When Violence Becomes “Acceptable”

The tragedy at Virginia Tech has left everyone in shock. It’s a clear act of violence which in turn has resurrected several questions. Should there be more gun control? Does the media focus too much on violence, and is that focus leading to consequences? Should that pervasive violence be taken out of television, movies and video games?

There are no easy answers to any of these questions. However, oddly enough, I’m not here to discuss this. I’m here to discuss something far more silent.Queer as Folk

There is no question that what happened at Virginia Tech is an atrocity. Such an act is violent and out of hand. Yet, in some cases, violence seems to be an answer–sometimes even applauded.

I attended a discussion on same-sex violence that dealt with the myths concerning same-sex relationships and abuse within them. Some examples: In lesbian relationships-women are ‘naturally’ not abusive and their relationships would tend to be egalitarian with no problems here. (Read: Aggression, according to gendered identities, is a masculine trait so no female could possibly be aggressive or abusive.); in gay male relationships-their emotions could get the best of them and lead to a very violent relationship on both sides. Or there’s the other side of that: gay men are weak and would certainly never do harm to each other because they’d prefer to sit in a room sewing.

The one that really shocked me was the myth focusing on transgendered people. “If they didn’t try to be something that they were not, they wouldn’t get beat up.”

Let me repeat that:

“If they didn’t try to be something that they were not, they wouldn’t get beat up.”

This sort of statement is, in fact, parallel to the statement: “Women who dress provocatively are asking for rape.”

Both of these statements blame the victim and excuse the person who committed the violence.

This to me indicates that there is a larger problem than violence in video games or other media. The problem lies within the way people see each other and the “US vs THEM” mentality that so many people hold on to. I cannot help but to sound ridiculously naive when I ask why people cannot see each other as people. I do not understand how it is OK to commit an act of violence against another person-period. Especially when this person’s mode of expression is not in any way harming another person, it’s just them trying to be honest with themselves.

Yet, there remains the “if they didn’t try to be something they aren’t they wouldn’t get beat up mentality.” Who has the right to put people into boxes and say “this is where you belong”?

In addition it should be said that those who are transgendered are not trying to be something that they are not–they’re trying to be who they are. By telling them that they cannot dress in a certain way we are denying them the right to be themselves. Imagine a world where this was turned around. Where it was required to dress as the opposite sex or else you would be abused in some way–be it physically or emotionally. Where if you didn’t conform to these standards you would be putting your well-being–your LIFE at stake. Where the simple desire to express yourself is punishable by those who dictate the boxes that you are supposed to fill. Imagine you decide to try to live outside of the box. Dress the way you feel, love who you want to love in such a way that harms no one. Imagine that by doing so you’re confronted. Physically hit to the brink of death. Put in the hospital with doctors looking down on with contempt in their eyes. Newspapers that portray you not as the victim, but as the problem.

Not a pretty picture, is it?

I ask of all of you: WHY is it so very difficult to stop seeing the world in “US vs THEM” terms? WHY is it so hard to recognize that people who aren’t YOU have emotions? Have to live in the same world that you do and face challenges the same way you do–only theirs is immensely troubled by the fact that they have to wonder if the day they wake up will be the day they get attacked out in the street and sent to the hospital because they’re “different”. And that difference won’t go away, whether the attackers are punished or not…because as long as we think of them as different, when in fact they are not, they will feel a weight on their shoulders that “normal” people don’t have to bear.

The sort of attitude that goes along with the “he/she deserved it” needs to go. Violence should not be acceptable in real life directed toward anyone. I ask of everyone to have compassion for yourselves and others around you. Don’t treat people differently because they aren’t you. I don’t quote religious texts much but I will say this–the bible does say “Love thy neighbor,” correct? Well-that gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans-gender/inter-sex person IS HUMAN and they have as much right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as anyone else does.

In the end: the key lesson here is to learn to respect everyone, not fear people because they’re different from you.

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