The Normalization of Violence

It all became so visible when Jerry Springer, the host of a show I had never seen, died in late April. His death and show were reviewed on the Joy Reid show, MSNBC. Apparently, on one of his shows, Jerry Springer blatantly addressed “the normalization of violence” presenting men and women treating one another in some of the most violent one-on-one fights, hair-pulling, face-slapping, hate-filled acts of violence. When Joy Reid took up the theme, she shared what is going on right now in America on the political front, in the hundreds of homes where hundreds of guns lie in secret places ready for “self-defense” or the killing of another. The title of the show, “The Normalization of Violence,” was a shocking, too vivid, too muscular intellectual term for our reality…and is it true? Is that why people in other countries are advising against visiting in the U.S. “because of our violence”? Shame on us!

A short time later, I read about Fr. Aaron Wessman’s book, The Church’s Role in a Polarized World (Living City, May/June 2023), and although the word “polarization” seemed more palatable to me than “normalization,” he was writing about the exact same theme…extended not only to us but to the world! And the Church was entrusted with a role in the midst of the violence, guns, war and blood.

Fr. Wessman had been in Belgium for four years, somewhat sheltered from the cultural as well as physical violence here. But when he returned to this country after those four years, he almost immediately realized, intuited, that something had changed. He saw it in churches, with friends, in loved ones, and in his own ministry.

What causes such polarization, such violence among us in our “America, the beautiful”? Let’s talk about it…wonder and pray about it…and stop it! We can do better than normalize violence or give reasons for its existing within and among us, whoever we are. Fr. Wessman speaks to this: The first thing we need to do as a church is to recognize that this is a problem, stop using war as a metaphor for our situation and, hard as it may be, actually face our supposed “enemies” and listen to one another’s stories; only then will we begin to see the person and not just the issue. Do you have a better plan of action for eliminating this overwhelming problem among us?

Renée Domeier, OSB

Photo: Sisters Eunice Antony (left) and Karen Rose staffing a booth for Wear Orange Weekend, taken by Elizabeth Roberts