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We can fix toxic landscape we’ve made for children

Guest columnist: We can fix toxic landscape we’ve made for children

Lew Patrie, GUEST COLUMNIST 9:39 a.m. EDT May 27, 2016  (Photo: Debbie Chase-Jennings)

lew patrieConsidering the value of human life, I was inspired by reading Asheville Citizen-Times’ May 5 report on the Mama Maisha project, focusing on Asheville Dr. Rita Graham’s project to reduce maternal deaths in Tanzania. I have also been impressed by the conviction and dedication of large numbers of pro-life activists who are devoted to preventing abortions.

Yet, I wonder why most citizens pay so little attention to nurturing and protecting children after birth.

Do you wonder about the effects of exposing children to so much television and other media violence? In 2014, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent

Psychiatry reported children watched about 4 hours of TV daily, much of which portrays extensive violence. Hundreds of studies show this promotes increased aggressiveness on their part and use of violence to solve their interpersonal problems. The viewing of violence on TV and other media clearly promotes violent behavior by young people.

Do you wonder about the effects on children from so much violence in our homes and elsewhere? In 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that more than 60 percent of our children have been exposed to crime, abuse and violence, many in their own homes. He further reported exposure to trauma and violence can disrupt brain development, promote psychological disorders and increase risks of dangerous behaviors in adulthood.
What about the risks of having guns in homes? Guns in the home increase the risk of gun violence amongst family members both intentionally and accidentally. Yet it is common that following media reports of mass shootings, people become concerned and fearful of messages from gun advocates that the government might seize or ban guns, leading to a rush to buy more guns. People ignore the clear evidence that more guns in a home increases shootings.

Do you wonder how militarism affects children? There are innumerable ways our society promotes military violence and few that promote peace. ROTC has long provided recruiting opportunities in our schools. Later, the No Child Left behind Act required schools to allow military recruiters access to students and their contact information.

Despite Judeo-Christian values, killing is widely accepted in our society. Our police departments have increasingly been using lethal force. Individuals more frequently are using guns to settle interpersonal disputes. But beyond that, our citizens generally support our nation’s wars, even with knowledge that “collateral damage” means thousands of civilian men, women and children, are killed or badly harmed as a result.

Consider Mother’s Day, begun in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe, moved by the Civil War’s massive slaughter. She wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, and proclaimed a Mothers’ Day of Peace. Her original emphasis on the lamentations of mothers for the killed and injured young soldiers is now largely forgotten or ignored. We are all too often lulled by media’s copious entertainment frequently portrayed as news, distracting us from our nation’s love affair with violence and acceptance of militarism and perpetual wars.

These recent wars have created increased terrorism and have led others to view the United States as a terrorist nation. This contributes to increasing risk of violence in our homeland.

Perhaps our violence and militarism is channeling us into a downward spiral that may result in an Armageddon-like finale to human existence as we promote continuing proliferation of nuclear weapons, creating new nuclear weapons and furthering an arms race to be matched by other nations fearful of our menacing actions.

After discovery of atomic power and the subsequent bombing of Japan, Albert Einstein stated everything has changed except our manner of thinking.

There is hope. It is not too late to plan with others to change our thinking. We may still be able to prevent the unthinkable. You may join with others who work for non-violence and peace in various organizations. One choice for all is becoming active with Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Lew Patrie, M. D., is a member of Western NC Physicians for Social Responsibility.


Mission Statement

PREVENTING WHAT WE CANNOT CURE: Physicians for Social Responsibility is the medical and public health voice working to prevent the use or spread of nuclear weapons and to slow, stop and reverse global warming and the toxic degradation of the environment.