Thursday, May 12, 2016

Stop Celebrating Violence and Focus Instead on Family

Back in April of this year, in less than a week, four public school systems in Calhoun County were hit by threats of mass violence. The culprits? Youth. Children. Our kids.
What in the hell is going on?

It’s tempting use the F word instead. The situation is that serious and makes me want to holler.

The “peaceful” Calhoun County school districts in Pennfield, Harper Creek, Lakeview and City of Marshall were each affected. Another threat was made a week earlier in neighboring Galesburg-Augusta schools.

Bomb threats? The specter of mass shootings in our schools? In mere a handful of days our local schools have been threatened with mass violence — by our children. The fact that none of the incidents led to injury or death is a blessing. The reality that a cluster event like this even occurred, though, is an omen.

So many superficial questions are being asked. Did schools systems do enough to prevent these threats? Did they respond appropriately? Was law enforcement response quick enough? Are appropriate consequences for the perpetrators being doled out? Are we over-reacting?

Hopefully folks will get around to asking the kind of questions that dig at the root of the matter. The sad fact is that what tends to happen when such events occur is we tiptoe around the issue. We source our “inner sitcom.” That is, we sit around “thinking” about causes and solutions that can be conceived, discussed and neatly wrapped up in half-an-hour.

It’s what most of us do when it comes to noodling on deeply complex, systems-related issues. Matters like poverty, sexism, racism, ableism, patriarchy — the list is long and infamous.

Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook. What happens at these faraway schools quickly fades into the recesses of our minds, like hysterical amnesia. Hidden from our consciousness.

Yet these and other horrific events fester like a dormant virus inside us — incubating, until the next act of outbreak of violence occurs.

Then we parade the syrupy rhetoric — “Gosh what a tragedy” — pronounce tepid calls-to-action — “Somebody needs to do something” — and proclaim fear-based solutions —“We need more guns.”

Instead of plowing into our hearts for empathy when thinking about what’s happening, we instead poke about the barnyard, scratching at the surface, like intellectual chickens.

Makes me wanna holler.

Because what’s happening is that important. It’s a societal crisis of epidemic proportions. The stakes are high, and we were lucky this week. In this community, at least. Think an act of mass violence and destruction can’t happen here? Wake up. Time to invoke the F-word.

What in the family is going on?

Family, as in father, mother, children and relatives. Family as in close, connected friends swarming to love, comfort and support each other and our youth. Family as in closely knit neighbors watching out for each other and our kids.

Family as in parents, teachers and administrators coming together to seek insightful understanding. For the purpose of acting in the best interest of students — beyond reading, ’riting and ’rithmatic. With everyone doing their part — beyond the walls of our schools and into our collective community. Not just Pennfield, Marshall, Harper Creek and Lakeview. Everywhere.

It’s time to come together and think — really think — about our society and where it’s headed (or maybe where it’s arrived). Mayhem-driven television & movies, carnage-propelled video games and venomous social media. The wanton use of violence (from bullying to bombs) to address personal and societal woes has become celebrated doctrine.

And it’s no laughing matter. Even kids should know that.

Let’s find the courage to talk about what our babies are learning is acceptable in our so-called civilized society and why. Let’s get at the root cause of it all. It’s in everyone’s best interest and the human thing to do.

J.R. Reynolds is a Battle Creek-based nonprofit consultant, writer and leadership coach. Follow him on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at

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