The pervasive violence in our midst

The real issue is not gun laws, it's the pervasive violence in our midst

With the jolt and shock of the mass murder in Connecticut we will once again bear witness to a futile discussion about faulty policies around gun laws and the inordinate power of the gun lobby in the U.S.

We know and grow weary of the claims for and against, and we also know that nothing will change. By Christmas, the whole conversation will be behind us. But isn’t it appropriate that a much broader and deeper conversation be opened, one that concerns not only Americans, but all of us who are searching for a society where values and cultural mores are taught? Can such a society exist with this atmosphere of public violence surrounding us? Even in a place like the State of Israel, where there is much better regulation regarding the sale and licensing of weapons?

I myself grew up in a home where it was forbidden to hold anything resembling a weapon, from a water gun to a slingshot or even a small knife. We were not allowed to play war games of any kind. When we received items like these for birthdays, they were thrown directly into the trash, sometimes over our loud protests. Yet this is also how we educated our own children. My parents’ objections to war games did not prevent my father from volunteering for the Haganah pre-state Jewish militia and from fighting in Israel’s War of Independence.

The country I served as a rabbi forbade the airing of the series “Power Rangers” in order to prevent acts of violence and so as not to expose children to violence. Today, I see the amount of violence on the Internet, television, and of course in the news and in our general discourse and in contrast, “Power Rangers” looks almost like a ballet. This has entered so deeply into our contemporary culture that the implications go well beyond our ability to control or direct.

When I led discussions in this direction in the Knesset Education Committee about television programs, the response was always the excuse that all programs provide an age warning. Of course this obviously just tells children who have not reached the appropriate age that they should watch…

I hope that in memory of these slaughtered children we not only embrace our own children, as recommended by President Obama, but we also take action to eradicate the culture of violence from within our midst.

About the Author
Rabbi Michael Melchior is a leading advocate for social justice in Israel, education for all, Jewish-Arab reconciliation and co-existence, protection of the environment, and Israel-Diaspora relations. Through his work, Rabbi Melchior seeks to strengthen Israeli civil society so it may catalyze significant social change in the State of Israel. He was a member of Knesset for the Meimad Party. Rabbi Melchior continues to hold the title of Chief Rabbi of Norway.