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What's been all over the news lately? The violence in Memphis. In a city that has more churches than gas stations - one on every street corner - one might think that the influence of ministers, pastors, and priests might deter some of these deplorable actions by a few of our citizens. But sadly enough, it does not.

Years ago, I went to a psychologist while going through a three year divorce. She was an amazingly creative woman with special talents to help a middle-aged man endure the soul ache of an unnecessarily nasty divorce. She asked me a number of questions about my childhood. Many times she said out loud, "I wondered why you turned out to be a good person. By any measure," she said, "you should've ended up in prison or certainly with some sort of a criminal record."

Friday last week, a very kind and loving patient asked me if one or both of my parents were physicians. I laughed. "No. I grew up with a pretty rough childhood. At least in the early years." I proceeded to tell her the short version of my long story. When I spoke about my grandmother taking me into her home to rear me and my two siblings, I started to tear up a bit. She witnessed that just talking about my grandmother brought out intense emotion, good clean honest unconditional love. But in telling my story for five minutes, I had an epiphany: I should have been anyone other than a good guy. My psychologist fifteen years ago was correct.

So what are the ingredients that seem to make a child turn into a violent villain invested in every aspect of the criminal archetype? For one thing, almost all criminals are reared in an abusive home, both physically and emotionally. Another, there is no nurturing or love. The child is left on their own to weather the storms of survival. They are constantly told they are less than in so many ways: You can't sing, you're not smart enough, you're a loser, you should be more realistic, you're worthless. If a child is immersed in a sea of negativity, abuse, and lack of love, they begin to believe that they are worthless. Most of them become filled with anger. It hurts deeply to be abused by your family or those who you are living with (foster parents). Right now, in homes all over America, especially in Memphis, cages of mistreatment, violence, and neglect are being erected and those children living within these cages cannot get free of their life. I lived in such a cage until I was seven years old. Terribly dysfunctional families damage children in so many ways. The destruction the child's belief that he or she has purpose and value is the most negatively profound in their lives.

After foster homes, my next childhood experience was in my grandmother's home. She was my rock. My dad was an emotional abuser. He was filled with anger. He made all of us three children feel worthless and second rate whenever he could. We lived in an impoverished area similar to Frayser. I was the only white kid in most of my elementary and middle school classes. Bottom line: I was one of those kids that psychologists predict would become a menace to society.

But somehow I seemed to rise above the fray. I think the event happened when I was playing little league football. My two coaches, Mr. Williams and Mr. Dobson, inspired me as a person. They preached the value of doing well in school, to take pride in who I was, to work had for everything, and they believed that any one of us football players could grow up to be anybody we wanted to. They lifted the illusion of being caged in. They were amazingly positive men who volunteered their time to help inner city boys to become young men of good standing. Not everyone got the message, not everyone got out of those abusive cages and terribly unhealthy families, but I did. I did it with the help of my grandmother, my little league football coaches, and my teachers at Francis E. Willard Elementary School in Highland Park, Michigan.

Circus elephants are trained by being bound with heavy chains attached to spikes deeply driven into the earth. They pull and yank, strain and struggle to get free. Eventually they give up the struggle, their spirit breaks, and they learn that they cannot pull free. A simple rope can now tether an elephant and when resistance rises, the elephant believes it cannot break away. That is the path each and every abused human follows. Something must be introduced to change their view. They must realize that they are tied by a thread, an illusion. They have been fooled and it was wrong of those who had fooled them. They are wrong about themselves. They can break free and show society the positive side of who they are. It's never too late to do the right thing. Ever. And if someone, anyone, gives them a chance to break free, they'll probably take it.

I was given a scholarship to go to a private college preparatory high school in suburbia and get out of the inner city of Detroit. People took a chance on someone who, according to statistics, had no chance. I made the best of it. And ever since, I have been giving back to everyone and those who took a chance on me.

How do we start to curb the violence in Memphis? Simple. We have to change Memphis. The problem is much too vast for the churches to have any impact on the epidemic of violence we are experiencing. We have to change education from reading, writing, and arithmetic to teach children using a more Waldorfian approach.

Rudolph Steiner's division of childhood development into three major stages is reflected in the Waldorf schools' approach to early childhood education, which focuses on practical, hands-on activities and creative play; to elementary education, which focuses on developing artistic expression and social capacities; and to secondary education, which focuses on developing critical reasoning and empathic understanding. The overarching goal is to develop free, morally responsible, and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence. Qualitative assessments of student work are integrated into the daily life of the classroom, with quantitative testing playing a minimal role in primary education and standardized testing usually limited to that required for college entry. Individual teachers and schools have a great deal of autonomy in determining curriculum content, teaching methodology, and governance.

There are marches planned by well meaning politicians and concerned citizens to raise awareness. How is it that any of us could possibly not be aware of the violence problem? We have so many people with their personal missions of providing our general society awareness on everything from breast cancer to the detrimental effects of hydraulic fracturing and global warming. We are so aware that we either deny everything that we're aware of until it happens to us individually or we become fearful and paralyzed.

Change is a certainty. Violence cannot be stopped by more violence. The politicians and news media in our city seem to portray Beale Street as the epicenter of violent behavior. Shame on them. Look around, read the news papers, listen to the news reports and you'll realize that there is some crime and violence on Beale Street, but it is a tiny percentage of the overall problem. The answers to stopping the violence are buried deep within the cultural stagnation of our county, our city, our State, our Region, and America as a whole. Everyone wants to talk about it, but nobody is saving the children from the abuse and misuse that our society has grown to embrace and encourage.

Even our highest, most popular politician running for the Presidency is abusive and vitriolic to those who he has debated and to members of the audience who disagreed with his words and ideas. He is a bully. And many of our American public seems to embrace him without hesitation. When everyone in society is angry, nothing can change for the better.

If you want to stop the violence, do the unthinkable: stop the abuse of all children rich or poor. If you want to say you want to stop the violence, have a march and forget about it. When your child and/or parents are gunned down by some thug who was not important enough for society to take a chance on fifteen or more years ago when they were a child, you'll realize that what we're doing to fix the violence problem is essentially nothing.

We are living in a violent world because the criminal perpetrators didn't deserve a chance against the chains that bound them in the circus of the South we call life.


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