Thursday, February 22, 2018

I think you’re right!

                Interesting title huh?  Well, I’ve learned that conversation comes easier when parties believe they are right.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately listening to debates, hearing arguments, and reading different perspectives as they relate to the tragic shooting at the school in Florida last week.  My first response is, “I think you’re right.”  I believe it is a mental health issue, a gun issue, a school issue, an education issue, a political issue, a responsibility issue, a faith issue, and a human rights issue.  I think you’re right.
                Part of the struggle I believe is that the responses from the various sides is coming from a place of grief.  Obviously students, teachers, and parents have been directly affected by the actions of the perpetrator of a horrific attack.  Their grief is very real and very evident.  I believe others are grieving because they believe that things can and should be different.  Their grief comes from a place of believing something needs to be done and that things can be better.  There are also those who see how things have changed and have a belief that things need to be like they used to be.  This grief embodies itself in the ‘longing for the good ole days’ mentality.
                Grief is most difficult because of the various emotions that branch from its root.  Certainly sadness is understandable, but guilt, regret and anger are also natural emotions related to grief.  It seems that in much of the conversation and debate that I’ve heard recently, anger is the dominant emotion and it most definitely rears its head in these moments.  I’m mentioning this simply because I think we need some understanding of the emotional aspect currently at play.  I’m also mentioning this because I don’t believe that any of us has a right to tell someone else how they should ‘feel’ (emotionally)… No way would I try and tell someone who was directly affected by such a heinous act how they should feel in its aftermath.
                As the anger has been projected it seems that for some it has led to a process of dehumanization.  It seems this plays out mainly as persons are relegated to a particular group, a particular set of beliefs, or some label that another is able to place on them.  When we do this with someone who we disagree with, it leads us to a place of forgetting that they are human with their own set of experiences and beliefs that shape the story of their life.  When we dehumanize others it somehow empowers us to treat them however we wish.  It has been done to various groups of people based on their race, sex, background, or any other number of attributes, throughout history.
                We should never lose sight in the midst of these troubling times in which we live that we are in conversation with other people.  These are men, women, children, mothers, fathers, someone’s son, someone’s daughter that we are labeling as liberal, conservative, ignorant, intolerant, uneducated, etc…  The politicians have families, some gun advocates are married with children, some who propose tougher gun laws are your nieces, nephews, coworkers, etc…  Simply put, on all sides of any debate are human beings who have different perspectives for any host of reason.  When we dehumanize we lose respect and eventually the ability for civil discourse.
                This past weekend I shared with some folks that I treasure deeply the notion that I believe part of the problem is that we’ve been asking, “What are YOU going to do?”  Personally I’m still a believer in the common good and I believe that maybe the question that needs to be asked is, “What can I do?  This question comes with a couple other parts.  “What can I do?” has to be followed or at least tempered with, “What am I willing to do?”  This in turn may lead to the question “What am I willing to sacrifice?”  This is where it becomes most difficult because no one seems to like sacrifice.  But what if the only way things can get better is if we realize it will cost me something?  I’ll present the following questions, knowing that there are many others that need answering. 
Am I willing to give up the ease that I’ve known in purchasing a firearm?
Can I pay more in taxes if that’s what it takes to fund what needs to be done to make schools safer for students?
Would I be willing to sacrifice my love of action movies and violent video games if the production and distribution of such things is a cause for someone else’s violent action?
How can I help mentor at risk children and adults who some recognize to have violent tendencies or some erratic behavior?
If it’s proven effective to limit the number of rounds a particular firearm can discharge, would I give up my weapon’s ability to discharge a large number of rounds?
Will I help hold lawmakers accountable, that laws that are currently in place and if new laws are enacted, that those laws are enforced correctly? 
Is there a way that I can volunteer my time that may somehow aid in these processes as we continue in the days ahead?
                Again, I’m sure there are many other questions that need to be asked.  In the realm of “What can I do?” only you can answer that question.  I’m sure some believe they need to do nothing and that they need to give up nothing.  Perhaps that may be the case for you.  Others like myself may continue to wrestle with tough decisions, tough choices, and eventually even tough actions.

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