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Monday, June 19, 2017

Choosing Violence

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Basic American values have been diluted

By now, you know that Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise was wounded, along with two Capitol Police officers, a congressional staffer and a lobbyist, after a shooter opened fire at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. The shooter’s motive is thought to be related to his expressed grievances online about President Donald Trump and Republicans. Our prayers continue for a speedy recovery of all that were injured during the shooting.

Unfortunately, this has all tragically happened before, though.

You know – a member of Congress being shot.

Remember in 2011, there was Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head during a shooting rampage at a public event outside a grocery store in Tucson. Six people were killed, and 13 wounded, including Giffords.

In 1968, New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles, moments after declaring victory in the California Democratic presidential primary. Five other people were injured in the shooting.

Then there was Louisiana Sen. Huey Long in 1935, who died in Baton Rouge after being shot in the Louisiana State Capitol, allegedly by Dr. Carl Weiss.

These are all isolated examples, in the long history of the world, that acts of violence will always be with us, however random or nonsensical they may seem. Violence, actually, is an expression of the need for survival in all living things.

Perhaps liberals feel their existence is being threatened into extinction after last year’s elections.

Maybe that is why Hillary Clinton’s former running mate, Tim Kaine, called for Democrats to “fight in the streets against Trump.” Or that the New York Times is currently sponsoring a play that features the assassination of President Trump. Perhaps the “need for survival” is why former CNN host Kathy Griffin posed for an ISISinspired photo holding Trump’s decapitated head.

But is violence the only way to survive?

For some, it obviously is.

Is that why Madonna told the Women’s March on Washington, the day after the inauguration in January, that she fantasized about blowing up the White House? Is survival the reason that Snoop Dogg references assassinating President Trump in music video?

If so, then this may explain why so many of our fellow Americans tweeted thousands of messages like this one, after the shootings: “Will the @SenateGOP reflect on today's shooting and invite the Dems into the political process that'll shape our health-care system? Doubt it.”

Others justified the shooting by tweeting, “The shooting today is horrible, but what the GOP is trying to do to Americans with health care is also horrible.”

So if violence has always been with us, and will always be with us, why does violence feel so much more likely to happen today, in places where we least expect it, for doing nothing more than expressing our opinion on the issues? Whether it’s a bumper sticker on your car, or wearing a T-shirt, or sticking a campaign sign in your yard?

Maybe it’s because our basic American values now seem so diluted in our culture. There seems to be less empathy and optimism, and more uncertainty and indecisiveness.

There’s less congruency between how we want others to see us, with how we actually are. Our faith in God has declined, and there’s less a sense of community, or belonging, than ever before.

There’s an interesting study that looked into the shift of our basic American values. The study analyzed the values expressed on the most popular television shows, from 1967 to 2007, namely: “Andy Griffith,” “The Lucy Show,” “Laverne and Shirley,” “Happy Days,” “Growing Pains,” “Alf,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “Boy Meets World,” “American Idol” and “Hannah Montana.”

For these television shows, the most expressed values were community feeling, benevolence, tradition and popularity. The least expressed values included fame, physical fitness and financial success.

In the last decade, though, those values expressed have flipped – from top to bottom. The new top values expressed include: fame, achievement, popularity and financial success (with self-centered, attention-getting comparison to others, and power, all following close behind). It seems we’ve become more narcissistic than ever before.

So, is this why the recent shootings feel so different? Like it may be a sign of things to come – unless we can return to the basic American values that made America great?

If being self-centered or attentiongetting are the values that are growing in our country, then such acts of violence will surely continue, and the number of Americans justifying such horrific crimes will only grow, as well. Too many people place blame on others today – but not themselves – for everything that isn’t right in their life, whether it’s shooting at a police officer, or blocking city streets in protest, or setting a neighborhood on fire and looting.

Have we become so enamored with ourselves, or self-absorbed in what we think, that common sense and decency have evaporated? And that lying, cheating or hurting others doesn’t seems so out of place, as long as the ends justify the means?

Well, call me old-fashioned, but maybe it’s time to turn “Laverne and Shirley” back on.

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman and attorney. He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com.

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