How do we react when leaders or potential leaders espouse violence? Is this really the example that we want to set for our children? How do we explain it to them as they watch wide-eyed while the rhetoric rages on? I believe that we are faced with that problem in the current political climate. But our Second Amendment rights do not give us license to assassinate rivals or eliminate races or groups that are in our way. That was attempted on the world stage in WWII with horrifying results.
The thing is war and aggression have never solved problems or made lives better. The history of civilization is a story of war and conquest—one power grab after another. One firebrand promises peace and prosperity—relief from the oppression of an evil dictator. The rebel wins the day but he too becomes power-mad and circumstances still do not change for the common people. The guaranteed wealth and freedom do not materialize and conditions are the same as ever.
We want change. We want relief from poverty and tedious jobs and the back-breaking cycle that we may experience. We somehow we mistakenly believe that we will get it by subduing our enemies, staking out our territory and grabbing everything for ourselves. Violence can sometimes accomplish this feat but only for the moment, only until another obstacle gets in our way. One thing is certain: the inflammatory leader who promises peace and prosperity is not going to provide it for us.
Change is slow. Progress is boring. Some of our great leaders have put it very well.
“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”
~ John F. Kennedy
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy South Africa, 1966
“Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have and all that they are.” ~ Hafsat Abiola
We do live in the greatest nation in the world. We can make lasting changes that will make life better. But we do it best by channeling aggression and allowing reason and charity to prevail over our darker impulses. Let us gird our loins and work for peace for ourselves and our children.
Ellen Toronto is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Spring, Texas and has been practicing since 1980. In 2017, she was elected a Fellow in Psychoanalysis by the American Psychological Association. In 2016, Dr. Toronto's practice was recognized as one of the top Ann Arbor Psychology practices. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Toronto is married to Robert Toronto, Ph.D., and together they have four sons and eleven grandchildren.