STRENGTH & OUR ADDICTION TO VIOLENCE

I will soon call an extraordinary man who has reached out to me to talk about our shared desire to see our culture’s addiction to violence decrease, if not vanish all together. Particularly the grip this addiction has on so many of our young people. I am deeply humbled by his request to connect with me.

I wanted to talk a little about this addiction to violence.

Before I do, let me relate a fairly well known piece of American Indian lore. A warrior goes to his chief and says, “Chief, I have two wolves battling inside me, the good wolf and the bad wolf. Which one is going to win.” The chief says, “Whichever one you feed the most.”

There are many forms of nutrition for the good wolf, chief among them, perhaps, is honesty. Honesty may be the greatest form of nutrition for the good wolf, dishonesty, the favorite dish of the bad wolf.

Having said this, let me say that I have both received and delivered violence in my life. I am no saint. Yes, it has been many years since I have delivered any, but I have put men in hospitals and my violence destroyed my first marriage. And my first wife was, without question, one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known.

But addiction to violence is like any other addiction. You cannot get well by yourself. You cannot do it alone. The sobbing man who swears he will never be violent again is no different that the ashen faced vomiting alcoholic or addict who swears they’ll never use again. The can all pass a polygraph in that moment of gut searing agony, but unless the get real treatment, the man will be violent again the alcoholic and addict will use again. It is as simple and horrible as that.

And far too many people never choose to declare war on their addiction and by doing so, discover the wondrous relief when you realize how truly wonderful it is that you don’t have get well all by yourself. And life free of addiction? Well, it doesn’t get any better, I can tell you that.

There are many reasons for our penchant for violence, and I do not pretend to know them all. But I do know that one of the reasons we are, as a culture, crazy-addicted to violence is this. We are raised to believe the following is true. Your ability to inflict violence is a true and accurate measure of your strength. Is that true? No. It’s bullshit.

We are taught that crying is weak, admitting we are afraid is weak, admitting we lack knowledge in one are or another is weak, walking away from a challenge to fight is weak. All not true. How do I know? Try these questions on for size.

– If it’s an act of weakness for you to cry, then why is it so hard for you?

– If it is an act of weakness to admit you lack knowledge, then why is it so hard for you to admit it?

– If it is an act of weakness for you to admit you are afraid, then why is it so hard for you to admit it?

– If it is an act of weakness to walk away from a fight, then how come it’s so hard for you to do it?

The discovery these questions lead us to is this truth: real acts of strength are not pleasant. Real acts if human strength are not easy and they are not pain free. But they are rewarding and freeing.

Consider this. Few human events take as much strength as the strength a woman displays when she gives birth. Yet, I dare you to walk up to a woman in the middle of labor with a mic in hand (make it a mic with a cord so you can pull it out from where she is going to put it) and ask her, Do you feel strong right now?


The people in our country, the youth in our country don’t need support in getting free of their addiction to violence. They deserve it.

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RICHARD BAILEY & OUR ADDICTION TO VIOLENCE

All murders are wrenching. All murders rip into the heart and soul of a community without mercy. Rarely do they seem to make sense. The murder of 22-year-old Richard Bailey in Albany New York this week is no exception. A student at the University of Albany and from all accounts a good and decent young man, Mr. Bailey, a Wantaugh New York native, was shot in the head and killed while walking home to his on-campus apartment October 20.


I don’t know what Mr. Bailey’s last moments were like. My guess, from the sound of things, is he was unconscious for whatever moments in life remained for him after the trigger was pulled. I know when I was shot in the head at point blank range on August 24, 1984, I regained consciousness and the blistering my moments on the ground bleeding to death are beyond the reach of words, my words anyway.


Here is what I do know. We live in a society that is addicted to violence. We live in a society that at every turn teaches us that a true measure of your strength is measured by the size of our capacity to be violent. Look around you: video games, movies, television. It is everywhere. To get free of any addiction, we as a society must go through a withdrawal of sorts. Better that form of withdrawal than to experience one life after another being withdrawn from our midst.


We had better return en masse to the methods of non-violence. I am convinced beyond measure that it is the only way. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a hero of mine for as long as I’ve had memory, once compared non-violence to water. He said, “Non-violence is like water. If you have a fire and you throw a bucket of water on it and it doesn’t go out, it doesn’t mean water doesn’t put out fire. It means you need more water.”


Wherever you live, consider doing something non-violent to contribute to peace in your community, and, perhaps more importantly, in your family. I’ve sent a note to an Albany clerk expressing my interest in helping the Albany Gun Violence Task Force. There’s even talk about creating a position for an anti-violence coordinator. Were the position to be approved by the council, I might apply for it. I would urge the Task Force to consider changing it’s name to the Albany Anti-Violence task force. Let the name of this extraordinary group of people cover all forms of violence. Whether the position is approved or not, I will help the task force in any way I can.

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