This blog first appeared on Huffington Post, July 21, 2012
Beyond the grief and despair over the Aurora massacre lays an invitation – to say “No more!” There is oneness in our responses of disbelief and anger to a massacre of those watching a movie in Aurora, Colorado. What if we believed in the possibility and power we possess to change the conversation about gun control?
Like many I’ve lit a candle for those killed and injured and for their loved ones. I’ve mindfully said out loud the name of each person killed where that information is known. Along with others I keep the grieving and perplexed family members in my intentions.
I’ve been surprised by the responses to my question about why we are still debating the need for tighter gun control restrictions. I know and appreciate that there are a range of views on this issue held by good, decent and thoughtful people. But I’m troubled by the despairing helplessness of so many who say that our political leaders refuse or are too scared to address the issue or that the debate is so polarized with entrenched arguments that their voice is insignificant.
They’re legitimate feelings but they are a cop-out. They are a marker of disengagement and helplessness. Yes the political intransigence and cheap slogans of those on the extremes of the gun control debate are pervasive. But haven’t we allowed that by our silence? Instead be part of creating a new course of conversation.
Speak up. Your reactions to the Aurora massacre are vital. Give voice to them and the urgent need for a rational conversation about gun control. The Constitution is clear about the right of any citizen to bear arms but that is different than the arsenal of weapons that the Aurora killer was able to acquire legally. Your right, and that of every American, to safety and security without fear of being massacred is at issue.
Teach our leaders about civility. The name calling of those with opposing points of view denigrates public debate about issues and is nothing less than an abdication of leadership. Be clear that you expect adult conversation that is civil. Call people out when civility is lacking. Model civility in the midst of different opinions.
Respect differing opinions. Allowing others to be demonized because they do not share your view is the easiest way to cede your voice and power to those who have no intention of engaging in discussion that matches the seriousness of the massacres experienced in Aurora and Seattle among other places. Insist that our leaders frankly address the implications of their position so that the possibility of further Aurora’s become a remote possibility if not impossible.
Assume the goodness of others until proved otherwise. Most leaders are in their fields because they have a desire to make the world a more just and better place. Engage them on gun control with that assumption. Be clear that you need to know how their position and actions will impact public safety and reduce the possibility of another Aurora massacre of innocent people. Keep asking until they can tell you about expected impacts and results.
Our voice and imagination about how things might be are vital to our own humanity and the world needs the voice and imagination of each person – without it we are all deprived. What we say, hope and do matters!
To speak up, model civility to our leaders, show them how to respect different opinions and assume the goodness of others is a life-giving way of honoring those injured and killed in the Aurora massacre and their loved ones. How will you claim the invitation that this tragedy invites to say, “No more!”
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