By: Jaime W. Mejía (Translated by Jessica Schwartzman)
Last Thursday during Pa’Arriba Foundation’s Neighborly Conversations Dialogue Circle, we began to talk about a large problem present across the Americas: widespread violence.
Countries like Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, experience violence on par with Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. It seems outrageous that because of this, the world may start to categorize Latinos, generally kind people, as criminals and terrorists.
Long ago it was highly unusual to find oneself in a dangerous situation because we took care of one another, employment circumstances were different, the economy was different and our needs were not what they are today.
Currently, cell phone robberies have become common, as have carjackings, armed muggings, and assaults in stores and pharmacies involving vulnerable pedestrians. In fact, these events have become far too common.
But, what similar patterns can we find in all of these situations?
In theory, it would be easier and more productive for the people committing these crimes – who often come from dysfunctional homes and economically poor backgrounds – to read, study, prepare themselves for a career, or get a job, but in reality this isn’t an option for them. Instead, many of them resort to drugs or alcohol to forget their problems.
Consequently, those same individuals become violent in order to satisfy their addictions. It’s rare that a robber steals in order to feed their kids or support their spouse.
Using force, aggression or robbing people to get what they need is a “modus operandi”, but it is also a desperate plea to society for attention.
Vulnerable people resort to violence due to a lack of opportunity. What opportunities can a kid have when their father gets drunk and hits their mother?
What kind of example is set by a family member who robs or kills?
What type of person can a child become if they are completely abandoned and grow up with the laws of the street? Or worse, when parents teach their kids this type of behavior?
Fear makes us easy prey for armed criminals. It is always preferable to lose a material belonging than to lose one’s life.
Let’s not look away
It’s good to appreciate life and give thanks for being in a safe environment, but it’s also important to place ourselves in the shoes of people committing the crimes, many of whom lack culture, encouragement and affection.
They likely have significant material and spiritual needs that have not been met. Perhaps there are extenuating circumstances as well.
Does a society exist that provides educational opportunities, employment and motivation, that helps a person know that they are accepted as a fundamental member of a community and makes them feel useful?
Let’s put ourselves, just for a minute, into the shoes of the thieves.
Not to justify their actions, but to understand that people born into difficult circumstances face problems we often can’t see or comprehend. And to realize that we, both personally and as a society, have the power to make a change.
#NoMoreViolenceInLatinAmerica #WeWantPeace #NeighborlyConversations #QuitoWithoutViolence #WeWantOurselvesOutOfHarmsWay