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American Violence

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American Violence

Why has America become so violent?

an essay about american violence.

Murder is regarded as a crime in all modern civilized societies. Crime is shown in the media and is prevalent in society. Early in America's history, killing a human being was a relatively private matter to be dealt with by families or larger kinship groups. Deliberate killing (such as infanticide, cannibalism, head hunting, or the killing of the very old) is classified as 'murder' in modern law, but such practices were viewed as customary and acceptable early in America's history when the settlers first arrived on the continent.

New laws or views of existing laws may make criminal acts that were once legal; or, on the other hand, they may legalize acts that were once criminal. For example, the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified on Jan. 29, 1919, prohibited the manufacture or sale of alcoholic beverages and the importing of them into the country. From 1920 until the amendment was repealed in 1933, something that had been legal in most parts of the United States had become a crime. Also, abortion, which had long been a crime in the United States, was decriminalized in 1971. Two years later, in the landmark decision Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court reaffirmed this situation by asserting that the right to privacy guaranteed in the Constitution includes a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy. Many groups that disagree with the Roe vs. Wade decision have attempted to reverse it or have turned to more violent actions (protests and other criminal outbursts, including murder). The changes in views and interpretations of laws have made America appear violent or peaceful.

Morality and crime, what is the true difference? Every crime is legally a wrong, but not every wrong is defined as a crime. In every modern society there are significant minorities of people who hold moral or religious views about what types of behavior are right or wrong. Some Christian groups, for example, believe that Sunday should exclusively be a day for worship and a time for rest away from labor. Therefore, some Christians conclude that businesses should not be operational on that day. If this view gains sufficient support in society, sometimes laws are passed forbidding commerce and industry to operate on Sundays. What was initially a religious wrong becomes a legal wrong, or crime, as well. Prohibition is another example of something that was regarded as morally wrong by some and became a crime. No matter how immoral or harmful an act may be, it is not a crime unless it is covered by a law that prohibits it and prescribes punishment for it. Violence is in the eye of the beholder, violence can be interpreted by recorded crimes or a persons morals.

When people first began to live in groups they had few rules or laws, but they soon realized that each individual had to pay attention to the needs and welfare of his neighbors in order to make life not only tolerable but pleasant for the greatest number of people. It was considered necessary, for instance, for each person to recognize everyone else's rights to life and the ownership of property. Probably the most famous of the written laws are found in the first five books of the Bible, the laws of Moses. The basis of these laws are the Ten Commandments presented by Moses to the people of Israel. These commandments are the basic summary of all moral law designed to regulate the behavior of individuals with regard to each other. Without this mutual recognition, society could not function in peace. Yet having laws drives some people to want to break these laws, peoples need to rebel may actually cause violence.

All other societies in the ancient world devised sets of laws. In the 7th century BC, a lawgiver named Draco drew up a very harsh code that punished offenses, no matter how trivial, with death. Not many years later, another Greek lawgiver, Solon, repealed all but the laws dealing with murder. In the Greek city-state of Sparta, there was a legendary lawgiver named Lycurgus who, after giving the Spartans a code of law, left the city with the instruction that the laws were not to be changed until he returned. He never did return. So it is in human nature to want to make up individual rules for other people to follow. Therefore, it is possible for people to think that their own punishments (homicides, hangings, beatings) can be made up for those who break the law. They become their own judge and jury, committing crimes to punish those who also broke the law.

Capital punishment is the extreme penalty for crime for violators of government laws. Execution of criminals for a great variety of offenses has been carried out by such methods as drowning, stoning, hanging, and beheading. Modern executions are usually done by means of electrocution, the gas chamber, or a lethal injection of a drug. Hanging is still used in some places, as is an execution by firing squad (but mostly in other countries).

Some forms of execution were extremely brutal. In the Roman Empire, Persia, and in medieval Japan, crucifixion was for a variety of offenders was common. This involved binding or nailing the offender to a crossbeam fixed on a vertical beam set in the ground. Death eventually ensued--from exhaustion, suffocation, bleeding, or heart failure. The purpose for combating crime and enforcing punishment is to prevent the disintegration of society. In other words, the preamble to the United States Constitution uses the phrase "to insure domestic Tranquillity" to describe this goal. Nevertheless, different reasons have ...

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