Individually, your perception of humanity, your perception of gun violence and your perception of government contributes to the culture in America.
As of late, our culture is one of derision.
It’s a flaw of the collective soul of America: we’ve distanced ourselves from one another, distanced ourselves from discussion, distanced ourselves from understanding and thus distanced ourselves from working through our problems.
Life is tragic for many, and so for all.
But those who have not experienced pain seldom understand that others do; there is a radical lack of empathy in America.
This lack of empathy gives way for troubled individuals to act on their imaginings that existence itself should be eradicated.
This vengeful state of being comes from the suffering which life brings, and I pity it. Anyone can be treated as inhuman and pushed over the edge. Everyone has a shadow that they haven’t discovered.
As the midterm elections approach, the issue of gun violence must once again be brought to the forefront.
But this time, we have to be advocates for the same change: a world in which school children don’t have to fear being gunned down in their classrooms, a world in which everyone is shown the same human dignity and a world in which the privileged and powerful are held to task.
For Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, two of his best friends were lost in the blink of an eye, and his outlook on life shifted entirely from, as he calls it, “complacency,” to “advocacy.”
It made him realize that “life is far too short to be waiting for someone else to enact the changes that I wanted to see.”
Before Pulse, he was “comfortable turning on the news and changing the channel” if he saw suffering, and he thinks “that’s a real human condition—a real American condition.”
It is unnerving and scourging to recognize and bear suffering, but we must each accept guilt for the wrongs of the world. There are some things we simply can’t turn a blind eye to.
The Sandy Hook school shooting five years ago wrenched 20 elementary school children from the world too soon.
I had the privilege of speaking with Nicole Hockley, the mother of forever six-year-old Dylan Hockley whose life was lost in the massacre.
Nicole finds that immediate change in the gun debate is improbable, but believes that “these acts are preventable.”
She seeks common ground and social change before policy prescriptions.
“The reason people aren’t involved or engaged in this issue is because they think it is just a fight about policy. As soon as you mention the word guns, people immediately take sides and stop listening.”
These heinous acts stem from a greater problem than easy access to guns. Gun control legislation is imperative to begin to mend the gun violence epidemic which fragments American society, but ultimately, further inspection of our country must be had and further change must be created.
Gun violence thrives in our country because we haven’t handled our freedom well. With freedom of choice comes a free heart to decide what is good and what is evil. You become ensnared by the incessant and painful responsibility of discovering for yourself what it means to live.
Throughout human history, there has been nothing more insupportable for a society than freedom. By this, I mean that nothing has been more difficult to manage.
And yet we must find a way.
I emphasize: Americans seek the multiplication of material desires before the wealth of knowledge. Our freedom has been barred by greed and arrogance. Men are ruinous of themselves and of the world around them, losing their very souls in material greed.
This has been a consistent cause of strife in America.
In my conversation with Hockley, she noted that America “has faced polarized or divisive issues in the past and yet has managed to find common ground to move forward.”
Political divisiveness marks the present day.
I discussed this with American actor and activist Sean Astin, who played the part of Samwise Gamgee in “The Lord of the Rings” as well as the title character in “Rudy.”
“A great number of people are afraid of a great many things,” he said. “[They’re] afraid not just of intruders or violent people that might do them harm, [but also] that the government will somehow try and take away their freedom. People are afraid of the collapse of civil order.”
Astin is a proponent of “hardening” each and every school in the country: “Metal detectors; reinforced doors; closed circuit cameras; at least two professional armed guards at each facility; and many, many more devices and tools that schools can use to protect their children; mental health screening and services; background checks; reinstitution of the assault weapons ban, strengthening it if possible; eliminate the gun show loophole; curtail items like bump stocks and similar devices; increase the number of suicide hotlines; include gun safety and mental health education as part of primary and continuing education.”
Political action is necessary. But we have to do it together. It’s unreasonable that we, fragmented by polarization and tribalization, will separately attain the goal of saving lives; for it is far more likely that many, by the strength of united effort, should attain the goal.
As members of the human race, our hearts are connected through the suffering of others and through the potential tragedy of life that each of us could have had the misfortune of being born into.
You received a text from your daughter telling you that there was an active shooter in her school and that she might not make it out, but she loves you eternally and thanks you for the life you’ve given her.
You embraced a grieving Sandy Hook mother whose tears hit harder than any bullet ever could.
You were a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas who sat stricken in fear as the sound of gunshots filled the air.
You barely escaped the massacre with your life.
You returned home to the loving arms of your parents after the unimaginable tragedy.
You would later have to hear the names of 17 fellow Eagles who didn’t go home to their families that day.
There aren’t many facts of life, but this is one: we are each personally responsible for all mankind. Once we realize this, we can create lasting change in the world.
It’s not an easy thing to live, but there are things we can do to ameliorate unnecessary suffering.
We can take legislative action to prevent the monstrosity of gun violence from persisting. We can love those we feel deserve it the least. We can embrace those who are hurting.
And we can start today.