Be My Guest

Be My Guest Column by John M. Palmer, Ph.D

Violence is as American as Apple Pie
The title of this guest column says it all, but in case you haven’t been paying attention to the world outside your door, let’s take New York City and the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.

The nineteen year old boyfriend of a woman with a twenty-two month old boy reportedly admitted beating the child until he stopped crying. The beating lacerated the child’s internal organs killing him. This past weekend a veteran US soldier reportedly admitted shooting over a dozen Afghan people. It turns out they were mostly women and children and they were reportedly killed in this incident.

A couple of weeks ago the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce hosted it’s Second Annual Urban Health Conference. During the four day event, one session was dedicated to the public health problem of violence. Some of the facts shared during the session at the Harlem State Office Building included; Between 350 and 700 calls are fielded on a city run domestic violence hotline daily; 67% of women killed in domestic violence incidents, in New York City, have not had in contact with the NYPD or the judicial system; most of the people shot in Central Harlem are black male youth between the ages of 15 and 24 years.

Do we have an epidemic of violence in this city, country, world? The term epidemic conjours images of infectious disease running rampant, killing the unprotected and vulnerable. Surely such an epidemic would alarm those whose citizens, neighbors, friends and kin were found to be victims. Research would be undertaken to develop an antidote, vaccine, treatment or effective intervention to stop the spread of the disease.

Authorities, leaders, responsible stakeholders would decry those who had been ineffective in stopping the grim reaper’s sweep through our communities and a unified, standardized approach would be developed and refined until the epidemic was quelled

Duh?! What happened?! Where is the leadership on this issue? Where are the standards of behavior that should be practiced by all of us at all times? Where is the call for decorum, polite discourse, humane comportment of all? Where are the resources to attack and eliminate the symptoms?

We have the aftermath of violence addressed. Ambulances to pick up the dead and battered. Victim service programs to help heal the victims, are funded. Hospitals have become expert in detecting and treating violence. We can even predict where it might happen. Why haven’t we developed the will prevent it???

Is it in our national interest not to make to big a deal of this issue? If we are too successful in questioning violence, as an acceptable response to any provocation, will it diminish our will to fight to protect our rights? Will the recruitment for our armed forces be affected if we are proactive and mandate conflict resolution as the fourth R? Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and conflict Resolution?

Will we see our athletic competitions become less popular? Will colleges have to figure out other ways to make money if football becomes less popular? What will Vegas do without it’s Mega fights? Will hockey degenerate into figure skating with sticks?

Just when we have been able to get our females interested in knocking each others heads of for the Olympiad, in the ring, and in the hexagon!! Will they balk?

What will happen to the television and movie industry if we talk about the damage violent movies and television programming may do to support violent acting out, fighting , killing, etc?

The Soap box is there, the bully pulpit is available. No one seems ready to take the leadership. Is there still a resounding shame of a nation that would allow it’s most ardent use of non-violent tactics be murdered?

How often have we heard this issue being uttered as a vital political issue that should be addressed by candidates for the highest office in the land? How many solutions initiatives or programs have been proposed by our President or those who would become President? It’s the economy stupid? How much does a gunshot wound cost anyway? How about 1million dollars? Is our economy doing so well we can afford ignoring these current rates?

How much does it cost in human pain and suffering to deal with the aftermath of a woman murdered despite the order of protection she had against her spouse/lover/boyfriend? How many geniuses have we lost in their infancy as the victim of a caretaker that didn’t know how to control his/her temper?

When are we going to do something? Don’t wait! Start today! Take some effective action to stop human on human violence. I don’t want to suggest that we should love our neighbor or turn the other cheek, or ask” why can’t we all get along?” It’s been said and done to some effect – Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.

John M. Palmer, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York. He has served as the Executive Director of Harlem Hospital Center and Renaissance Healthcare Network in Harlem, New York, as well as Executive Director of Kingsborough Psychiatric Center in Brooklyn, New York. He published a health and wellness column in Positive Community Magazine from 2007-2011.


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