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Rage in Society: Where Do We Go From Here?


Battling an Epidemic

A Call to Conversion

What's the Answer?

 

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 support.

Battling an Epidemic

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.

A 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.”

What's the Answer?

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.

Relax. Perhaps 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 others.

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.

Celebrate nonviolence. 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.

 

 

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