Opinion: Time to pick the path of peace

The tragic events that unfolded last week highlight racial tensions that have been simmering in many communities throughout our land for decades.
I believe fear is the driver behind violence. We now live in a manufactured, heightened state of fear. The media feeds fear regardless of what the issue is: terrorism, weather events, racial tensions, politics, immigrants, health issues, you name it.
Another contributing factor that leads to division in our country is the culture of loud talk show hosts and politicians who shout over each other and don’t allow the person on the other side of the table to answer a question fully. Deeply listening to one another has become a lost art in our society. If you don’t truly listen, you can’t understand where the other person or side is coming from and suspicion and fear creep in, which often leads to violence.
Guns contribute to violence. The United States is the No. 1 country (almost double that of No. 2, Yemen) for guns per capita and that doesn’t include the number of weapons we sell and give to other countries. The U.S. remains the No. 1 arms dealer on the planet and accounts for one-third of total global arms sales, according to CNN.
Our government and many businesses are making an enormous amount of money from our culture of violence … think movies, video games, weapons sales, the prison system we’re exporting globally and the multiple wars we wage.
Imagine if the money spent on weapons and war was invested elsewhere: Everyone could have access to quality education, health care and healthy food. The money currently spent on violence could be redirected toward community development, energy efficiency, tolerance and mediation training, mentoring programs for youth, cleaning up our environment, rebuilding our broken infrastructure and supporting the arts. As John Lennon sang, “Imagine”!
Put together fear of the “other” (whoever that may be) heightened by a culture that increasingly supports the “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality along with an arsenal of weapons at anyone’s disposal and the scenario doesn’t look good.
It’s time to take stock of where we are as a nation. Do we continue down the dark path of continuous war and violence or move toward peace?
I believe we need to pull back from the brink, put our heads and hands together, open our hearts and be willing to go a little out of our comfort zones, so that we become a more tolerant, compassionate and peaceful nation.
Elizabeth Frank

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