An Open Letter to Violence: You Don’t Stand a Chance

Several different hands forming hearts.Dear violence,

It has taken me some time to build enough strength to address you. I have been ignoring your persistent presence and influence on myself and society for many years now, but I can’t continue to do this. The recent tragedies in Las Vegas, Orlando, Dallas, and elsewhere are perfect examples of how influential you have become. You have infiltrated and taken control of our society over the past few decades and now we are here: numerous innocent lives lost and hearts broken. Unfortunately, you have also left us with hatred, prejudice, and a lack of compassion. You have created confusion and division.

You have not taken us by surprise, by any means; we saw this coming. You have become an enemy we, as a society, have been trying to fight while completely missing the mark. We should have been working together to reclaim control of our human experience and learning to relate to one another, instead of unsuccessfully trying to get rid of you. The reality is you aren’t going anywhere. At the same time, there is no need for you to be as destructive as you’ve been in recent years, and that is exactly what we need to be addressing. It is our fault we haven’t. Because of our lack of action and awareness, you have continued to gain power. You have been sneaky in how you’ve done it, too.

With this letter, I hope to expose you and your ways in hopes of reducing or preventing further pain you may be planning to inflict.

You have been using our children and adolescents as tools to manipulate. You have teamed up with bullying, bigotry, power, and ignorance, as well as feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, and anger, among others, in order to reach our younger and perhaps some of our most vulnerable members of society. You have used the media as a weapon, too—how very wily of you. Relatively recently you familiarized yourself with Facebook and Twitter, which you have been sophisticatedly using to exert power and influence. You have made young people believe they aren’t good enough. You have left them feeling helpless, confused, upset, and directionless. You have introduced them to unhealthy coping strategies. You often patiently wait for them to give up, and then you offer your “aid.”

You give people a false sense of security and safety. The more you do this, the more notoriety you gain. Well, I’m on to you. I know what you’re up to. Although you’ve been around forever, you asserted yourself in an unprecedented way in 1999, when two high school boys committed one of the most horrific massacres in U.S. history. Does Columbine ring a bell? Something about this act fueled your need to be more present and prevalent in our society. I say this because since then, mass shootings at schools and colleges have sharply increased.

More recently, you have expanded your reign of terror to concert venues, churches, neighborhoods, shopping centers, peaceful demonstrations, and other public spaces. Today, we mourn the events in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. In 2016, we mourned the events at a gay nightclub in Orlando, the loss of police officers ambushed in the streets of Dallas, and the loss of two black men earlier that week in incidents involving entirely different police officers far, far away. So many innocent lives were abruptly ripped away from us. You keep coming back, alternately picking homophobia, fear, anger, and intolerance to tag along.

You give people a false sense of security and safety. The more you do this, the more notoriety you gain. Well, I’m on to you. I know what you’re up to.

I have personally let you in at various points in my life. As I think back to these times, I remember feeling despair and hopelessness. I wonder if these are the emotions you utilized to convince me that I needed you to work out my inner conflicts. You infiltrated many areas of my life—school, relationships, my perceptions, and my overall human experience. You could have seriously ruined my life had I not noticed how influential you had become. I learned about your insidious tactics. You succeeded at disconnecting me from my thoughts, my identity, and my personal values. You tricked me into believing I needed you to resolve my challenges. I remember losing my temper on an almost daily basis. I remember raising my voice at people I loved and cared about. I remember avoiding my pain and fears by displaying anger and enmity.

Thankfully, your hold on my life eventually came to an end.

I am appreciative that, more often than not, you don’t cause massive destruction in most people’s lives. As you did with me, you make many people think you’re an appropriate response to unpleasant emotions. Nonetheless, you have a special talent for influencing a small minority of people in such powerful ways to have led them to commit unspeakable and heinous acts against humanity.

Every time violence makes an appearance, resist the inclination to feel anger and to fight it with more violence. Ignore violence’s attempts to destroy and divide us, and instead focus on what you and your allies can do together.

Since Orlando, I have been trying to think of ways we can get the word out about you and undermine your future plans. It recently dawned on me that in the same way you often team up with helplessness, sadness, anger, and others, we, the people affected by you, could perhaps identify allies to team up with. Perhaps together with these allies, we can stop you from continuing to gain power and influence.

After the shooting in Orlando, I learned about heroes. I read about several party-goers risking their lives (or giving their lives) to save others. After the ambush in Dallas, I read about police and other brave individuals putting themselves in harm’s way to try to rescue and protect downed officers and exposed civilians. I learned about people from all over the world participating in a variety of demonstrations of love and support. I learned about people who stood in long lines to donate blood and help those injured. These acts spoke to me about kindness, compassion, connection, and empathy. If we can harness allies like these, you don’t stand a chance.

Because this is an open letter, you must know many people are reading this. I understand how much you like being the center of attention, but let me speak to them for a moment. Readers, go ahead: create an alliance with compassion, kindness, connection, empathy, or anything else you think may help, and every time violence tries to do its thing, call upon them to combat its effects. Some ways you can do this are to engage in any act of kindness toward someone you may not know so well, or perhaps listening to someone else’s story without judgment or offering advice, or being vulnerable and asking someone to assist you with a project that’s important to you. Every time violence makes an appearance, resist the inclination to feel anger and to fight it with more violence. Ignore violence’s attempts to destroy and divide us, and instead focus on what you and your allies can do together.

As for you, violence, you’d better hope this letter doesn’t go anywhere. If enough people read it, share it, and take action, it’s quite possible your influence will be weakened, even if only a little. Diminishing your impact on us to any extent would be a major victory. The more we continue to call on our allies and reconnect with what is truly important in this world, the more we will win—and there won’t be a thing you can do about that.

Sincerely,

A concerned citizen

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  • Dacia

    Dacia

    June 27th, 2016 at 8:03 AM

    Beautiful letter and sentiment

    I have started feeling that this is not enough, we all have to collectively be willing to out our hearts out there and do more. Put words into true action and to thus implement true meaning,
    I know many of us are so angry and we want to do something but it is time to actually DO something about gun violence in America.

  • Keith

    Keith

    June 27th, 2016 at 1:11 PM

    The ultimate call to action- bravo!

  • Shenae

    Shenae

    June 28th, 2016 at 9:19 AM

    These are the types of letters which need to be published again and again, mailed to state leaders federal leaders, and basically anyone who will listen. They speak the truth, they speak what the majority of the population is saying and now we just have to find more of an audience that is willing to listen and the do something about it.

  • talbot

    talbot

    June 28th, 2016 at 11:35 AM

    tHe longer we allow the evil to scare us
    then they win

  • Virginia

    Virginia

    June 28th, 2016 at 4:14 PM

    As long as there is oxygen to continue to feed the flame then unfortunately it will continue to grow. I agree, I think that the online world and in particular social media has been quite the fuel to this fire and I see that there will be no sign of stopping it while these methods are being earnestly employed by those who wish to do harm. I am not sure that I know what the answer is anymore, it is all just like this huge world with all of this disagreement everywhere and you know, you start to feel a little insignificant and helpless after a certain point.

  • colomba

    colomba

    June 29th, 2016 at 5:19 AM

    My cousin died in the Orlando massacre.
    My family is totally torn apart
    but I have hope and belief that we can persevere against this tragedy
    Love conquers all

  • Mauricio Yabar

    Mauricio Yabar

    June 30th, 2016 at 10:20 AM

    Colomba,
    Thank you for sharing and sorry for your loss. I agree with you that love conquers all. This letter tries to encompass this sentiment, as well as others that speak of human compassion and kindness.

  • jackson

    jackson

    June 30th, 2016 at 4:39 AM

    I know that for many of us it feels like we have wasted so much time on petty arguments within this one issue that we are so far behind now that we can never get ahead. But if we are ever to conquer this then this is the kind of defeated and defeatist attitude that we can’t stand to have. Sure we are behind the curve a little bit, but inaction at this point is literally going to get us nowhere. We have to keep fighting and standing up for our own rights and our freedoms, and overall, our safety. If we are willing to give up on this fight then that’s it. They have won.

  • Mauricio Yabar

    Mauricio Yabar

    June 30th, 2016 at 10:24 AM

    I agree with you. This letter speaks of taking action by connecting with significant human experiences such as compassion, kindness, and support. I hope this letter didn’t give you the impression that it supports inaction. Inaction is unacceptable. Thank you for your comment.

  • Caldwell

    Caldwell

    July 2nd, 2016 at 9:16 AM

    This is a pretty good summary of what I believe many of us have been thinking but have been so wrapped up in our little worlds that we have refused to even acknowledge the horrible significance that it has played in our lives.

    Think about how much different our lives have been since the 9/11 attacks. We once thought that we were invincible, and now we see that terror and violence can hit us at any point at what we used to think was our so safe life.

    It is scary, but we can no longer continue to bury our heads in the sand and pretend like it will never happen to us.

  • Benny

    Benny

    July 4th, 2016 at 9:19 AM

    I almost feel like as a country we have to hit rock bottom before we can start to make real changes.
    Could this event have been our rock bottom?

  • Juan

    Juan

    July 10th, 2016 at 1:48 PM

    Each time this happens you think that this has to be the final straw, the very last thing that we as a nation will be willing to accept and then it happens again and you think, goodness, is there anything that will ever make this stop?
    I am not a particularly religious person but I have started to believe that this is about more than just passing new laws and electing new leaders. This is something that we need to do some deep soul searching about and see what we can all do as a country to unite to erase so much of this hatred and anger that feels so pervasive right now. If we do not then I am not sure how we survive this.

  • Tilly

    Tilly

    July 11th, 2016 at 9:41 AM

    great letter
    only sorry that we have so many occasions where it is relevant

  • rich

    rich

    July 12th, 2016 at 9:50 AM

    violence does indeed create even more hatred toward one another

  • Isa M

    Isa M

    July 19th, 2016 at 4:06 PM

    Bless your heart, concerned citizen.

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