5 Painful Truths We Must Accept About School Shootings To Make #NeverAgain A Reality

Here we are again.

Less than a week after another horrific mass shooting at a school and we have already heard the Celebrity in Chief talk about mental illness as the major contributing factor. And of course he has made no mention about changes on the gun control front, but really is anyone surprised at this point.

The Sandy Hook shooting back in 2012 affected me so much more than any of the other equally tragic predecessors. It was because they were just so young and I had a young daughter not even 7 months old at the time. It was incredibly sad. And it was obvious to anyone watching that President Obama was equally as affected as he set out to make real changes on the heals of such a devastating event.

Still, he couldn’t get it done.

At that moment it became painfully clear to me that there will NEVER be a school shooting painful enough to act as a catalyst for change. At least not at the top level of lawmakers. Admittedly, I am immensely impressed by the high school students who have spoken up in the wake of this most recent tragedy, and even somewhat hopeful of student action planned for April 20th. But still, deep down I know how all of this is going to play out.

If we want these tragedies stop it has to be done at the grassroots. We need to understand the flow of money that directs policy. And to do that we need to understand the psychology of people who buy guns.

And we need to accept the following 5 painful truths.

  1. NRA donations peak after tragedies – When incidents like the ones at Parkhill and Sandy Hook happen gun owners fear they will lose their second amendment rights and race to make more donations. In the end these tragedies empower the NRA to have MORE influence over policy makers.
  2. Beliefs and Values are not going to change – Especially when it’s about such a passionate issue that the vast majority are either strongly for or strongly against. In fact, when our deeply held values are challenged we feel intense fear, and when they are validated we feel pleasure. Passionate activism and protests are NOT GOING TO WORK.
  3. The NRA has MANY sources of income – It’s much more than the donations noted above. Almost half comes from membership fees. Then there is the Ring of Freedom sponsor program that has accounted for as much as $50 million directly from gun manufacturers. Beyond that there is almost $20 million in advertising revenue from their publications. And finally there are some companies that donate a portion of every sale to the NRA.
  4. The NRA has a very powerful ‘WHY’ – The NRA knows why it exists and knows what it is meant to do. Summarized from their by-laws their mission statement is as follows: “To protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, especially with reference to the inalienable right of the individual American citizen guaranteed by such Constitution to acquire, possess, collect, exhibit, transport, carry, transfer ownership of, and enjoy the right to use arms.” They communicate this ‘why’ clearly in everything that they do and thus they have recruited millions of like-minded individuals. These people are passionate and loyal to their cause.
  5. The solution to the gun problem will have nothing to do with guns – Of course, vastly improved gun legislation could have dramatic effect on the amount and types of guns available. This would obviously reduce gun deaths, but you must believe by now that these types of changes aren’t going to happen. The solution lies in finding another way. If we are passionate about anything right now, let it be in finding common ground with those who believe differently than us.

And it starts by asking the right question, framed in the context of having nothing to do with guns directly.

“How do we protect our children?”

EVERYONE wants to protect their kids. There may be vastly different approaches but it can be a powerful source of common ground. And if we take the gun control issue off of the table what could we come up with. On the level of policy the resulting conversation would have to focus on things like poverty, drugs, gangs, mental health, social services, and meaningful employment. On the local level it would be about community, school safety, bullying, and connection.

To fix this we have to focus on issues that bring us together, not ones that drive us apart.

Unfortunately, this approach is all about the long game. This is not a welcome idea for a nation desperate for immediate improvement. As well, most of these issues are not historically strong areas for the republican party.

So what can we do right now?

Right now? We mourn. We rage. We heal. And then we act.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.com/larry1235


Was Donald Trump a Necessary Evil in the Name of Progress?

Can we all pretend for a moment that things just went slightly differently on Tuesday night?

Let’s say two results changed: First let’s imagine 60,000 Trump votes in Florida switched to Hillary, and second that she received 70,000 more votes in Pennsylvania. That gives her enough seats to win. If this was the case, and assuming the results were accepted and Trump conceded, life would soon continue on much as it was under Obama.

America would have quickly reverted back to pretending that the racist and sexist portion of their population was a distant minority. And they would have got back to pretending that an economy that’s rebounding nationally is obviously good for everyone regionally. And this ‘Trump supporting’ part of population would once again feel ignored, and retreat back into those communities where they are surrounded by people who believe what they believe.

America could then comfortably go back into denial about who they really are. Yes, there are plenty of wonderful qualities about Americans. They have this wonderful spirit of entrepreneurship, of sticking up for those that can’t stick up for themselves, and strong beliefs in freedom and opportunity. But like all of us, they have a dark side. And you can never conquer your darkest demons until you are forced to admit they exist.

Getting back to reality, with those painful results from Tuesday night America can’t hide from it anymore. They are like an alcoholic who finally has to admit they have a problem. But the truly wonderful thing about recognizing your problem is that this is a place of redemption. And it is the only place where real progress happens. You would never make great strides towards that future utopia absent of racism and sexism until you stop fooling yourself into believing they’re not there. Yes these are dark times, but this is rock bottom and the only way left is up.

Unfortunately the prototypical American approach for expediting change seems to be confrontation and brute force. They send troubled kids off to boot camp, yell at each other on talk shows, or troll the comments on social media. But this will NEVER work for values. Ultimately, this just pushes people into hiding until they see an opportunity to emerge again, likely with opinions more entrenched and extreme than ever.

American politics is also incredibly divisive. This is because of extremely long campaigns, an adversarial two party system, and relentless 24/7 news coverage. But in spite of all of these forces pushing the two sides apart, now more than ever we need a reason to come together.

Because I believe our potential for progress is directly reflected in the strength of our desire to find common ground. To get to that place where we are talking about values we need a starting point. And I believe we can all agree on a fundamental need for the following: Peace and Prosperity. Because during wartime people vote about peace, in peacetime people vote about prosperity, but in peaceful & prosperous times people vote about values.

Donald campaigned on, amongst other things, achieving prosperity in Middle America. Hillary’s camp retorted with talk about his values. But if you are concerned about getting food on the table you don’t give two shits about values. Just like if you are at war and a bomb might fall on your house, you don’t give two shits about jobs.

If you create a world where people are confident that there will always be a roof over their head, and food for their family, then and only then will everyone be willing to have open discussions on their values.

This is achieved in basically two ways. Social programs or job creation. If Donald can successfully create more well-paying jobs in Middle America then we should all rejoice because that brings us closer to that place where we can finally have meaningful discussion about values. The country then becomes an environment in which the root causes of sexism and racism can begin to be addressed in ways that will truly affect change.

Lets not kid ourselves either. The change from wartime to peacetime can be quick, repairing a broken economy and creating job can take years, but changing peoples core values takes generations and we must be patient.

In the meantime Americans must be more vigilant than ever in defending those core values. Because, as of January 20th, 2017, they won’t be represented in the Oval office. It will truly be a difficult time to be a Muslim, Black, Hispanic, or even a Woman in the US right now and they need us not only by their side, but standing on the front lines.