Editorial: Violence in Society: How can we stop hurting each other?

Staff Writer
I cover the cities of Andover, Blaine and Ramsey. I have worked at ABC Newspapers since August 2007.

Over the past year, ECM’s Editorial Board has taken a closer look at violence in our society. We shined a light on a number of issues, ranging from domestic and elder abuse to challenges to police and minorities in our communities. We illustrated how adverse childhood experiences affect development and the connections between poverty and violence.

Bottom line: Violence affects all of us.

Most of it is close by – a friend who has been abused by a spouse, a relative fearful of speaking up against an assailant.

However, as 2015 comes to a close, we’re reeling from stories of the random attack – the student mad at the world who takes out his anger on fellow classmates, the mentally ill teenager who shoots up a movie theater, or the attack by a young couple lured by the lies of ISIS.

With the number of mass shootings continuing to rise in the United States, we need to face some difficult questions.

Could these deaths have been prevented? Would further restrictions on gun sales or ammunition curb the number of shootings? Our nation is deeply divided over the answers.

We’re living in an age of extreme anxiety, which makes for dangerous times when people act violently out of ignorance or fear.

Since the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, hate crimes against Muslims have tripled in the U.S., according to a California State University research group keeping track.

In the upcoming legislative session, Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, will introduce new legislation that will allow stronger penalties for felony-level assaults that are motivated by bias.

This stemmed from an incident in one of our own paper’s coverage areas, where a woman is accused of smashing a Somali woman in the face with a beer mug at an Applebee’s restaurant in Coon Rapids, demanding that this customer “speak English.”

Under current laws, if hate-crime charges were pursued, it would only be a gross misdemeanor.

This will be an important step toward holding people appropriately accountable.

There is a lot that can go wrong in our society when good people do nothing or say nothing when they see injustices occur.  It can be uncomfortable and test or destroy relationships, but we need to speak up to keep each other safe.

As members of a country that was founded on principles of freedom and justice for all, we have a responsibility to see that everyone is afforded those rights and that those who are abused or being taken advantage of receive the support they need to be protected and to heal.

We won’t be able to stop all violence. But there are ways we can reduce the frequency and scope of a violent attack.

If you see something, say something. That could include notifying the authorities of an unattended suitcase or backpack, intervening in the life of a child desperately in need of help and using all legal means to track and stop terroristic plots.

The success of this is evidenced in law enforcement’s ability to intervene in the bombing plot of a Waseca teen after a neighbor of a storage facility reported suspicious behavior.

Help is available for people who need it. To say or do nothing when we see injustices or abuses is a tragedy for those being abused, but it sadly also diminishes the tremendous sacrifices of all those who fought for the rights we enjoy.

– This is an opinion of the ECM Editorial Board.