Publisher’s column: How do we find a solution to constant violence? |

Publisher’s column: How do we find a solution to constant violence?

Mike Bennett
Staff Photo |

“Blood on your hands…” was the subject line of an email I received last week from a local reader after the mass shootings in San Bernardino. The writer believed the Post Independent and I were indirectly responsible for the shootings.

How did this reader draw this conclusion? The reader took offense that we clarified our letters policy recently and said we will not publish words of hate when a writer chooses to discuss our Latino population. Like some other readers I’ve encountered, this one misinterpreted the meaning of this policy and read into it that the PI supports illegal immigration.

For the record, we thoroughly oppose illegal immigration, though we favor congressional action that broadens the path to legal residency and citizenship for people already here. Editor Randy Essex summed it up in his response to this writer: “We will print ‘people who are in the country illegally.’ We won’t print ‘illegals’ as a label for those people.

“Hard to imagine how that inspires violence.”

Unlike Randy, I can imagine how this policy can inspire violence. We have a loud minority of people in our community who choose to believe what they wish regardless of the validity. Some are unwilling to have open and thoughtful conversations. Either you are with them or against them. There is no gray area in their minds.

Like the rest of the country, I have been shaken by news that we had mass shootings over the past two weeks. The day after Thanksgiving, we had the shooting in Colorado Springs, then last week’s terror attack in San Bernardino. I surely hope we can get through this week without yet another major violent act.

Now you have Donald Trump, a leading Republican candidate for president, fueling the fire of fear and hate by calling for discrimination against an entire religion. While I believe Trump is an intelligent man, it is shameful that he is using this divisive rhetoric only because his market research shows that it appeals to his voting bloc.

I am sure a few of you are growing agitated as you read my words. Some may even be thinking they would like to silence me by whatever means simply because they disagree with me.

Can a tragedy such as those that seem to happen weekly in the county and several times daily around the world happen here? It is unlikely, although it should not come to as surprise to anyone should it occur. From my seat, we hear from a small group of local residents who spew hatred.

The ISIS influence has been identified as the trigger for the San Bernardino tragedy. Despite the anger toward the Muslim community, it is unfair and inaccurate to highlight a religion as the major cause of violence in our country.

Just look at our own state of Colorado for evidence. The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting may have been spurred by political rhetoric. A white middle-aged male was the shooter. How about the Aurora movie theater massacre? White male. The Columbine High School massacre? White males. I haven’t heard anyone try to link any of these events to a Muslim influence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 406,496 people died in our country by shootings between 2001 and 2013. We lose over 30,000 people a year in our country because we have fellow citizens who have decided it was within their right to kill. While some argue for stricter gun laws. I wonder if that is really the solution.

Could it be that human life has been trivialized as people have become numb to this world of constant violence? We have generations of people who have grown up with violent and realistic shooter video games. War, hate and human-on-human violence have been a constant. With today’s technology, we are bombarded with images of death and destruction daily.

I find myself asking not if it can happen here but whether or not our law enforcement teams have the resources to step in quickly if it does happen in Garfield County.

Intolerance and violence have become the norm. I try to put myself in the position of joining with others to provide solutions. In this case, I have no ideas. Perception is reality, and too many people have a warped view of their worlds. And they have the means to easily take violent action if they so choose.

And so it goes.

Michael Bennett is publisher of the Post Independent.

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