When will it be enough? When will we all, politicians and regular citizens alike, decide that enough people have died? Our country is sick. And that means, whether we like to admit it or not, all of us are a little bit sick too.
Collective problems aren’t solely the vice of individual people. Gun violence is an epidemic. You can say that people are crazy, but there are significant patterns and trends that cannot be ignored. Gun violence is a social problem with many factors, which means it must be approached from every aspect of society. Since no one solution is THE solution, we do nothing. As we argue about what might or might not work, we do nothing.
I’ve talked a lot about “self care” in the past, because I truly believe that if you love and care for yourself, then you will be more likely to spread good in the world. It’s difficult to be lovely to others if you hate and deprive yourself of joy.
However, after the recent political shift, with all it’s negativity and rhetoric of “other”, it felt to me “self care” wasn’t enough. It’s too easy to stay in our cozy bubble, care for yourself, and let others wilt. Too easy to care for yourself and still believe that other people are different or more or less worthy of care and life. As we continue to see violence every single day, we have to recognize that a large part of our cultural ethos fuels this problem.
Instead of “self care” we need “soul care”. Taking care of ourselves as part of the collective soul. Taking care of ourselves as in caring for others as well because we are all one. It’s been actually proven that it makes you happier to help others! That sounds stupid, but at the heart of things if we understand that we are all in this world together, part of a whole, maybe there’d be no motivation to destroy others.
What’s happened now, though, is we have a culture of violence. Plain and simple. There’s really no way to argue that we don’t. Are there good people and good things happening? Yes. Yet, many of us are quiet because we don’t know what to do or how to respond. The problem of violence seems so big. We are surrounded by violence at every turn – games, TV, movies, books, news – and it’s totally normal to be entertained by other people’s suffering.
Feeding our souls a diet of violence and hate doesn’t heal the collective consciousness. Does it cause us to commit violence? Maybe not. But in some cases, maybe it does. It certainly shifts the culture into acceptance and normalization of violence. It does make it ok to enjoy the rush of excitement or fear it produces.
When mass shootings happen, we pick our sides. For or against guns and gun control. For or against healthcare for all so mental health issues get addressed before shit goes down. For and against whatever. We all have our adopted ideas about what will and will not work.
When do we finally say, “I don’t have a perfect solution to this, but let’s try to fix it in any way we can. I’m willing to talk. To try something different.”
That’s where I’m at. I’m not a gun owner. I don’t like them or anything they stand for. Because really, it’s death. Plain and simple guns are about death. You can make it sound like “protection from others” or “protection for my family” or “just for hunting” or whatever… It’s just death. Someone dies at the hands of a gun. That’s it.
If you are a gun fan, collector, owner, I’d like to ask you: What’s the point? What do you get out of gun ownership? Can we agree that there’s no reason for regular people to have military style weapons? Or more than one gun even? Why argue so staunchly for your right to own a gun? I guess I don’t get it. Is that the only and best way to show your independence? It’s in the Constitution? Are you really that in favor of being able to kill someone else? To protect the right of others to kill you should they find your or your family intimidating or disagreeable?
We’re at the point as a society, I think, that we need to not just look at the gun issue though. It’s not JUST the presence of guns. Certainly, we’ve got too many guns. That’s a given. People have guns who should not, but even that is hard to measure because you can’t always see who’s going to think that shooting people is the solution to whatever problem they have. Mental illness, vendetta, loneliness, sadness, boredom. By the time you’re looking for the reason, the problem is already too big for reasons to matter.
What we’ve created in this country is a culture of violence as entertainment. If you look at the entertainment media, TV shows and movies, many of them are crime shows or horror where you’re basically training yourself or your viewers to enjoy violence. We’ve trained ourselves to see violence as a fun way to spend our time. As a way to get noticed, make a point, or “win”.
If you look at video games, it’s the same. You’re literally training kids, mainly boys, to find pleasure from anger and shooting other people or beings. It’s fun. You level up. It feeds them an aggressive mindset with an outlet of taking their frustration out on other people through violence.
If you look at news media, it’s the shit show of negativity. Granted, there’s a lot to choose from, but we’re bombarded with negative images, stories, and many times those stories bolster our belief in “other”-ness. That someone out there is out to get us, our way of life, or whatever. Which is why we need our guns, some argue.
It all keeps us apart. The culture of violent media keeps us both watching our backs and nonchalant when shootings and violence occur in real life. It’s what we see everyday. The entertainment just got a little real. It’s life imitating art.
My question is: why do we support industries of “art” that are so clearly about violence, hate, and negativity?
If you think about the belief that what you put out into the world is what you get back, what are we putting out into the world? What are you allowing into your world? I’m not saying people who get shot put out negativity in the world, but culturally on a grand scale. If you look at what the United States gives to it’s people and the world, a lot of it is violence. Media, military – and yes, some military is necessary perhaps, but in the end, people die, even business decisions at the expense of people’s lives and health. The stories and history abound with profit over people. In the end, that’s what it all comes down to: profit.
There’s the also belief that to be strong, you need to be aggressive and independent, not wimpy. That violence is an answer, a way to solve problems and get your voice heard. Trying to talk it out or understand another’s point of view is not worth the time.
There’s the acceptance that feeding your soul violent content is fun and entertaining.
There’s the deeply held resistance that “this” isn’t the right answer or “that” won’t work. And it all leaves us with a growing problem.
Giving everyone guns not a solution. If you don’t address the cultural problems, then you have everyone shooting everyone and we all die. That’s not a world I want to live in.
What can we do as individuals to help solve the gun violence problem? It’s not an issue that can be easily solved, not by individuals, and really even not by laws at this point. More laws and more enforcement would help perhaps, but here’s what I think we each can do. Will these ideas work? I don’t know. Can it hurt to try something different? Nope.
Stop consuming violent media.
Don’t watch the crime shows and don’t play the games. Encourage the people you know and love to do the same. Ask yourself if that’s really what you want to train your soul to enjoy? It really produces no benefit at all. It trains you to be ok with violence and live in greater fear of people different than yourself. If you watch or use violent media, you are inadvertently supporting the creation and growth of a violent culture.
Take it one step further.
Write to the media outlets, the networks, and the game companies and request that they shift their programming. Violence is easy money. They are more creative and can still make money with other content. I’ll be doing this and I’ll share the letters I write too. Is this going to do anything? Who knows, but it’s can’t hurt.
Make sure your work, talent, and effort is not contributing to a violent culture.
If you’re an actor, writer, designer, or producer – or any number of people that work in the industries that create violent content – don’t work on content that supports a violent culture. Find a new job or lobby your bosses for better, more positive content. That’s easy to say of course, but we all have a voice and it can’t hurt to choose work that brings us together. Don’t be an internet troll either for that matter.
Talk to people.
Get out of your own comfy circle and talk to people who are different from you. This could be in person, on social media, or simply by reading books from other cultures and viewpoints. We all tend to hunker down and stay within our limited social circle. Our culture is very “Us vs Them” and staying our our own bubble keeps that going unless we actively try to connect with other people.
Take it a step further.
Start a conversation group in your area. Go to Meetup.com and start a group. Pick a topic and chat with whoever shows up. Worldview expanded. Listen and share.
Be kind to everyone.
We all get caught up in our daily lives, the busy, the hustle, and it’s easy not to notice other people. It’s especially easy to cast aside people who are rude or different. Listen to those around you, ask questions, and be kind no matter what. Look people in the eye and speak up if you have concerns about someone’s wellness, behavior, or demeanor. That could be simply asking them how they’re doing and waiting to really hear an answer. And let people be themselves without expectation that they be or act according to your worldview.
The “us vs them” mentality doesn’t do our country or the world any favors. The idea that if someone else gets a job and does well, doesn’t mean that you can’t. If someone else is having fun or enjoying life, doesn’t mean that there’s no more joy for you. We tend to think in comparative terms; if someone else is eating pie, then I can’t or I should’ve been able to eat pie, but they ate all the pie. There’s enough for everyone. You can find another pie. You can make another pie. Someone else’s success in pie eating doesn’t preclude you from making, sharing, or enjoying your pie. I mean life. All people are worthy of a good and joyful life. Full civil rights and equality. And pie.
It doesn’t matter who you are, teaching inclusivity, understanding, and kindness to other humans of all genders, skin colors, religions, abilities, and backgrounds heals the world. If you teach that others are part of the same human condition, a part of the collective soul, then you diminish the hatred and division. If we accept those who are different as one of us, it’s hard to act out against them. Against anyone. We are all in this life together. And if you find that statement fluffy or naive, then I’d ask you to take a look at your beliefs about others people and question why inclusivity seems threatening.
Assess your need for guns.
If you’re a gun owner, consider why you own them. Is it for sport? Out of fear? Out of respect for the cowboy nature of our country? Would your gun ownership be worth it if somehow those guns killed someone in your family by accident? Is your need for protection or independence based on courage and kindness or simply fear? That someone else might try to take your stuff? Or your life? That’s fear. If you believe that arming everyone is the solution, then that makes me sad for you. Why not give up your guns willingly so you’re not part of the problem? Again, as I write that, it sounds ridiculous, but at some point we’ve got to change our habits. That’s a way to support kindness in your life and spread goodness not hate.
Write a letter to the NRA.
If you are an NRA member (or even if you’re not), write to the NRA in support of limits and rules and more safety and training. Whatever you can think of that supports those who have guns being safe, respectful, and restricted. That’s what the organization should be about. Not selling more guns and ammo. If you are a member, then your membership dues support whatever they lobby for and support. I’m not an expert here, but it seems as though there’s been a major shift. Demand that they adopt stances on control and safety rather than profit and proliferation of violence.
[I honestly would be 100% alright with a gun ban where the government goes around and collects everyone’s guns. It’d be better. People would still find a way to hurt others, I’m sure, as some people would definitely argue, but it wouldn’t be as easy.]
Call and write your Representatives. Write and call the White House.
Demand the government take action to 1) address gun violence in a significant way, and 2) ensure that citizens have access to healthcare, including mental health. And possibly 3) insitute limits on violent media, or 4) ensure stricter enforcement of rules that are already in place.
Join an Organization like Moms Demand Action or Everytown.
They are doing good work and allow you to organize on a larger scale. There’s likely a chapter new you.
Assess your own behavior, thoughts, and actions.
We can ask our representatives to make a stand, but we need to make changes in the way we act everyday. If we as individuals do everything we can to shift from a culture of violence to a culture of inclusivity, kindness, and creation, then eventually things will shift.
Will people still act out? Sure. But if we take a stand to eliminate violence from our own habits and reach out to others through conversations and acceptance, it will spread kindness, goodness, and understanding. It will enrich our world and expand our horizons as a collective soul. Eventually it will make a difference even if we can’t see it right away.
Will any of these things change the course of our nation and our world? I have no idea. But I am tired of hearing the same ‘that won’t work’ arguments and doing nothing. Nothing certainly doesn’t work. Love works. Eventually. Love yourself, love others. Love wins in the end.
Love is passion, love is action, love is doing something because you know in your heart that it makes a small difference in someone’s life. Love is making sure your life and effort go toward the public good. Love lifts up everyone.
As the quote on my daily calendar says:
Each of us will one day be judged by our standard of life, not by our standard of living; by our measure of giving, not by our measure of wealth; by our goodness, not by our seeming greatness. – William Arthur Ward, American writer
**This article is my first response to another horrific event. It’s a handful of ideas and things to think about. I’ve disabled comments because, in my experience, they are more problem than good. If you want to discuss any of this, feel free to contact me.