The contrasting reactions to Donald Sterling’s words and Josh Morgan’s violence are very revealing about our society. When Sterling, the owner of NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, was secretly taped making racist remarks, the hammer came down quickly on him. He was fined two million dollars, banned from the NBA, and ordered to sell his team. Morgan, an NFL football player currently with the Chicago Bears, punched a man in the face for looking at one of “his women” and was charged with assault. He subsequently accepted a plea deal for a lesser offense and was sentenced to perform 32 of hours of community service. And for his crime of violence, why kind of penalty did he get from the NFL? Only a small fine and a short suspension.
Then we have the case of two men who got into an argument at a bar in Richmond, Virginia. One of them decided to escalate to violence by beating the other guy with his fist until his shirt was covered with blood. You would think that the aggressor would have been one who would have gotten in the most trouble with the law, right? Guess again. In retaliation, the man who was beaten threatened to kill the aggressor and his family. After being violently attacked the way he was, he should have had the right to say whatever he wanted. However, he ended up being charged with a felony while the aggressor was booked only on a misdemeanor.
What’s wrong with this picture? What of kind of people are we? Why do we so often punish words while condoning violence, or at least punish people more severely for words than for violence? Yes, words can hurt. And in the case of threats, words can intimidate. However, they are still merely words – even in the worst of cases. And despite what our culture might say, words cannot incite violence. There are no fighting words. Words do not make a person do anything. When someone resorts to violence, it is completely a result of his or own decision to do so. Words can be ignored. Violence, on the other hand, cannot.
Violence almost always causes pain, if not serious injury or death. It is not a rite of passage, nor is it an expected consequence of anything but violence. Violence causes damage to the human body that is not natural. It was obviously not intended by our Maker. It serves no purpose whatsoever, except to hurt, maim, and kill. You might accuse me of being an anti-violence zealot, but I’ll wear that title proudly. We need to make the punishment for violence so severe that any individual would be in terror of what might happen to them for raising his or her hand against a fellow citizen. If that punishment includes psychological torture, then so be it. And if that means amending the Constitution, then that should be what we are willing to do. Violence must be eradicated from our culture, which means all tolerance for it has got to go.