We live in turbulent times. Certainly, we are politically divided. Some might even think it’s never been this bad. But, they would be mistaken.
Our history includes many times when things were much worse than today. In Jon Meacham’s book, “The Soul of America,” he reassures readers that we have survived much worse: Reconstruction; the KKK; Huey Long; McCarthyism; civil rights struggless in the 1960s. The year I graduated from high school, our nation suffered the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and race riots burned major cities across the country. Half a million U.S. troops were fighting an unpopular war in Vietnam.
Abraham Lincoln asked people to appeal to the “better angels” of human nature. In each tumultuous period of our history, we have been blessed with leaders who emerged to take us to a higher level. Our history is an uneven journey of progress.
Today, the time is ripe for leaders to step forward and challenge us again to find our better angels. But to accept that challenge, we need to stop seeking and believing only information that reinforces what we already believe (confirmation bias). We need to listen to understand, not to respond.
We can stay mired in our political quagmire, waiting for an elected “better angel” to emerge. Or we can become better angels ourselves and change those parts of the world we can influence: our families, our friends, our communities.
We can do better
In America in 2019, there has been an average of more than one mass shooting a day. This is a horror. In many of these incidents, the guns are purchased lawfully. Surely, we can do better.
I am a mental health practitioner and worked for years as a school counselor or in school violence prevention. The recipe for reducing mass shootings is not that complicated. If the problem is mental health, we need to have every child to be a wanted child. We need enough family supports so that parents can provide emotional as well as physical nurture to their children. We need counselors in all schools, particularly elementary schools. We need to focus a bit less on standardized tests and a bit more on emotional intelligence, teaching children to identify and handle their feelings. Emotional intelligence includes learning to communicate well and understand others.
If the problem is guns, we need a reduction in the availability of guns. We need universal background checks and to eliminate high-capacity guns. No one in the general public needs a gun that can fire 100 bullets in under a minute. This recipe won’t eliminate all gun violence, but will greatly reduce the number of incidents and victims.
Neither hate nor mental illness will ever be completely eliminated, but we can reduce both. Let’s limit access to guns, especially high-capacity guns. We know what to do; we only need the will to do it. Please demand action from your elected representatives.
Almost as if
There’s an old rule of life a conservative friend taught me: The more laws you have, the more lawbreakers you’ll have. As President Trump tightens the rules for legal immigration, he practically guarantees that more immigrants will come here illegally. As he continues to try to bully state officials into assisting federal immigration officials, he guarantees that fewer illegal immigrants will cooperate with local authorities.
Meanwhile, factory executives will continue to exploit their labor, free of consequence. Criminals will also exploit them and they’ll have nowhere to turn. It’s almost as if Trump were trying to create an underclass of second-class citizens who can be both exploited and condemned.
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