Tag Archives: Violence

How to Make Sure That Trumpism Never Returns

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The problem isn’t Donald Trump but Trumpism—many commentators feel safe enough to utter these words. What made them feel unsafe over the past year, despite the toxic extremism that Trump the man represented, was timidity. Someone posing as a strong man, capable of viciously demolishing his political enemies, posed a potential threat to anyone who spoke out against him. But now more people have found a way, even a growing handful of Republican politicians, to denounce him.

There’s a collective sigh of relief that Trump has become his own worst enemy, but relief isn’t the same as feeling safe, much less immune. America hasn’t seen the last of Trumpism until remedies against its return are undertaken seriously. As a physician sees it, we are past the prevention stage, past the first signs of disorder, and well into rampant symptoms that threaten a full-blown outbreak. In a word, Trumpism has become a persistent virus, and although it fuels a sense of self-righteousness to blame the long line of Republican presidents going back to Nixon who planted the seeds of Trumpism, we can’t afford that luxury.

To compress Trumpism into its essential ingredients, they are actually a batch of stubborn illusions that have been turned into a belief system, as follows: Continue reading

VOD: Malala Yousafzai Interview on The Daily Show

She risked her life to stand up for girl’s education in Pakistan. She survived a gun-shot to the head for those beliefs. She is a best-selling author. And now, at only 16 years old, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The incredibly courageous teenager gave an exclusive interview to Jon Stewart and The Daily Show on Tuesday night where she talked about her homeland, the rise of the Taliban and why she thinks that education is too important to stop fighting for. Stewart himself even asks if he can adopt her when Malala explains her thought process after finding out the Taliban were threatening her. This is a must watch interview for anyone that has been following Malala, believes in equal education rights, or just needs a few pointers on how to be a better human being. This girl has a lot to teach all of us.


You can watch the extended interview on The Daily Show website.

Are you inspired by Malala’s story and interview? Or do you have a video you’d like us to share in our Video of the Day column? Tell us in the comments below! 

Should Schools Arm Staff with Guns to Protect Kids?

012schoolsecurity1358542932Although gun violence has apparently decreased on the whole in the United States the last two decades, many schools are reporting increased violence and bullying in recent years. School and mass shootings in particular have grown more frequent and more deadly, causing many to question the accessibility of deadly weapons.

Soon after the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last year, President Obama released a plan to reduce gun violence, which included closing background check loopholes, banning military-type assault weapons, and increasing access to mental health services. Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association released a different kind of plan, one that involved increasing gun ownership and instituting armed guards in every school in America. It seems there was a bit of a disconnect.

But apparently several schools have opted to run with the NRA’s suggestion. One such school, the Arkansas Christian Academy, has decided to train and arm their staff, with at least 1-7 armed staff members present on any given day.

Pastor Perry Black, an administrator at the school, told KARK:

I just felt like with what’s going on in many of the public sectors where there seems to be a lot of shootings we need to take the same stance that we do in church on Sunday for our kids Monday through Friday.

Here is the sign the school recently posted on their campus:

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One argument for this kind of action might be that the guns themselves are just a precautionary measure, but the sign should hopefully do enough to discourage any would-be shooters. Do you think this is realistic? And are guns ever acceptable in a school setting?

Bonus – Watch Deepak Chopra address gun violence in this episode of “Ask Deepak” on the Chopra Well:

Photo credit: Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post

NYC Marches for Trayvon Martin – 10 Powerful Photos

On the rainy night of February 26, 2012 an altercation took place between 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and 28-year-old George Zimmerman that left the former dead and the latter bleeding from several wounds. There were no witnesses and no apparent cause for the dispute, and Zimmerman was shortly thereafter released on the basis of “self defense.”

But the story, and the pain and anger and debates, did not end there. Almost overnight there arose a pubic outcry over the event, calling for justice on what was largely seen as a racially-motivated event. Had Trayvon not been black would Zimmerman have perceived him as a threat? Would Zimmerman have been initially let go? And now, after this weekend’s verdict, would he have been acquitted of all charges? It’s a troubling line of reasoning to go down, but one that many can’t help consider.

Reactions to the verdict have been heart-wrenching, as many feel not only the tragedy of the teenager’s lost life but also anger toward a system that seems to value some lives more than others. New York City held one of the largest rallies on Sunday, with thousands convened in Times Square to protest the jury’s decision.

Here are 10 powerful photos from NYC’s protest, reminding the country that Trayvon Martin lives on in the hearts of many:

What are your thoughts on the Zimmerman verdict? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Happy Malala Day! Honoring the Young Activist the Taliban Couldn’t Kill

Malala-Yousafzai-05Last fall, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman who apprehended her on a school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She was 15 years old.

Miraculously, Malala survived the attack, and today, she turns 16. The United Nations has named July 12 “Malala Day” in honor of the young activist’s astounding courage in the face of violent forces that would try to silence her. What, you might ask, is the teenager’s cause and why would the Taliban feel threatened enough to prey on one so young?

Malala is not your typical high schooler. She has inspired the Taliban’s rage by publicly advocating girls’ education and generating a mass petition calling for fully-funded, compulsory education for all children in her country and around the world. Because of her efforts, Malala was included in Time magazine’s list of the most influential people in 2013, and today she gave a speech at the UN reaffirming her cause.

Watch Malala’s inspiring speech here:

Are you inspired by Malala’s words? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Photo credit: Rizwan Khatik

Watch Occupy Gezi Protesters Sing Multilingual Rendition of the “Les Miserables” Rebel Song

Demonstrators in Istanbul’s Gezi Park have been gathered for three weeks protesting the Turkish government’s decision to demolish the park, as well as the aggressive response to the original sit-in. What began as somewhat of an eco-activist picnic spiraled into chaos and violence as police descended with tear gas, guns, and barricades – and soon sobering reports emerged of protester injuries and even casualties. The #occupygezi community born on social media outlets out of this movement has gained support in countries around the world, making this initially local concern an issue of worldwide importance.

It is fitting, then, that in true international spirit protesters orchestrated a stirring multilingual rendition of “Do You Hear the People Sing” from the popular Broadway musical, Les Miserables. Multi-faith, international, and nature-and-community-oriented, Occupy Gezi may encapsulate the activist spirit of this generation, so abjectly alienated from the massive and aggressive powers that be.

With the NSA revelations unfolding in the United States simultaneously, it might make you wonder about how distant individuals really are from the all-powerful governments and organizations meant to represent them. Your average person seems virtually powerless when it comes to affecting policy, maintaining privacy, and securing rights. But as communities, our voices have a much farther reach.

What do you think about role of demonstrations in affecting change? What would your protest song be? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Tornadoes, Bombings, and Kidnappings – Making Sense Out of Tragedies (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 3.58.18 PMIn what seems to be a period of an unprecedented amount of tragedies, we ask what is happening with our planet and with the people in our world? Tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and super storms; bombings, kidnapping, civil wars, battles over land and beliefs, and centuries’ old sectarian violence is all we hear about. Today’s news seems to report crisis after catastrophe after calamity. Why do these tragedies happen and what sense can we make out of them?

What if tragedies were the interruption in our lives to get us out of our mindless approach to our days – to be “shocked” into being greater, more compassionate, more creative, and wiser? What if the reason for tragedies were to force us to learn to reconnect with others as each important and valuable, and to use our collective genius to learn how to live better and more safely on our changing planet?

In a closer review, it seems this string of tragedies is centered on two areas – our planet and our humanity. Perhaps by looking at each, we can start to make sense of why these events happen and determine if there is anything we can do about them. Let’s start with a look at the planet.

Our planet is alive. It is constantly shifting, growing, and regenerating. Earthquakes are the natural process of the collision of shifting tectonic plates and the bringing up of new materials from deep in the earth to feed the surface. Hurricanes are the natural reaction of changes in our atmosphere whose winds clean and reconfigure the face of the land. Their rains replenish all life forms throughout all ecological systems. Violent tornadoes are the intersection of cold and warm fronts, influenced by topography and geography.

My personal perspective is there is no intentionality or malice in these events; these are not curses or punishments. They, instead, are the natural cycle of life of our living and changing planet. These events have existed on our planet long before mankind inhabited this blue and green ball. As we live along fault lines, in areas lower than sea level, along riverbanks, on flat windy plains, and along the coasts, we put ourselves in nature’s way. Nature does what it does to sustain itself, regardless of where we live, shop, attend school, or work. Though beautiful, nature can also be violent. Tragedies happen when these planet life-events collide with where humans live and work. But the solution to living in a vibrant and thriving planet is directly connected to the second focus in this discussion of tragedy – people.

In addition to our collision with our planet, we are also in collision with people. Wars, conflicts, bombings, genocide, kidnapping, assaults, and rapes happen because we are colliding with cultures, values, beliefs, and traditions. In these collisions, we have forgotten that each of us is intrinsically great, special, unique, and divinely created. In conflict, we do not consider others as equally important, valuable, or as great as ourselves. We lose the understanding that we are a collection of people – all uniquely gifted and capable of not only solving the issues we have with each other to eliminate personal tragedies, but by using our intellect and gifts to discover how to live on our evolving planet.

I am reminded of the message in the Hindu greeting Namaste – “may the divine in me acknowledge the divine in you.” Science, religion, and philosophy rarely agree. But they do agree on this one thing – there is an element of greatness or divinity in each of us, evidenced by the uniqueness of our talents, strengths and passions. Reconsidering this inherent value in everyone and living with the respect and appreciation for the true greatness in others, not only can reduce the collision of people, but can be used to resolve the collisions of people with the planet.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Occupy Gezi: Turkish Police Turn Violent on Peaceful Interfaith Protest (Inspiring Photos!)

v0sKEzcLast week, an interfaith, multicultural group in Istanbul, Turkey convened to protest Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to demolish Gezi Park and convert it into a shopping mall. What began as a festive summer sit-in quickly turned violent when police forces arrived with guns, tear gas, and barricades. According to The New Yorker, at least twelve people have been hospitalized with head injuries, and according to one participant’s account, two people were killed in the scuffle.

The events in Gezi Park are startling and unnerving, especially given that this was a non-political, non-violent demonstration. Since when do police start handing out head injuries at picnics? Sure, this “picnic” had a specific purpose that went against what government authorities had in mind, but as one blogger wrote: “People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees.” The #occupygezi and #occupyturkey hashtags that have sprung up on social media in last few days describe police setting fire to demonstrators’ tents and arresting hundreds of peaceful protesters. This conjures memories of violent confrontations during the US’s own Occupy demonstrations in 2011 and 2012, all of which speaks to the fundamental frailty of civil rights in these places.

Our spirits are with Occupy Gezi demonstrators around the world as they stand strong for civil and community rights:

 

Images sourced imgur.com and Occupy Gezi’s Facebook page.

Deepak Chopra: Why Does God Allow Evil?

slide_292101_2341733_freeEvery senseless, horrific act of violence brings up the question of good versus evil, and when you read that children have died by violence – a common thread linking the Newtown shootings and the Boston Marathon bombing – there’s even more reason to shudder and doubt. In fearful times maintaining the most minimal idea of “God is good” becomes harder. If it is blasphemy for believers to think God isn’t good, it betrays humanity to let God get away with turning his back while innocents die in random acts of terror.

I don’t want to parse theology. Every faith argues for a just and merciful God, which means finding a reason why evil persists under the gaze of a loving deity. If the reasons satisfy you, you stay with your faith. If they don’t satisfy you, you may stay with your faith anyway. There are real benefits to being part of a religious community, and no one is forced to confront cosmic questions that have baffled centuries of debate.

In the aftermath of mass violence, after the horror and shock recede, all of us cobble together a truce with good and evil. But why not confront the issue head on? Our emotional revulsion against evil is powerful; it’s one of the main reasons that moral people are moral: They want to identify with good. They want to oppose evil. So where does evil come from? If we break this question down, it’s not so monolithic.

Evil has many explanations that sound plausible, each taking a different tack. Here’s a sampling.

  • In ancient India, evil is whatever leads to suffering.
  • In the Old Testament, evil is sin born of disobedience to God.
  • In the New Testament, evil is complicated, since in some gospels Jesus speaks like a rabbi promoting the Old Testament model of Satan versus God, while in other gospels evil is the absence of love. The redemption of the world, where all sin is forgiven, would abolish evil through an act of divine love.
  • In the medical model that’s usually dispersed by mass media after a violent tragedy, evil is mental illness. Bad people are sick.
  • In the minds of countless everyday citizens, evil is what “they” do, and “they” is simply defined as “not us.”

Instead of trying to settle which definition is true – a totally impossible task – I’d point out that each explanation is paired with a solution.  You can counter evil with good from any angle.

  • If evil is due to sin, the solution is not to sin.
  • If evil is whatever causes suffering, go out and relieve suffering.
  • If evil is the refusal to accept God’s love, find a way to experience that love.
  • If evil is a mental disorder, help those who are afflicted.
  • If evil is us-versus-them, remove the walls that divide us from them.

I can’t think of any explanation for evil that doesn’t imply a solution, a way for good to prevail. This, for me, is the best answer to the issue of good versus evil. It isn’t necessary to excuse God, run into the arms of militant atheism, or seek revenge as if revenge is the answer that goodness gives to evil. It isn’t. Revenge may be a lesser evil or a necessary one – every nation that wars against its enemies adopts its own justifications – but it can’t be called an absolute good like love and compassion.

In other words, I’m a pragmatist about evil, because at heart I believe in the ancient Indian definition of evil as anything that creates suffering. I don’t have to go cosmic; I only have to be useful in relieving suffering wherever I can. Where does God fit into this scheme?  He can no longer coast on his reputation. If God is good, he needs to be good here and now. Also, God can’t be a blind eye who ignores suffering, because that merely excuses our own blind eye.  Evil is a human problem, not a cosmic one. If God reaches down to help us be good, he’s part of the solution.

I realize that millions of people doubt that God does reach down. The Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia, 9/11 – pick any mind-numbing episode of evil-doing and you clear the stage for rage and doubt directed against God. Wasn’t it his responsibility to save us, to protect us as a loving Father should? Sadly, that metaphor has worn out. Evil has become our sole responsibility, a pollution of the heart akin to pollutants in the atmosphere. Only after we take up the burden to foster good, even when our lower instincts howl for revenge and hatred, do we have the right to enlist God.  The divine is a hidden power, a silent voice, an invisible ally. For some people, that will never be good enough.  Our best hope are the witnesses who testify that at the most unexpected moment, what was silent and invisible suddenly manifested itself, and then God began to be clothed in reality.

www.deepakchopra.com

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Photo credit: John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe / Getty Images

Why Tragedies Like the Boston Marathon Bombing Inspire Greatness

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 12.56.54 PMWhy? That’s the leading question from many when they think about the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this week, especially since there still remains much speculation around the reasons for this event. What possible level of anger, madness, or beliefs could justify inflicting such horrible pain and harm on innocent people? Though we await answers to some confusing and difficult questions, one thing we do know is that in the moments after the explosions, our best as human beings showed.

We are programmed with a fight-or-flight response when presented with danger or change; it is there to keep us safe. But on April 15, more people disregarded this impulse and, instead of running away, ran toward the explosion to help the brave first responders. Badly injured victims had strangers holding their hands, talking to them, crying with them. From the darkness of tragedy can come greatness. We find our courage. We stay instead of run.

Americans are tough. Though we may get upset and raise our voices, we quickly forget ourselves and focus on the ones in need when one of our own is hurt, challenged, or needs help. We run to the scene, not from it. We become selfless, responsive, and more aware of others. We show up. We find our grit and resolve. This is who we truly are.

In tragedy we unite. It was that way on 9-11. It was that way when the tornado destroyed much of Joplin, MO. It was that way with the shootings in Tucson, Columbine, Aurora and Sandy Hook Elementary. It was that way with the
Boston Marathon bombings. At our core, we Americans are amazing, selfless and compassionate people.

But why does it take a tragedy for us to step into our greatness? We are obviously capable of this response on a daily basis. We can choose to respect and care for one another, even when their house hasn’t been destroyed, their limbs damaged, or their loved ones lost. We have the ability to be powerful, bold and courageous in dealing with differences and challenges without first needing a tragedy to compel us to a greatness response.

Regardless of our backgrounds, we are connected; we are Americans. And as Chad Finn, Boston.com Columnist wrote, “No, we are not all related. But in times of trouble you’d better believe we are all family.” As a family, we instantly come together to lessen the pain and help in any way possible. Our collective effort, genius and spirit response can be epic. So how can we rally with this same energy, focus and passion in our everyday lives?

Last week, I spoke to 120 teens at a Rotary Youth Leadership Assembly. I shared how these teens could start to find their personal greatness road in life – to show up as a leader of their own lives. Start young to strike out violence and hatred as the automatic or conditioned response. Start young to care more about others, in every moment. We can choose to build a world that solves its issues and challenges through discussion, mutual respect and ideas, not bombings, violence and vitriol. They truly saw this as a possibility.

Boston, my college town and home to many family members and friends, and the determined athletes and enthusiastic spectators are the latest victims in a violent world. A violent world considers violence as a legitimate solution to challenge and conflict. This behavior fills our television shows, movies, video games, and Internet. This is how many see the world because this is much of what we see in our world.

Explosions At 117th Boston MarathonIn response to violence and tragedy, we impose few limits on our support. We find the energy, the strength, the courage, and the commitment to stay, help, inspire, and deliver – we bring our A-game. In many of the daily events of life we show up with our B-game – our petty, small-minded, and selfish responses. We fight with each other. We blame and attack each other. We forget we are family.

In moments of tragedy we see how capable we are for empathy, effort, tenacity, support, love, compassion, and resilience. Without tragedy, I know we are still capable of the same powerful emotions. We can learn ‘daily greatness’ responses from life’s tragic circumstances. We have it in us. We can choose to always bring our A-game, to all events in life. The result can be a more compassionate and responsive world. I want it to be possible. I believe it is possible. I know it is possible.

The horrible events at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15 will never be forgotten. They’ll change the way everyone thinks of this historical day in Boston, and next year, as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said, the marathon will “be bigger and better than ever before.” Bostonians banded together. Americans came together. Our greatness showed. We weren’t heroes; we were just family, doing what families are capable of and what they do best. My thoughts and prayers are with the runners, their families, spectators, volunteers, the first responders, and all of us who watched in horror from other parts of the country. May we all heal from this pain, and unite in our commitment to support each other more often as family and commit to creating a more peaceful world.

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Jay Forte is the president and founder of The Greatness Zone, an organization providing practical tools, programs and resources to help us know ourselves, find our fit and transform our world. He writes and speaks on living our personal greatness and is an advocate for raising the collective consciousness about and the responsibility for showing up to our work and life with passion and purpose.

Photo credit: Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Photo credit: Bill Greene/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

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