Is Care Enough to be the Antidote to Violence?

Saidiya Hartman proposes the idea that care is the antidote to violence. I both agree and disagree with this statement. Care is the antidote to violence but only when it’s paired with the actions of the general population and the government. Care without the actions of the public and politicians results in unresolved issues that continue to build causing even deeper issues for the present and future. While the public has to care and take action, it’s the people in power that make true change. Without the actions of politicians change can not occur. The public can take action to force people in power to care and take action to make change more permanent, however, sometimes this doesn’t work and change doesn’t occur. In Joseph Roach’s Cities of the Dead Circum Atlantic Performance, the second chapter Echoes in the Bone explains the idea of memory and forgetting, connecting it to the past, present, and future. During class discussions, we discussed how the past “comes back to haunt the present.” An example of this is the history of mass shootings, specifically school shootings, in the United States. Mass shootings and gun violence have been a persistent issue in the United States for decades and the government has yet to take action to prevent more from continuing to happen. The result of their failure to take action despite the pleas from citizens across the country was the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that happened on May 24th, 2022 that resulted in 22 deaths and 18 injuries. Instead of taking action after one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States, politicians offered “thoughts and prayers.” This display of apathy for the victims and citizens of the United States resulted in more mass shootings as the year continued and into the following year of 2023. In the first three months of 2023, 131 mass shootings occurred. Memory plays a factor in care and how that could be the antidote to violence. As this problem continues to go unsolved and shootings become more and more frequent, much like politicians, the general public are beginning to forget how devastating these events truly are. This leads to apathy among people resulting in less care and less action.

Throughout the Hurricane Stories course, we learned about course concepts such as memory and forgetting, violence and its connection to waste and performance. These course concepts can be found in the texts we read and the media we consumed in class. Roach’s Cities of the Dead Circum Atlantic Performance introduced the ideas of memory, forgetting, and the idea that violence in the performance of waste. Beth McCoy’s Second Line and the Art of Witness: Steve Prince’s Katrina Suite explains how Steve Prince uses The Dirge and The Second Line in his art, its connection to Hurricane Katrina and how survivors were treated by law enforcement, and how they allow us to move forward without forgetting and dismissing the painful past. We read Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith, a collection of poems that describe Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. We watched When the Levees Broke, a documentary that allowed survivors the space to share their stories and the realities of the situation and put a spotlight on the parties that failed the city of New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina.

The first step to determining if care can be the antidote to violence is to understand what violence is. Violence can be defined as behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. However, Roach defines violence as the performance of waste. He gives it this definition because in human societies violence is performative and always meant to be meaningful, in order to commit acts of violence “it must spend things”, and lastly because every act of violence must have an audience. During class we discussed what waste could mean as it relates to violence. We determined that waste could be a disregard of life. When believing yourself or a group of people to be better than others it allows for apathy toward other groups allowing for lives to be wasted because violence performed on them by yourself or others. We determined that forgetting the past results in violence and can be seen as waste in that context. The person or thing that violence was performed on can become waste itself. Wasting of resources was something else we determined could be seen as waste.

Just as there are many forms of violence, there are multiple forms of care. Understanding these forms of care is also important in determining if care is the antidote to violence. When researching on the different types of care I discovered two types of care, passive and active. While passive and active care are usually associated with chiropractic therapy, this essay will define passive and active care differently. The term passive care will be used in this essay to describe avoiding active harm while not taking action to remedy a situation. When caring passively, one cares, but not enough to take actions to make change for a cause or people that you care about. Active care can be defined as caring enough to take action for the betterment of a cause or group of people. To understand active care, action must also be defined. In this sense action can take many different forms. Protests, voting, calling representatives, and donations are all forms of action. These actions usually have consequences that lead to change. Passive care achieves nothing because no action is being taken to make change while active care can result in change however even when practicing active care change may not come.

Throughout the history of the United States active care has been practiced in hopes of change. On example of this was the March on Washington that happened on August 28, 1963. The March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech forced the president at the time, John F. Kennedy, to put support behind civil rights protestors. This event led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In addition to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing, or promotion. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed discriminatory voting practices against people of color in the United States and aimed to desegregate schools. A more recent example were the protests in 2020 after the death of George Floyd. Along with the protests, when the presidential elections were held a record breaking number of Americans took to the polls to vote out Trump who introduced extremely harmful policies and took actions that did significant damage to many different communities in the United States. While the harm done by Trump and his party continues to affect us, the people of the United States demonstrated care for effected communities and used action to strip Trump of power.

Unfortunately, there are cases were both action and care from the public just aren’t enough. Just as there are instances where action from the public allowed for change, there were many instances where no action has been taken by the government even when it’s clear that the general population cares for these issues and takes actions to demonstrate care. When watching When the Levees Broke in class we witnessed as the government ignored protestors and Hurricane Katrina survivors as they asked for help. This resulted in even more people in New Orleans dying as they went without aid for days. In more recent events, more and more children are dying at the hands of gun violence, not for a lack of care and action by those in the community, but because of the lack of care and action of the United States government. While the general public cares very much about this issue and have taken many actions in an attempt to make the government care about what’s happening and take action, unfortunately, action has yet to be taken by the government to put an end to or at least reduce mass shootings and so they continue to happen.

There are some instances where only passive care is practiced and so action by the government is not taken. The fight against climate change is one of these instances. While there are some taking action to reduce the effects of climate change there just aren’t enough people willing to take action against companies and policies that continue to harm the environment. The lack of care by most people around the world has led to inaction and unresolved conflicts that continue to grow. This lack of care has already begun to effect us and will continue to effect us in the future as we continue to do nothing. As we continue down this path the past will come back to haunt the present and future resulting in more violence to life on Earth.

When considering the prompt, care is the antidote to violence, I find myself disagreeing. The answer to the prompt is no. While care is a part of the puzzle, action is the real antidote to violence. However, action can not exist without care and this action needed to be done by the people in power. While actions done by everyday people can convince people in power to care, it must be those put into positions of power that need to care and take action to resolve conflicts and create a better future for all. While politicians and the general population can care about a subject or issue, the issue with continue to exist and grow if action is not taken to irradicate the problem.

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