In the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado mass murder, gun control has become a hot topic once more. Few, if any, comments point out that the violence in Aurora is related to the violence we inflict on people in other countries overseas and on our poorest and most oppressed citizens.
This is not simply a figure of speech or literary device: The suspected killer in the Aurora shootings used, among other weapons, an AR-15, which was developed for the U.S. military and a version of which became the M-16 rifle. The Glock handgun he also used was initially developed for the Austrian military and has become a standard sidearm for NATO; it has also become a popular firearm used by, among others, the FBI, the New York City Police and the Baltimore Police.
Add in the explosive booby traps the suspected killer installed in his apartment; at least one explosive ordinance expert observed that the complexity and sophistication of the devices was comparable to what U.S. and NATO forces encounter in Iraq and Afghanistan. So here we have, at a superhero action movie screening, the melding of our idolization of violence in all its forms and our contemporary preference for military solutions to any difficulties we encounter.
The political tug of war over the Pentagon budget comes into play here as well, and that has been reported and commented on in the mainstream media as a competition between national security and domestic needs–but has any pundit anywhere discussed the militarization of domestic police forces thanks to grants from the Department of Homeland Security? Or its root in the fear which drives so many Americans to purchase and carry firearms?
That sense of insecurity and fear could be the loose end from which to unravel our Gordian knot of militarism. We who espouse nonviolence and justice must actively teach nonviolence and live as nonviolently and fearlessly as we can. It is not easy to live nonviolently in America today but it can be done–witness Catholic Worker communities across the nation. If we truly begin to live nonviolently, we will begin to form communities of peace, not only with friends who share our commitment to peace and justice, but with people who are different from our friends and us. We can reach out even to the people we feel most threatened by, although that would not be the first but the final steps in living out and teaching nonviolence.
Pax Christi USA and JustFaith Ministries have recently published a 12 week module on Just Peacemaking, a good place to begin but only one of many. Let’s vow not only to live nonviolently but to teach others how to live nonviolently, or at least to invite them to join us to learn how to live out our faith.