Rage in Society:
Where Do We Go From Here?
It was just hockey practice. It wasn’t a game, it wasn’t for a title,
it wasn’t for a contract with the National Hockey League and, most
importantly, it certainly wasn’t a life-or-death situation. Unfortunately,
for Michael Costin—father of four—it ended up that way.
Costin was supervising some boys—his three sons, ages 13, 12 and
10, included—playing hockey at the local skating rink. Thomas Junta,
the father of a 10-year-old player, objected to the rough play and
confronted Costin. Junta was asked to leave the rink, but returned
soon after and confronted Costin again. Junta then allegedly attacked
Costin, knocked him down and repeatedly pounded his head into the
floor. Costin’s sons were standing nearby, begging Junta to stop.
By the time emergency crews arrived on the scene, Costin was unconscious
with no pulse. He died two days later after being removed from life
It seems that everywhere
one looks rage has become rampant. Every day, headlines tell the tale
that sports rage, road rage, air rage or rage for the sake of rage
has become the norm rather than the exception.
The same issue of People
magazine that featured the article on Costin and Junta also contained
an article on rage among airline passengers, featuring recent examples
of this growing trend.
According to a story
in U.S. News & World Report, “the number of ‘air rage’ incidents
has increased 400 percent over the past five years. (As defined by
the industry, air rage is a physical incident or verbal abuse that
becomes physically threatening.)”
Road rage has likewise
been on the rise. Increased traffic, speed and a sense of hurriedness
have created a deadly combination on our roadways.
Even our workplaces
have become dangerous as a result of rage.
Call to Conversion
The U.S. bishops addressed
the growing sense of rage and the ensuing violence in society in their
1995 document Confronting a Culture of Violence: A Catholic Framework
for Action. “Society
cannot tolerate an ethic which uses violence to make a point, settle
grievances or get what we want,” the bishops said.
They also pointed out,
“We cannot ignore the underlying cultural values that help to create
the environment where violence grows: a denial of right and wrong,
education that ignores fundamental values, an abandonment of personal
responsibility, an excessive and selfish focus on our individual desires,
a diminishing sense of obligation to our children and neighbors, a
misplaced priority on acquisitions and media glorification of violence
and sexual irresponsibility. In short, we often fail to value life
and cherish human beings above possessions, power and pleasure.”
According to the bishops,
“It doesn’t have to be this way. It wasn’t always this way. We can
turn away from violence....”
They remind us that
“our faith challenges each of us to examine how we can contribute
to an ethic which cherishes life, puts people before things and values
kindness and compassion over anger and vengeance.
“The Church must be
Church—a community of faith reaching out to affirm and protect life,
teaching right from wrong, educating the young, serving the hurting,
healing the wounds, building community, praying and working for peace.”
As a part of that Church,
we each are called to do our part. So how can we as individuals counter
the current trend toward rage? Here are some suggestions:
Slow down. “Life
moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while,
you could miss it.” This line from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day
Off is the antithesis of our current society. We live in an age
of bigger, faster, stronger. In a world of cell phones, fast food
and multiple appointments, it’s time to slow down and take a break.
Jesus in Luke’s Gospel said it best: “Can any of you by worrying add
a moment to your life-span? If even the smallest things are beyond
your control, why are you anxious about the rest?” (12:25-26)
Set an example.
It is said that children learn by example. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be
the change you would like to see in the world.” So what type of example
are you setting? If you find that you are part of the problem, make
an effort to work toward a solution. Try being a living example for
For example, rather
than speed up, slow down a bit and let the car trying to get in front
of you go. Or if you’re stuck in line, try to remain courteous. The
bottom line is, getting upset won’t get you there any quicker or make
the line move faster.
Throughout the year—especially this Jubilee Year—there are numerous
opportunities for us to show our commitment to nonviolence. For instance,
this month celebrate the Jubilee Day for Sports.
And while these are
just a few suggestions to address a very large problem, they’re a
start. As the bishops said, “Commitment and conversion can change
us and together we can change our culture and communities. Person
by person, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood, we must
take our communities back from the evil and fear that come with so
much violence. We believe our faith in Jesus Christ gives us the values,
vision and hope that can bring an important measure of peace to our
hearts, our homes and our streets.” —S.H.B.