Give Peace A Chance
By Bob Holof
On December 8, 2010, about a month earlier, the world memorialized John Lennon on the 30th anniversary of his murder. Lennon was the most famous member of the Beatles, partly because of his composing talent and mostly for his stand against violence. GIVE PEACE A CHANCE was his song and his prayer, and defined his association with the principal that civility was the answer to a great number of the world’s problems. His death at the hands of an armed assassin was horrible and ironic.
At the time of his death, and at the many worldwide memorials held a month ago, I remember how surprised I was by how easily everyone seemed to slip into the comforting illusion that this was the act of one demented individual and how unable or unwilling people were to connect the dots. We were living in a violent world where leaders and prominent supporters incited violent acts. Some demented people would hear these words and see these images and go over the edge and commit these acts.
To me it was clear that with prominence comes responsibility and prominent people should be toning down, not ramping up the violence and they should be separating themselves from those supporters who sprinkle their political, religious, or personal pronouncements with words that could incite violence.
Now a month later, after the mayhem in Arizona, perhaps chastened by the fact that this violence put them in personal danger, many of our leaders spoke of toning down the rhetoric. Others, however, took great care to refer to this as a random act by a single demented individual and made it clear that they did not think incitement to violence had anything to do with this massacre.
I don’t think anything is served by pointing to Sarah Palin’s target map or anything said by Glen Beck as the direct cause of this violence, but neither of them have followed the lead of Don Imus who admitted to having said on more than one occasion when speaking of someone he disrespected, “He should be shot” and his pledge to never say that or anything like that again.
In the 30 years since John Lennon died tens of thousands of people have been murdered in this country by violent people. Oklahoma City, Ft. Hood, the World Trade Center, made the headlines, but still few of those who could exert influence in words and deeds took the time to censor themselves and refrain from saying or doing anything that could ramp up the atmosphere of violence that pervades us. Lennon’s message of love has not been heeded.
There is an art to persuasion without rancor. It is time we learned it. If not, no one is safe.