In the United States, the mainstream culture tends to think of itself as free from major forms of violence. We may have murders, abuse, and other manifestations of the violent, but they hardly define the everyday experience of most Americans. In a wealthy nation with relative stability, we see these instances of violence as aberrations, departures from the norm.
One of the painful truths we must learn to confront is that this is not the experience of many people in this country. My own experience with daily life in this country had less to do with this negation of violence than the stark confrontation with it and its effects. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t grow up in a war zone. I didn’t see a dead person until my teens, and even that experience was powerful for its uncommonness. I am talking about the kinds of everyday violence more appropriately thouht of as subliminal, like white noise.
This is the kind of violence we often ignore because its confrontation is too overwhelming to deal with. But people do deal with it. Its the violence of poverty, of struggle, of exclusion, of inadequate funding, of inequity, of uncertainty. It’s the kind of violence that translates into frustration, anger, and physical violence for some, but emotional exhaustion and stress for many more (if not all). Its the violence of not knowing if you will have enough money to feed yourself or your family. For others, it might be the self-inflicted violence of alcohol or drugs used as an escape from this reality.
Lately, I’ve been thinking how the current economic crisis is offering more and more Americans an avenue into understanding this kind of trauma. At the same time, government bailouts of corporations will, inevitably, lead to a declination in actual labor protections for workers. Kind of perverse, when you think about it.