On December 15, 2021

How do we stop killing each other?

By Bob Stannard

Editor’s note: Bob Stannard of Manchester is an author, musician and former state legislator and lobbyist. 

Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down upon his head
Clang! Clang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure that he was dead — The Beatles

And so happy Christmas for black and for whites,
(War is over if you want it)
For the yellow and red ones,
Let’s stop all the fight.
(War is over now) — John Lennon

You know we’re killers, right? I mean, not you and me personally, but Homo sapiens in general. We’ve been killing each other for thousands of years. Homo sapiens didn’t get along with Neanderthals, so they fought and killed each other.

The French fought with the Italians. The Italians fought with the French. Both the French and Italians fought among themselves. Same with just about every other European country. African tribes have been fighting each other forever, as have the various sectors of the Mideast. Even though they appeared to favor a peaceful lifestyle, Native American tribes were, at times, at war with each other.

And we’re not talking about minor disagreements here. We’re talking about brutal violence being inflicted upon each other for whatever reason(s). Did our ancestors fight because of skin color or religious beliefs? Did they fight over territory? Did they fight over food and resources? Probably the answer is “yes” to all of the above.

It’s only been recently — that is, the last few hundred years — that we humans have found a way to at least try to resolve our differences without killing each other. Negotiations and diplomacy are relatively new concepts for the human race. We have miraculously found a way to postpone obliterating each other, for now at least.

Still, our country spends an obscene $778 billion annually to support our military. By contrast, China, the second largest military spender, spends $252 billion, far less than half of what we spend. Now that, thanks to President Biden, we’re finally out of Afghanistan, perhaps this would be a good time to initiate discussions on reducing our military spending.

What makes us view killing as an appropriate means of conflict resolution? Back in the 1800s, some gamblers were known to shoot and kill another card player simply because he suspected his opponent of cheating. Presumably, a fair amount of alcohol was involved.

Homo sapiens, which includes all races, have found various and sundry ways to kill, maim and torture others for as long as we’ve been around — roughly 200,000 years. Why, then, does it come as a surprise when we see our fellow Homo sapiens killing each other today? Isn’t it what we’ve always done? Isn’t it easier to resolve any conflict by simply eliminating the foe before you? Hasn’t killing been the primary method of dealing with each other’s differences right along?

When a Kyle Rittenhouse goes out looking for trouble, finds it, and resolves the conflict by killing, isn’t he just acting like his ancestors? It’s what we do, right? When a police officer shoots and kills an unarmed black man, isn’t the cop just channeling his inner fears and hatreds handed down from the past and resolving a situation that he may, or may not, interpret accurately, as would his ancestors?

Maybe we’ve evolved to the place where we no longer need to reconcile our differences through violence, but then again, maybe not. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of Trump supporting insurrectionists violently trying to stop a legitimate election from being sanctified and thus undermining our democracy. Those folks believed that violence was their only recourse.

I write these words out of concern for our future. For most of my life, our country has been at war with someone over something that was never really ever resolved by the war. In addition, we are becoming numb to the level of gun violence in our country. Just last week we witnessed another school shooting that killed four kids and wounded seven more. For the first time, the parents are also being held accountable.

That’s a big step forward, but it’s only one step.

Yes, it’s against the law for us to kill each other, but it doesn’t appear to be against the laws of nature. As a species we have a responsibility to be mindful of, and to not fear others, just because they’re different. We’re all people of different races but the same species living on the same planet.

We have two options: Work things out or wish we had. It’ll take a lot of work with many disagreements. Are you up for the task?

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