In my freshman year of college, I read an assigned book, “The Painted Bird,” by Jerzy Kosinski, while recuperating in the infirmary. Not the best timing for me since it was far from an uplifting book, but it stuck in my mind.
The story is set in Germany at the end of World War II. A young Jewish boy goes searching for his father in the countryside and observes one gruesome act of violence after another.
Later, in English class, we discussed how by the end of the book, we the readers, had become numbed to the violence. We could see, then, how even good people could become de-sensitized to the anguish of others.
In my upcoming interview with Pastor James Lawson and Bryan Stevenson for KCET, Lawson talks about how some people “have allowed their humanity to become deformed.” I’ve been thinking a lot about our attachment to weapons that kill innocent people.
How do civilians in America come to have more assault weapons than our armed forces? How are we allowing our children to be harmed? I think it must first be said that since this is a problem created by human beings, it is one that can definitely be solved by human beings.
But, we need to decide we want the mayhem to end. Then, we must educate ourselves and all of America’s children about the long-standing culture of violence in America so that acts of violence do not become ignored or normalized.
In our conversation, Bryan Stevenson said we must talk about the genocide of the First Peoples of this land. We must talk about the violence that controlled life for enslaved Africans and institutionalized Jim Crow laws of segregation. He said we can’t get to where we want to be as a nation, to reconciliation, until we educate ourselves and others about our past.
Because if we don’t understand this legacy and the wrongness of it, we will not understand the influence these forces continue to have in efforts to stop voting of Black and Brown people and the fear of “others” or lack of appreciation for their own lives that drives many to purchase guns.
We must not be allowed to let our humanity become deformed. We can stop the violence on our watch.
See the full conversation “Bonnie Boswell Presents: A Conversation with Pastor James Lawson and Attorney Bryan Stevenson,” on Wednesday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m., on KCET.