praying to stop violence

two nights ago, a friend of ours got savagely beaten. they live right across a school with a big, open playground, which is often used for wild late-night partying. he went out and asked them to keep it down. six people swarmed him and beat him so badly that a piece of metal got lodged in his skull. i haven’t been able to reach them yet (i’m still on vacation, and they, understandably, don’t answer their phone) so i don’t know what his prognosis for recovery is. i’m just glad he’s alive.

as i was lying in bed praying last night, i found myself drawn not so much to pray for our friend but to pray for his attackers. our friend is part of a strong community, people who care for him and his family. as i thought of him, i kept getting an image of someone surrounded by peace and love and light.

his attackers, on the other hand – that is where i sensed darkness. fear, anger, secrecy, guilt, shame, shock. i thought of the serenity prayer. “grant them the serenity to accept the things they cannot change”. what would that look like for them? i find that hard to imagine. how can one have serenity after doing something as horrible as that?

they swarmed and beat an unarmed man for asking for what’s rightfully his (peace and quiet) and to defend their transgression (“don’t tell us what to do”, they reportedly said).

this is probably one of the most awfully violent acts: they outnumbered him, they cornered him, they beat him not with their hands but with weapons, they did it for a reason that was completely out of proportion with the act.

i don’t know much about the psychology of swarming but i wonder whether there is also a degree of deliberation that goes into acts like that.

did they talk about something like this before, joking about how they would “show them” if someone dared to interrupt them? was there a moment of choice for each of the mobbers where they could have decided not to participate? or where they could have decided to not use weapons, or not beat him relentlessly? (apparently they only stopped because his wife started screaming, maybe afraid of the police) acts of deliberate violence are always more heinous than those where reason is completely extinguished..

what went on in these people’s minds and hearts?

what do their lives look like that they would even come close to contemplating such horrible things? most people have value thresholds – they may filch a bit of stationery at the office but they would never shoplift. or they might yell at the dog once in a while but would never beat their wife.

what happened for these people that their thresholds against taking another’s life disappeared? this is a threshold that most of us would never even come close to crossing. how many beatings did they get so that they felt beating was ok? what is it that made them so angry and violent? what is it that made these hearts and minds, the hearts and minds of boys that were once innocent children, so black and hateful?

i fear for them and more darkness that will seep out of them. i don’t mean to ignore the victim but i honestly believe that he is safely in god’s hand. he is the victim of tragedy, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. tragedy is incomprehensible, but it is a part of life. tomorrow it could hit me.

but these young men who beat him so horribly, no, i don’t see them safely in god’s hands. i see them scattered about in a chaos of guilt and anger and fear, and i am afraid that they will spread more of it. how can we stop that? how can i be part of stopping that? is there anything that i can do for them to – well, have serenity? so that instead of hatred, they can spread acceptance?

all i can think of for now is to write this and to pray some more.

3 thoughts on “praying to stop violence

  1. Jeff

    I think this goes along with trying to change someone or can you actually “make” someone do something. You can’t. These attackers are the way they are and won’t change unless something drastic happens to them, and even then, they may act out even worse. Here’s a very good, very harsh movie that explains this: “menace II society”. In that movie, the main character lived a life of crime, drugs and violence. It took the entire movie for him to realize that the path he was going down was horribly wrong. I won’t give out the ending, perhaps you’ve seen it anyway, but it gives a great look into the mind of a “gangster”. The movie is told at parts like a narative, where, the main characters’ thoughts are told by him (1st person narative ?) Another great movie is “Dangerous Minds” with Michelle Phiffer. In that, she is a school teacher trying to help out basically gangster type young adults. What can you do to help these people ? Unfortunately, nothing. It’s like fighting fire with fire. Seems when the human mind goes down the pathway of darkness, only that person can change. He/She has to be willing to make a change. What channel was it that did “Scarred Straight” ? I wanna say MTV but not sure, anyway, in that show, young adults going down the wrong path in life were given a little slap in the face about reality from people on the “inside” of the prision system. For some, it worked, for others, they refused to accept it. Again, classic example of NOT being able to change someones’ mind/way of thinking. I do believe in the old addage that children are a product of their environment. I grew up with a step-father who never accepted me for who I was. I could never go to him with any “relationship” type questions or anything on a personal level. This makes me very bitter towards him and at times, resentful to people who have fathers that DO like them. I’m learning to get out of that way of thinking, but much like anything, it takes time. When we can’t find acceptance in the home life, we seek it elsewhere. Be it, TV, friends, Idols, etc…. We are very vulnerable at this point and will take any offer of acceptance regardless of the situation. In my opinion, this is the 1st step towards a life going wrong. Throw genetics as an excuse out the window because that’s a lazy tool for the weak mind. This has to do with how we are brought up. For the sake of argument, a religious family that attends church on a regular basis are not ones we nesecarily need to worry about. And it’s not so much that they attend church, rather, it’s that they are doing it together as a family. Perhaps this hinges on something I heard awhile back: “Once they took religion out of school, they let the devil come in”. This day in age, “family” just isn’t there. It usually takes 2 incomes to make a decent life for a family leaving little time where everyone is home together. Thus, the need for the child to seek acceptance elsewhere. Lets see an example of this: You have Johnny, a 14 year old living in a middle class family where both parents work untill 6pm. He’s an only child and although he’s getting good grades in school, his social life is lacking. A “cleaned up looking gangster type” approaches Johnny saying he can be part of the gang. He is offered money for delivering a package not knowing what the contents are. Johnny sees that not only is he instantly accepted, but also being “rewarded” just for “joining up”. This is all too familiar and yet society blames violence just on the individual saying he/she were just “born” that way. I refuse to believe that anyone is just born one way or another, we all are born with minds capable of making decsions. How about rapper Eminem ? He grew up in a real bad neighborhood, yet is now a multi-millionaire and father. So he must be doing something right ? That would be an example of “Choice”. We DO have a choice to make. Pointing the finger to blame on anyone, or anything else BUT the one directly involved is wrong.

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