Proposed Violence Commission Must Address American Culture of Violence

Target: Senator Joe Lieberman

Goal: Allow the proposed commission on violence to explore all possible causes of violence

In response to the recent school shooting in Connecticut, many politicians and members of the media have made suggestions for preventing future violence and protecting children from becoming victims once again. Most have focused on gun control, while some have set their sights on improving mental health services. Senator Joe Lieberman has suggested creating a commission on violence that, in addition to focusing on gun laws and improved mental health care, would aim to reduce violence in entertainment. While it is helpful to study violence in the media, using this agency as a way of exploring the culture of violence in the United States might be more useful than simply censoring the media.

Americans are taught from an early age to be in constant fear of violence and to prepare for the inevitability that violence will affect their lives. Violence in the media reflects the violence of American culture, and censoring the media does nothing to change the violent culture. While setting stricter limits on guns will undoubtedly reduce the problem of gun violence, it does not address the bigger problem of a violent culture. Additionally, while many people are in need of improved mental health services, that alone cannot solve the problem of gun violence.

At the same time that it condemns the violence committed by its citizens, the American government continually commits acts of violence against other countries and punishes its own citizens with violence. The agency should explore the relationship between government-sanctioned violence and violence between American citizens. It is hypocritical for lawmakers to allow wars and violent punishment to continue while expecting citizens to behave peacefully.

Finally, the agency should develop educational programs that encourage children to learn to respect each others’ differences to prevent them from becoming victims and perpetrators of violence. Children must be taught that everyone, regardless of their differences, deserves to be treated with compassion and empathy. The commission must also attempt to better understand how the American definition of masculinity contributes to a violent culture. Aggression and violence are seen as normal behavior for men, while compassion and tolerance are viewed as undesirable feminine qualities. Boys who behave violently are therefore not acting out, but conforming to the norms of the culture.

As the White House has stated, the problem of violence is complex and cannot be solved by focusing solely on tightening gun laws and improving mental health care. The commission on violence that Senator Lieberman has proposed must address America’s culture of violence and explore all of the contributing factors that lead to violence, instead of simply preventing young people from being exposed to violence in the media.


Dear Senator Lieberman,

In response to the recent shooting in Connecticut, you suggested forming a commission to prevent further acts of mass violence. In addition to addressing gun laws and improving mental health services, you plan to have the proposed agency consider reducing violence in entertainment in order to decrease violence among young people.

While it would be beneficial to explore causes other than gun availability and mental illness, simply censoring the media is unlikely to cause a major shift in the country’s culture of violence. Americans witness violence in every area of life, and focusing on violence in entertainment cannot address the entire problem.

The American government trains young people to commit acts of violence against other countries, and the government continues to respond to violent criminals with more violence by implementing the death penalty. This teaches children that violence is acceptable. American children must be taught to treat each other with respect and compassion, and boys in particular should no longer be encouraged and rewarded for acting aggressively.

I would like to commend you for proposing this commission on violence, but I would suggest that the commission focus on exploring the many complex issues that contribute to forming the violent culture, instead of simply preventing entertainment media from reflecting the violence that permeates the society.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: sarihuella via Flickr.

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