2015 – National High School 2nd Place
Kristen Hoffman, New York.
Violence or Compassion – which has a greater impact on society?
When you turn on the news, what would you see? Weather, oh look another snowstorm Wednesday, traffic, gasp the Long Island Expressway is backed up at five in the afternoon on a Monday, I would have never guessed. Then they finally get to the news, Justin Bieber dyed his hair? Nobody cares, seriously, just stop. After that whole bunch of nonsense, the real news comes on, an old woman was killed in a train crash, a 30-year-old man was involved in a hit-and-run accident, police are looking for two teenagers who shot a convenience store clerk and took the money in the register, ISIS killed a Jordanian pilot yesterday and now time for a commercial break. Violence has become part of our daily lives, the news we watch, the movies and television we see, the music we sing-along to, and the statements we make, most of things produced today are cringe-worthy and people laugh, sing-along, or watch repeatedly.
There is no blaming this generation of youth for the amount of violence faced in this world. Walk into a social studies class, 1776, we all know it for the Declaration of Independence, 1812, known for the War of 1812, 1914, World War I, 1939, World War II, all incredibly violent times in history. The first thing most people associate with World War II is the Holocaust, a time in which twelve million people were gassed, burned, shot, starved to death and forced to work all hours of the day and night just to be sent to their deaths. In Japan, America dropped atomic bombs on civilian cities, no big deal, just 220,000 innocent lives obliterated just like that. But all these have become just simple facts, statistics to remember for a test or an essay. Even during the Vietnam War, where many people (as many of us like to call them, Hippies), were peacefully protesting at Kent State University, the protests are not what is remembered but rather the fact that the National Guard had to be brought in and four students were killed and nine were wounded. Even after the Columbine shooting, many schools required clear backpacks and faculty had to sign into the building using their ID badges. Even in Bethpage High School, nobody bats an eye now the campus is closed other than one entrance where a security guard has to buzz you in. It has all simply become protocol, nothing past the norm.
“You swore you’d never hit ‘em; never do nothing to hurt ‘em. Now you’re in each other’s faces’ spewing venom in your words when you spit them. You push, pull each other’s hair, scratch, claw, bite ‘em, throw ‘em, pin ‘em… I’mma tie her to a bed and set this house on fire.” Sounds like a quote from a court case maybe? No, it’s a Billboard Top 100 hit by Rihanna and Eminem. Did it shop it from being on the radio every 20 minutes? Did it shop people from downloading it and memorizing the lyrics and singing along? Hardly. Everyday language has even adapted to include pitiful amounts of violence, students going back and forth threatening to beat each other up, “I swear I’m going to kill someone!” is something we utter everyday as if it is nothing, we have become so prone to what we say that it does not mean anything anymore. Violence is everywhere, it is in most of your conversations, the entertainment we watch, the things we say and the way that we act. The basic protocols we just go through as if they are nothing, it all boils down to violence.
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