OPN Gun violence
America's gun violence underscores the need for a deeper examination of the nation’s commitment to genuine harmony Image Credit: Shutterstock

In the words of the later Martin Luther King, a prominent African-American activist for social justice who once stated that ‘Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness.

We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love ... Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.’ Unfortunately, he met a tragic death at the hands of a white man who didn’t care much for words or his social activism.

Fast forward decades to matters last week that caught my attention. Two scenes of killings several states apart in the US brought back memories of Dr King’s speech and how it must have flown over the heads of these people.

In the first instance a 67 yr. old University professor who had applied for a job at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas took it upon himself to attack students and teachers around the campus leaving dead and wounded in his path.

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Armed confrontation

The attack that started midday at the university which is just a couple of miles from the world-famous Las Vegas Strip forced many students who heard of the shooting to barricade themselves in classrooms until the police arrived and surrounded the university.

The shooter who killed three people at the University of Nevada and severely injured another was a professor with connections to schools in other states, according to a law enforcement source. He was killed soon after the police arrived in an armed confrontation.

Way to the south in the state of Texas around the same week, a former US Army officer went on a string of attacks that left six dead and three others injured near San Antonio and in Austin.

He broke into a residence by kicking down a backdoor and when the police arrived and confronted him, he exchanged gunfire with them hitting a detective before stealing a car from the home and speeding off.

Police later found two women inside the home with gunshot wounds, but they could not be revived and were pronounced dead at the scene. The victims were a mother and her daughter who had ‘special needs’.

Following his arrest soon after, police discovered a string of killings earlier which brought the death total to six. One set of victims was the perpetrator’s own parents whose bodies were discovered after the shooting spree.

A history of violence

What drew my interest was that in both cases the shooters were not wild crazed psychotic individuals, nor were they seemingly under the influence of hallucinatory drugs to embark on such a murderous journey.

As I was discussing it with Gabriel, an Argentinian media guy, he cut me off by saying, “Look back on America’s history. And not just the recent past. They have been warring in almost 80 per cent of the time since they gained independence.”

He went on to relate many previous conflicts such as Panama, Nicaragua, Korea, Iran and Vietnam in which he charged that America had no business being there.

“We in South America have also suffered. We are a continent abundant in natural resources, but all around you see strife. And if they indeed would want peace, why in the world did they veto a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza?”

All of this underscores the need for a deeper examination of the nation’s commitment to genuine harmony. It is also a sombre reminder that fostering understanding and friendship, as Dr. King advocated, remains imperative.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena