A guest blog post by Connor Ross, my brother in law who lives in Northern California. I think he has an interesting take on the bigger societal issues behind these tragic school shootings.
Like many others, it was the news from Connecticut that made me speak out on Facebook. I started a discussion that led me here – writing to all of you. I did not start out with this intent, but I feel that it’s too important to stay silent anymore.
Some of what I write below is the conclusion from that discussion and some of it has been expanded on with new thoughts and a bit about my own past experience in conflict resolution. I am not speaking to any one group or subset of people. My remarks are intended for all to reflect on.
Our Society Built This
Before another person feels like being sarcastic or witty, more weapons isn’t the answer. Let go of the arrogance that you could have stopped the shooter “if only you had been there” or “if only all the kids and teachers were armed” – that is not productive in this discussion and it is only self serving, distracting, and naive. Moving on.
It starts with parents. We need to rebuild our culture into one that values peace over conflict (i.e. stop rewarding the loudest most confrontational people with reality shows and sponsorships). Stop glorifying war, stop glorifying gun ownership as a symbol of “ultimate freedom.”
Teach children that their actions affect others, teach them peaceful conflict resolution using words that heal wounds, not weapons and hatred that create new wounds. I’m not saying there is an easy solution, I’m saying we need to stop looking for quick solutions and take the time (maybe several years, even a decade) and shift our violent culture back to one that values peace over conflict.
When I was in the third grade, I joined PAL, which stands for “Peer Assisted Learning.” I was a conflict resolution officer. I was trained by my principal in ways to resolve conflicts between my classmates that focused on respecting both parties, skills that helped find common ground and peaceful solutions. I’ll admit, I live in California, so this may be a bit more progressive than what others may find at their local elementary schools, but the skills I learned helped in real life conflicts on the playground, and to this day I still use those skills I learned to get me through tough times. Knowing how to find common ground between two parties and come to agreements is an important skill as one gets older. I say the sooner they learn these skills, the better they will hone them as they grow into adulthood. Children need this counterweight to the myriad of aggressive and hyperbolic imagery of our media culture. They need to be taught to use my words and that violence doesn’t solve anything. It is so simple that we overlook how our own actions undermine this effort. Children cannot be told anything, they must be shown the way.
Real housewives of anywhere, video game makers, parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, friends of friends, strangers that you see in town – I am talking to you. If we are serious about this, if we really want to prevent these shootings and not forget about it with the next 24 hr news cycle, it will take all of us committing to non-violence to change the tides of this nation. It is going to take time, but the great thing about that is our descendants will reap the benefits of our actions, and we will be held up as a model society – one that decided enough is enough and is willing to take on this serious issue regardless of how hard or how long it takes.
Healthcare Falls Short
The second part of this discussion needs to center around the failings of our healthcare system to sequester troubled people like this and treat them. I think we need to really think about how we can care for people with disabilities like this years before they are at the tipping point to commit violent acts. In some people that I talk to, I am seeing a total lack of connection between how these people are treated by their peers, and how that leads up to the violence. In many instances, the people committing these violent acts are neglected, teased, bullied, and altogether made to feel “different” from the rest of their peers. I am not saying that all who are bullied will end up as violent murders, but some people don’t have the emotional stability and family/friend network to help them cope and get through it.
When I have kids, I am going to teach them to love the nerd, be nice to the geeks, seek out the kid that sits alone at lunch. That’s the inclusiveness we need. It is so easy to turn our backs on them, to let them separate themselves from us, but we can’t let them do that. The day has come when we need to start teaching our kids that compassion and love will take them way further than hate and anger.
We need to take a serious look at ourselves to see how this got so out of hand. I look forward to a healthy discussion and debate over these issues, and I hope you take the time to reflect and respond… hopefully in a respectful and peaceful manner.
If you would like to keep the conversation going, please visit my Facebook page and send me a message. I will be setting up a forum to discuss all of these topics. This will be a place where mindful discussion takes place. NO POLITICS in this one.