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Updated on December 19, 2012


As I contemplate publishing this two-part Hub, a little voice inside suggests that I remember the wisdom of the Chinese Scriptures, "The wise man is quiet" (Lao Tzu). So a part of me questions the appropriateness of writing these commentaries so soon after the horror.

I am also aware that writing these commentaries tend to objectify the reality and the pain of this horrific event. The pain. I can only imagine the pain or maybe I can't. I have had my share of losses and losses of loved ones, but this kind of loss is beyond the beyond. I was thinking yesterday what it must be like to know that your child is dead, but worse his or her body is still lying there in one of the classrooms. You can't even get to what remains to hold and grieve.

So I write, not to be irreverent of the awfulness of what has occurred, but to counter what I imagine will be an abundance of speculation that only diverts each of us from asking the difficult and perhaps only pertinent question. How have I, in my own life, contributed to what happened in Connecticut? And what changes in my life can I make that will prevent a future event?

Gun legislation will not prevent future massacres. Discovering that the shooter had a psychotic break will do nothing to prevent a similar event. Nor will passing more laws that insane folk cannot purchase a gun. Preventing another similar tragedy in this country rests with you and me.



So we sit and watch the television news over and over again, but it does not help. What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday, December 14, 2012, remains incomprehensible, like so many other tragic moments in our lives, like the assassinations in the sixties, Jim Jones in the seventies, 9/11, and all the random shootings and massacres in our country in the last twenty years. Sitting there in front of the television stunned and numb is an absolute perfect example of the expression, “can’t wrap my brain around it.”

Interestingly enough, our brains are prewired to push this kind of horror away. Our built-in defense will convince us that these horrific events happen to other people, certainly not to us, and they happen out there somewhere, way out there in far away places. It’s simply too over-the-top for our brain to allow us to make any personal connection. So, in a sense, attempting to wrap our brain around this event will only lead us away from ourselves. So stop, stop trying to wrap your brain around what happened in Connecticut.

So what can we do with our stunned-ness and numbness? Well, how about going “inside”?

“Okay, I’ll go inside, whatever that means, and then what?” you ask.

Well, begin by taking a deep breath. And then ask yourself two simple questions.

FIRST, what prompts me to jump on the bandwagon and join the “mob,” the hoi polloi, in creating, participating in, and living in a culture of violence?

SECOND, what am I going to do, right now, today, to end my participation in the culture of violence?

And you know what? This is not a multiple choice test, so “I don’t” is not a choice in answering the first question. This inquiry is like putting myself on the stand, and the attorney here isn’t offering me the denial option. The presumption is we do create, participate in, and live in a culture of violence. The question again is WHY. So answer the question. Do it for yourself, for crying out loud. Do it for all the people you love. If you are patriotic, do it for your country.

Now as we begin looking at these questions, let me encourage you to shelve the issue of video games and other media that obviously are saturated with violence. Why? Well, because it is a way to point a finger, to blame, and again, to take the focus off of myself. And if there is something that I can change right now, today, with regard to violence, it’s not going to be the economy. It’s going to be Vern.

A simple place to start is to look at some of our common expressions, and the beliefs behind those expressions. For example, we tend to believe that the squeaky wheel gets the grease; the biggest and badest a**hole always wins; the person with the most prowess, force, and potential lethal force comes out on top; quick, swift, and immediate revenge makes the point, ALWAYS.

We are bound and driven by the fear of losing or being beaten, especially at our own game, so we do every and anything to avoid and escape those fears. And we know well how to escape the frustration of not getting our way by threatening to bring in our “big guns,” whatever those big guns might look like.

We have a slew of sayings that affirm the importance of violence: nice guys finish last, kindness gets you nowhere fast, no one will remember you if you finish second, gotta get in the first punch, preemptive strike, come out swinging.... We have convinced ourselves if we do not respond to attacks with vengeance, others will take advantage of us and attack us again and again. The truth of that is yes, if we do not respond in a way that says NO or NO MORE, yes, the person will attack again and again, and we will succumb to being a victim. But there are a zillion ways of responding that do not entail violence, powerful powerful ways to respond. Check out the four part hub series, Know You Are Powerful.

So yes, what I can change is myself, my behavior, more specifically, my violent behavior, more specifically than that, my violent thinking, my violent beliefs, my violent values, my violent prejudices, my violent attitude.

Remember, attitude means my stance. It is the way I stand in relationship to my world which includes my family, my friends and loved ones, my neighborhood, my community, my workplace, my country. It includes everywhere I decide to take my presence.

And hopefully, the day will soon dawn when my presence (or yours) will BE a present, a gift to everyone who meets us, whether they like us or not. Our contribution will trigger a moment of decision for the people who encounter our presence or gifts, if you will. (Check out the book, The Traveler's Gift.) If that moment of decision stirs up controversy, they may not like such stirring inside of them, but that is theirs to resolve. Foremost, what I or you have to offer will never again be characterized in any fashion as violent.

Some of you may want to take the events at Sandy Hook elementary in an apocaplyptical direction, just one more sign of the end of the world or the second coming. And yes, the horror sounds like something out of any number of Biblical books. BUT, this too prevents us from going inside and bringing the event home to roost. And ironically, seeing this event as apocalyptical will do nothing to prepare us for the second coming. We still “gotta go” inside and begin doing something with the violence that lives inside each of us. And it may not be about eradicating or cleansing the violence.

If you are familiar with my Hub series on emotions, you may already get it that it is more about weaving the violence into the fabric of my life so it no longer stands alone as violence, but is woven into my humanity and becomes a human energy that is anything but violent. This energy. when owned and taken in as a PART of my human emotions, can then become “more,” definitely something more than violence. Woven in, the energy, once labeled violent, is no longer a loose thread, waiting to be triggered and fired off, resulting in behaviors that are only regretted and have no redeeming value. When woven in, it can be the energy I need to stand up for myself in any number of situations. Yes, it is paradoxical, and I admit, difficult to wrap your brain around!

There is also the matter of war. Our country has been engaged in war for a very long long time, and we seemingly minimize our sacrificing our sons and daughters to the gods of war. We have convinced ourselves that this violent sacrifice is a necessary evil, honorable, and even an “act of valor.”

The war does not smack us in the face on television every night like it did during the Viet Nam war. Is that intentional on someone’s part, so we won’t react to the obvious violence? Does that censoring of what our sons and daughters are experiencing leave us either oblivious, complacent, or just not wanting to know, like, for example, our German brothers and sisters during World War II? I know some of you will react vehemently to that comparison. Well, I’m glad. We need to react vehemently to the whole matter of violence and war.

So, I am at the point of concluding that being at war for such an extended period of time lays down a foundation of violence that we just accept as necessary, but perhaps what we don’t get is that it breeds a climate of violence. The war over there becomes the soil for a harvest of violence here at home. I will be exploring this perspective in an upcoming blog on

So you still may be wondering, what the heck am I specifically talking about in terms of creating, participating in, and living in a culture of violence. Well, if you can’t figure it out, I am going to spell it out in a follow-up blog which I am posting simultaneously. Also in that blog, I will discuss the violence that we, as fathers, teach our sons simply by what we say to our sons and by the kind of relationship we establish with them. This is almost scary. No, it is scary, and just outright sad. I will also present a shapshot of the violence divorced couples often perpetrate on their children.

Hey, we all need to be talking about and discussing this topic. So let’s begin in the comment section, and let’s all work at eliminating even seemingly insignificant violence from our daily lives. What might be considered insignificant violence? Well how about slamming the car door when you’re ticked at something the passenger or driver did or said (probably someone you know, and might, or at least used to, love). Hopefully that's a hint what the so-called "insignificant violence" is in your life, but when taken all together, it is significant. It creates a climate in our relationships, a stormy climate at that, one which can become violent.



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