Violence in the United States is epidemic. There have been over 231 mass shootings already, and it is only five months into the year. A mass shooting is generally defined as four people either wounded or killed in a shooting incident. Recently, one national media took over three minutes just to read off the various cities where this violence has taken place. No one in Texas will forget the horrendous shootings that killed 19 children and two adults just recently.
So, where does this violence come from? While it is not definitive to just list statistics to document the source of this violence, it still is possible to point to some of the most obvious sources. It also is possible to skew most statistics to fit one's political position, but despite this, some of these statistics are hard to ignore or dispute.
During the past decade, the Anti-Defamation League has counted about 450 murders in the United States committed by political extremists. Of these 450 killings, right-wing extremists committed about 75% of the killings. Islamic extremists were responsible for about 20%, and left-wing extremists were responsible for about 4%. Nearly half of the murders were tied to white supremacists. Of these, white supremacists accounted for around 55% of the killings, with anti-government around 14%.
There is a growing tendency to link much of this violence to various members of the Republican Party. This conclusion may be somewhat true, but it is probably erroneous to make such an assertion as definitive. All right wing activity does not belong exclusively to the Republicans.
This violence also extends to the verbiage used by various politicians. Although former President Trump is the classic example of using language to incite violence, there are many others as well. A large number of Republicans and some Democrats do not use this language but also do not denounce it or punish it either. For instance, Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican has said privately that he is against this kind of violence, but publicly he has done almost nothing to combat it. Many are fearful that taking a stand against violent language and activity might cause injury or death to either them or their loved ones.
White supremacy tends to treat any people of color as un-American, or even less than truly human. For instance, the suspect in the recent Buffalo massacre evidently posted an online manifesto that discussed "replacement theory," a racial conspiracy theory that some say Tucker Carson promotes on his television show. When Liz Cheney challenged her Republican colleagues about white nationalism, white supremacy and antisemitism, the response was not positive. Some others have joined with her, but most have chosen to remain neutral and some have even embraced the idea of violence.
It should be pointed out that previous Republican leaders like Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, Howard Baker and the Bushes did not promote violence. They were for working for peace among all of the US citizens. However, too many of our Congress people have continued to use inflammatory language on a regular basis.
It is too easy to move from violent talking to violent action, and too often the tools used in violence are guns. So, where do these people obtain their weapons? Frankly, I do not exactly know, but I do know that it is difficult for law abiding citizens to acquire such deadly weapons as the AR15 or AK 47 with large magazines. These are weapons designed for killing, not for hunting or even target practice, and have no place in the hands of deranged individuals. The Buffalo killer apparently did not have any trouble purchasing one of these killing guns, but the laws on the books already make such purchases by law abiding people very difficult.
Whether you agree or disagree with President Biden's politics, he is right in demanding that we unite against this kind of language of violence and the support of hate and bigotry. It is time for our elected officials to forget about political arguing and fighting, and instead to have the courage to insist upon human dignity and decency, and demand it. This is America, the land of the free where everyone has the right to live safely, and we do not need to be considered the most violent nation in the world. It's time to unite against violence of any kind.
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Robert Box has been a law enforcement chaplain for 29 years. He is a master-level chaplain with the International Conference of Police Chaplains and is an endorsed chaplain with the American Baptist Churches USA. He also currently serves as a deputy sheriff chaplain for the Benton County Sheriff's Office. Opinions expressed in the article are the opinions of the author and not the agencies he serves.