see that she can use her imagination, her intelligence, and her motivation to be part of the solution.

* I can ensure that I do not act or react with violent words or behaviors, even in the face of conflict.

Although it might be easier to numb the heartbreak, to be resolved to the horrid normalcy of violence, I won’t do it. I hope that others feel that they, too, still have the power to make a much-needed change toward a safer and more peaceful world.

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Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

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