“Do as I say, not as I do!”
Perhaps in your innocent youth you heard a parent or older sibling mumble those words in your direction after you pointed out a mistake they made, an error on their part that fell below the standard you were told to observe?
“Actions speak louder than words” and “We teach by example” are two truisms that have stood the test of time. But that doesn’t make them any easier to practice.
As a nation we mourn with the families and loved ones of those so frightfully killed and wounded in Connecticut last week. But as grief is joined by reflection on how this could happen again, I believe we do those close to the victims as well as ourselves a disservice unless “all options are on the table” as we examine Americans’ predilection for killing en masse.
If actions indeed speak louder than words, what must the impressionable and the young learn when each year as a nation we buy more murder and suffering than education or medical care; when we create a culture that celebrates violence and militarism while it considers peacemakers and the nonviolent as simple, starry-eyed dreamers and more often as downright traitors; when we promote and glamorize the military even as the awful truth about what the military actually does is kept behind the curtain; when our country sells more weapons to the world than all other countries combined; when the nation’s leader, after one of our embassies is attacked, preaches, “There is no excuse for the use of violence,” and the next day sends drones to bomb whomever is next on his list and anyone standing near them?
Do we really think we can say one thing and do another without clearly teaching that violence is how to handle whatever aggravates or frightens us?
Without a doubt, the forces that can twist a human mind enough to kill dozens of innocents must be complex and frightening. Some may be locked deep in the human psyche beyond our reach. Regardless, we must still explore “why?”
When we do, unless we fear the answers enough to retreat under the covers until the next tragedy, we must bear in mind the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who regretfully called his country “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and warned that “[a] nation that continues year after year to spend more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
“Do as I say, not as I do,” didn’t work in childhood. It won’t work now.
Mike Ferner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer from Ohio and former president of Veterans For Peace.