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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Culture of violence must be stopped

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When I was 17, I had just graduated high school and was facing the same questions about my future that, I would assume, strikes most 17 year olds. Now granted, it was 1965 and the world was different. But the truth then as it is now, at 17, I lacked the life experiences to make exact judgments on what I wanted or where I wanted to go with my life.

I was fortunate. I had two involved parents, a good foundation, a tad bit of intelligence and a desire to find my way into this world.

Have things changed that much? Let me answer my own question - yes, they most obviously have. And not for the better. Please spare me the dribble about improvements in medical science, advances in technology, etc. I'm speaking directly toward the mind of a 17 year old. And thus the question.

Police in North Carolina have now arrested two young men for the slaying on Eve Carson, the 22-year-old student body president at the University of North Carolina. The shooter appears to be 17-year-old Lawrence Lovette Jr. Police have also charged Lovette with the January murder of a Duke University graduate student. It appears robbery was the motive in both murders.

Do you suspect that Lovette is simply evil or is he the product of a culture of violence? I fail to understand what would motivate a 17 year old to commit two cold-blooded murders with no apparent regard for his victims. Was Lovette the product of a street culture where violence replaces discourse?

I have wrestled with the question of why Lovette would kill another person. The motive appears to be robbery. I'm not interested in the motive. I want to know why. The logical mind says the robbery could have been committed successfully without killing the victim. But Lovette apparently stems from a culture where violence is the norm, not the exception. Unfortunately, statistics show that Lovette is far from alone.

Young black men using guns to kill other young black men has reached epidemic proportions, especially in urban settings. To address this tragic reality, law enforcement has been increased dramatically in those areas. Still, the problem grows almost daily. When big city police forces in Detroit, Washington, D.C., New York, etc. point to reductions in crime, they are speaking about theft and burglary. Young men on street corners with guns in their pockets still remains a chilling reality in far too many locations.

Were I able, I so want to ask Lovette why he felt compelled to kill this young, promising coed. I know he wanted what she had but that is not a reason to kill. There are other factors that come into play.

It would be easy to dismiss Lovette as simply evil. And though that clearly may be the case, I think we do a disservice to generalize when it comes to taking a life. No, I think there are other factors. And until we discover and solve those factors, the problem will continue.

I don't believe it takes government intervention to solve this complex social issue. If you believe that making more jobs available will somehow overnight remove the aspect of violence from the streets, you're just wrong. And more financial assistance to those at the bottom rung of the ladder has proven woefully inadequate despite billions and billions of dollars.

Somehow, somewhere, someday we must learn why some within society accept violence as a way of life. And then we need to get to work providing whatever tools are necessary to diminish this mindset.

If the problem starts in the home, then we must address the dynamics in place and see what changes are needed. If the problem is born of poverty, then perhaps other changes can offer a positive impact.

But the truly scary prospect is that we may not be able to undo a culture of street violence that is far too ingrained to reverse. Ingrained in the music, the entertainment media and the structure of the streets. If that's the case, we'll be discussing this issue for generations. And the problem may remain as illusive then as it is now.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen