Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Broken Windows

All I can think about is little blondeAmish girls in pigtails and pinafores. And the horror. Will the nightmare of violence never end?

My husband says it's because of a climate of violence. With terrorist attacks and counter attacks, fears, wars, torture stories, prisons, hate demonstrations, violence in television shows, in movies, on the news, in music -- our culture has become saturated with images and messages of violence.

It's called the Broken Windows Theory. If cars parked along a street in a rough neighbourhood are all in good shape, nothing is likely to happen to any of them. But if one car has one broken window, then in a short time, all the cars will get smashed to bits. The existence of violence invites other violence, and as each invites more, it builds to a frenzy.

It's like the disintegration of our civilization. This is the fatal flaw in the notion of a "right" to bear arms -- because arms have only one purpose: to kill people. There's no other way to dress it up. If you have a "right" to bear arms, you will eventually have no other rights. Rights are the opposite of the rule of violence.

The last thing I want to do is to forgive the screwed-up, hate-filled, self-centred b****** that did this. Yet I know that's what the families will do. The Amish forgive sins to stop the cycle of violence. They repair the windows, even if it kills them to do it.

I wish I were more like them.

Instead, all I feel is insane grieve for the families, for the little girls, and for our tortured, bleeding world.


At 4:28 PM, Blogger Chris M. said...

I've been waiting for a Quaker commentary on this horrible event that happened to our fellow peace churchers. Thanks.

Recently someone from the Friends Committee on Legislation of California pointed out that the gun manufacturers (in the U.S.) willingly make over and above the number of weapons that the legal market will buy. That means they knowingly make enough arms to supply the illegal markets as well. Of course, it is not illegal for them to do so. Merely pernicious.

Now the local papers are writing about what kind of security they have in place. Why are they not writing about how many guns are made every year, and how easy they are to buy in the U.S.?

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Chris M. said...

Addendum: In the last paragraph I meant to write:

Now the local papers are writing about what kind of security the local schools have in place...

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Nancy A said...

Hello Chris

Guns, yes, sometimes I wonder if it all comes back down to guns (and arms). I didn't know about those "extra" guns that fuel the illegal market -- those are probably the guns that slip into Canada.

I wonder if the guns create the climate of violence. Maybe their existence is the broken window that fuels the movies, the messages, the music videos, the gangs, all of which feed the newscasts, the fears, the new messages, the new guns.

If our task is to build a heaven on earth, and I believe it is, then guns are one of our enemies. Because guns can only turn a heaven into a hell.

I am so so so tired of this kind of violence.

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Don said...

The right to keep and bear arms is important, since at some point there comes a need to defend life and liberty using violence. Those defending life & liberty must have a cultural background that provides sound ethics and morals, but however you look at it, there are times when good people must resort to violence.

As far as markets for weapons go, those who make weapons respond to the market as does any manufacturer: supply & demand. In the illegal market, the price of guns is well below wholesale prices, so theft is probably the source of most illegal guns.

At 7:11 PM, Blogger Nancy A said...

I gotta quibble with you, Don, because here in Canada (and in virtually all other democracies), there is no "right" to bear arms. Yet our society is much safer (generally) than American society.

Violence is a poor defence, because it begets more violence. It also takes away all freedom and rights. We end up living in fear. This is not self-defence -- it's destruction.

Every step we take in the opposite direction is real self-defence.

At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Don said...


Well, I'll quibble right back:

1) I've seen a study that analyzed Canadian rates of violence with American rates, for each state/provence, with as much as an apples-to-apples comparison as possible (similar demagraphics, etc.): Canadian violence was at similar levels to the US, maybe even slightly higher. The US faces demographic problems Canada doesn't face.

2) England used to have low crime rates and strict gun laws. Their guns laws became much stricter, their crime rates went up. IIRC, there firearm crime rate went up 40% in the two years after they banned handguns. In the next year, it went up another 60%.

England and Canada enjoy(ed) low crime rates due to their civilized culture, not due to gun control.

But the civilized culture you enjoy is defended by men with guns. Men in the Canadian, American, and British armed forces.

Further, violence does not inherently beget more violence: the violence of the Royal Navy ended the violence of the international slave trade in large measure, for example. And, violence is often the best defense. Even when overt violence is not used in defense, the potential of violence is usually present.

Violence is simply a tool, nothing more, nothing less. It can be used for good or evil. Sometimes it must be used; most often, it is carried as a threat; in some cases, it is best avoided.

As far as Canadians not having a right to arms: such a right is only needed under extreme circumstances. And even then, it is not the right but the actual arms in the hands of good people that's key.

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Rob said...

Hi Nancy,

I'm glad you took the time to write about this. I guess I've been sitting on how moved I've been over the last few weeks by all of these school shootings. For some reason, the Amish school shootings have struck a chord in me. I find myself distracted and having nightmares about it. Perhaps I feel so moved it's because they are members of a fellow Peace Church, or perhaps it is because the event was so particularly gruesome.

I've been hesitant to write about it because I'm sensitive to the way in which the Amish are being exploited and fetish-ized. When I see the aerial shots of the grave digging, I'm aware that a helicopter is circling above head. When I see members of their community speaking on camera, I know they are stepping far outside their comfort zone and possibly community norms. There's a certain quaintness that has been shattered, and I fear that is why this story has captured so much attention. I really pray for those girls and their families.

I am humbled by their community's emphasis on forgiveness and trust in God. As a non-resistor, wannabe peacemaker, and follower of Christ, I can't see how there is such a thing as Good Violence. Christ did not strike back at his persecutors, and neither can we. It is the price of being a Christian. Those of us who live in a country protected by a shield of arms have the luxury of paying little material or physical discomfort for such faith. Our brothers and sisters in much of the world do not. And yet we carry on in this paradox as hypocrites and sinners all...


At 3:15 PM, Blogger Nancy A said...

Hi Don

I read your thoughtful comments, but I doubt that you would find many Canadians, British or Europeans who would agree with it in any way. This is a particularly American line of thinking. We just don't have those ideas.

When a police officer is killed here, it's a national event -- it's that rare.

As for Canada being protected by its military, well, this is a cause for considerable humour in Canada. We consider ourselves protected by water on three sides. The fourth side represents the largest threat to our freedom. Our army cannot match theirs. We choose not even to try, but to forge bonds of friendship and to align ourselves with the United Nations and other international bodies so that we retain plenty of allies.

But I will certainly tell my military friends that someone in the States believes they are protecting our freedom. They will be honoured.

Rob - Sometimes I think that the only tangible good that has come out of this tragedy is the attention being paid to the pacifism and kindness of the Amish, and their complete lack of revenge or hatred against those who harm them. Many people, including many types of Christians, embrace violence as the only way to solve problems of violence. This may be the first time they see an alternative solution in practice.

The Amish are in many ways what we Quakers would like to be. By quarantining themselves from the media-driven, technology-driven world, they allow themselves to live this principle perhaps more completely than we do. By living in the world such as it is, we have chosen a more difficult path. We have to be pacifist with our eyes wide open, listening to the defenders and perpetrators of violence, viewing it through the lens of media. But I don't think our role is any less important than theirs. Tom Fox witnessed tremendously for the faith of pacifist Christianity.

At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Don said...


Facts are facts. The failure of British gun laws is a fact. Most of America has little crime. Crime here is mostly in the big cities, or along our border with Mexico.

And, killings in the US are often national events.

The US military does in fact protect you. You might not like it or appreciate it, but it is a fact. It's a fact you can ignore, because you currently face no serious threats. Because of the United States.


IIRC, Jesus told his deciples to sell a cloak to buy a sword. And then there is that whole story of Esther. Ending slavery was good violence, as was ending the Nazis and Imperial Japanese.

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Don said...


The Amish don't have a solution to what happened. At this point, no one does.

Now, it might be easier to resign yourself to these sort of things once they have happened, but when there is still time for action a real solution would be the right choice. To bad someone with a gun wasn't there to kill that SOB before he killed the little girls. In this case, the Amish lack of defense made them a target.

At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Don said...

Another thing:

Gun control, at least if it is imposed on people*, isn't pacifist. Like all other legislation, it relies upon state enforcement, which relies upon violence or the threat of violence.

*If you persuade people to give up their arms, that's another matter.

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Nancy A said...

Isn't it funny how different cultures interpret events differently?

Around here, we are taught that the Marshall Plan ended WW2. WW1 failed to end because it had no Marshall Plan, so the violence simply simmered on till it erupted again.

That's history in our history textbooks. We aren't taught that guns or bombs stopped the war (even though Canadians had a big part in that).

Attitudes toward and beliefs about violence are cultural.

At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Don said...


In WW1, the German army felt undefeated; it was in fact the Royal Navy blockade that won WW1 (along with American production capacity and the entry of US forces that made the war unwinable).

So the Germans felt undefeated (on the battlefield they essentially were), and in the aftermath the Allies imposed harse terms resulting in resentment.

The reasentment combined with a fealing that they were not defeated resulted in the build up to WW2, which in a real sense was a continuation of WW1, as you indicate.

WW2 was won fully, no question. German cities were leveled, the Allies rolled through Germany. The Red Army raped and murdered millions (particularly in East Prussia). In WW2, both the Germans and Japanese were fully defeated, with no doubt in anyone's mind. That's what won WW2.

West Germany did not benifit from the Marshall Plan until 1949 (the plan went from '47 to '50), and then it still payed out more in reparations and occupation charges than it received. And East Germany was not covered by Marshall Plan.
The bottom line is that the Germans payed out more than they received. It doesn't seem reasonable that the net negative aid the Germans received ended the war.

England and France received most of the aid from the Marshall Plan, BTW.

My basic point:

WW1, Germans feel undefeated in battle, then are subjected to harsh post war conditions. Leads to more war.

WW2, Germans feel fully beaten; subjected to attrocities and extreme harsh conditions in the East, treated firmly but fairly in the West. Does not lead to war.


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