Enough is enough. I can’t stand watching one more news clip of terrified people fleeing schools, office buildings, churches, and movie theaters. I want to be done with the carnage and confusion. The slaughter of innocents and the overthrow of our human psyche. And, you know what? America’s mass violence is your fault. It is my fault. Stay with me here.
Not Another Killing Rampage!
Yesterday I escaped my office to fit in a late afternoon exercise bike ride at the gym. With my Martha Stewart Living issue on “200+ Ways to Live Happier, Healthier, Cleaner & Greener” in hand, I set my workout level on the bike and glanced up at the row of TV screens.
What? Another mass shooting? Noooooo … now where? Forget Martha and cleaner and greener, America was now scrambling yet again to piece together the crime scene and twisted motivation of one more person who chose to injure, maim, and kill.
Because I’ve been a journalist on scene after a number of mass murders in our country, people often say to me after another killing incident, “What do you think about another mass violence tragedy?” Ugh. It pains me deeply when I learn of more bloodshed in places many of us have long considered safe. I cringe thinking about the dead and the wounded, and the survivors and families whose lives are splintered with unimaginable disbelief and anguish. How do the police officers and first responders continue to step into the horrors of the unfolding war zones? Lord, have mercy. Please do.
The Buck Stops Here
So what should we do about all this never-ending violence? Work across political aisles to rethink policies and laws? Yes. Revaluate mental health services? Yes. Point the finger at us? Yes. Wait. This isn’t my fault? Well, in a way the mayhem is the fault of all of us.
As I peddled and pondered yesterday at the gym, I kept asking myself, How can I make a difference in stopping this insane escalation of killing? What part of this comes down to how I live in my community and country? Where have I personally contributed to the underlying problems?
Forensic psychologists are scrambling to compare the profile of these killers. Mostly men. Predominantly white. Some have untreated mental disorders. A New York Times feature on mass murderers describes the character of these troubled souls, “they are often paranoid, resentful or narcissistic.”
Resentful. Now we’re getting closer to the gnarly-rooted problem. Yesterday one of the TV commentators cited a new study reporting that almost half of all the U.S. mass killers in recent history had an issue with personal grievance. Revenge. Bitterness. Unforgiveness.
Wasn’t humanity’s first murder committed by a brother peeved that his offering was second-rate? That gene of feeling slighted and less than and unloved is encoded in all of us.
What Can We Each Do?
It’s not the barrel of a gun or the explosive evil of rogue terrorists that I should fear. I need to shudder at the condition of my own heart.
Every time I complain about something someone did or didn’t do, I reveal the darkness in my own attitudes. Whenever I turn a blind eye to someone else’s struggle, I dim their chance of change and success. If I point a finger at your weaknesses, I decrease my own strengths.
Before another person on our planet is senselessly killed in mass violence, you and I can rise up and turn around our own indifference, insensitivity, and indignation. What if we modeled these basic action points in our lives and taught all the children in our lives to do the same? Start with just one.
- Realize that you can’t always have your own way.
- Be okay with failing at something.
- Lean into what disappointment can teach you.
- Yield to others in traffic, in lines, in everyday situations.
- Talk out the tough stuff when a relationship, job, or aspiration ends.
- Allow love to win out over hatred and revenge.
- Kill people with kindness and courtesy.
- Sit and really listen to someone who is hurting.
- Show respect for those in authority even if you disagree with them.
- Take personal responsibility for poor choices.
- Understand that the best way is not always the easiest way.
- Speak up, step in when you see a wrong done.
- Watch out for planting seeds of grumbling and bickering.
- Learn to temper your speech and your temper.
Enough is enough. America’s mass violence is your fault. It is my fault. But we together can effect change by looking inward, then living well outward. For as Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”