You Won’t Like This

Las Vegas.

It usually takes me several days to process dramatic and truly damaging events that permeate our shared public consciousness. Las Vegas is such an event. It has made such a deep impact on America that I cannot even speak of it in the past tense, as it will linger and fester in our souls for a long time. I don’t even have to qualify it. Simply the name of the city is enough. And this will probably be the case for a long time. Unless the arms race of massive death creates another tortured soul with a plan.

Heroes is not necessarily the only word I would use to describe the many whose acts of courage and compassion are rightfully honored and revered. So many, in all disasters are called heroes. But in this, as in those, heroes is an incomplete concept. For me, it is not enough to simply say they are heroes. I need to hear why they are heroes, either big or small, either saving lives or soothing scared children.

Heroes do what they do, they run towards not away, because they love their neighbor, out of compassion and empathy. Because they intuitively revere and love life and people, who all deserve to be saved. Tragedy destroys the boundaries between people and carries suffering down the path to hope. The clarity of our shared pain shows us we are one, individual yet part of something greater, something that lives deep inside us and manifests when we need it. This is the divinity and beauty of heroism, not merely a selfless deed.

Now the authorities are looking for motive. Desperately. The motive is simple, as it is for all mass killers. They are in pain and choose to assuage that pain through heinous murder. No matter their state of being they all make a choice. Whether suffering through political anger, mental disorder’s damaged thinking or aggrieved despair, the pain is the same and the choice to act with violence is the same, to make others suffer as they do. Having known severe pain I cannot hate them. But why do we make so many more of them than anywhere else?

These killers act out because American culture permits us to resolve conflict and pain with violence. Not only is it permitted it is the preferred means. Immorality as social norm. But one cannot legislate morality. Conservatives know this but are so heavy-handed and self-serving they cannot serve that truth in a way that serves society. Liberals want to help save people but sell themselves short out of fear. They cannot maintain outrage because more tragedy is always around the corner to overwhelm them. And the twain shall never meet.

Everybody knows subconsciously that the American culture’s affair with guns makes the gun violence dynamic here different than the rest of the world. We cannot be another Australia no matter how much we legislate gun sensible laws. Law can only scratch the surface. Sensible gun safety legislation will help, but not enough. There must be more.

Many say we can’t stop invisible lone wolves from acting, from committing mass murder. That it’s impossible to ferret them out. They use this as an excuse to never try stopping them. The gun makers tell us the solution is more guns. Plenty of us believe this to be true. And a majority of the country does not trust the law to solve anything. In this case, they may be quite right. But I see these people as cowards, throwing up their hands in insincere despair. Selling death for profit.

To my mind, there is a good solution here, perhaps the best solution. Instead of trying to stop these evil killers when they are fully grown and engaged, we should change the way we raise our children, especially boys and especially white boys. Call it sexism/genderism and racism but the statistics bear it out. White men make up a large majority of mass murderers.

The way to stop us from accepting gun violence as a solution to social problems is to stop teaching our children this myth, this soul-crushing lie that violence is the way to go, the way to make everything right. The circle of violence can only be broken by Americans acting in concert to stop telling our boys to “be a man” and then equating that manhood with violence. I feel strongly that this “be a man” syndrome is sinful. The Christ does not ask us to turn the other cheek for nothing.

The glorification of violence is outdated at best. The fight or flight autonomic reaction existed for a creature with few reasoning skills, creatures without language as a tool of peace. There is a reason it is buried deep in our brains. It is no longer a viable means of avoiding pain or resolving conflict. As thinking beings, we can overcome our instant calls to violence. This is not easy. But as humans, we can call on the power of mind over matter. It works.

We must begin the hard work of creating fewer and fewer men with unbearable pain, those who feel horribly wronged but who hide it well, those subjected to abuse who process violence as normal, and even those who are barely aware of what they are doing. Of course, there are anomalies. There are women who act out in this way but as much as prehistoric women were rarely called upon to fight for existence, modern women are rarely acculturated to violence. This, I feel, is part of why they make up a small percentage of mass murderers. Yet another anomaly, in the instance of the sins of psychopaths these souls may never be inclined to abandon violence.

As said, it is imperative that we contribute to the solution the right way, by telling our children that violence is never acceptable. We must still learn the ways of violence as a defense against an existential threat. Complete passivity is naive. But the best way is to show our sons and daughters that violence is not the way is by our actions, modeling peaceful negotiation and mediation as the preferred method of conflict resolution, that through human interaction we can ease our pain.

The best way is better than the right way. And the example we set is the best means of successfully moving our pain into hope, as befits sentient beings. The Sanskrit word for weapon is also the word for tool. We can, as the Christ intimated, beat our swords into plowshares. We can use our hearts, souls, and minds to change society, to join many of us together as one without needing a disaster to unite us. We would no longer need to battle in the halls of Congress. We wouldn’t have to fight so much at the taverns, cafes and dinner tables of America. We could change.

An addendum

You won’t like this.

This will be seen as and called racism and it probably is. But I must say my piece. The situation in the black and much of the Latino communities, as I observe it, is that the relative lack of mass murderers from these communities is due to the fact that their suffering involving gun violence is intimate, up close and personal. It is directed at the individual, the person right there in front of you. Violence here is not an anomaly, it is omnipresent. One need not meticulously plan a bloodbath of the anonymous. Here the pools of blood will be at their feet, and the plan was formed quickly, specific to the grievance. So when those in the public eye conflate murder in these POC communities with mass murder they are terribly wrong. Though the solutions to the violence are similar the essence of the problem is different.

Mea Culpa. Please forgive me if I am wrong about this. I cannot know for certain but I witness. I fully accept a charge of racism for these comments and the mantle of racist. I speak what I feel.

You won’t like this either.

A word about prayers, including candlelight vigils and moments of silence. Prayer is a good thing. Praying for the peaceful repose of the lost souls and healing grace for their friends and families is a good thing. Candlelight vigils and shrines and moments of silence are good things. But they are all also feel good actions. They allow us to feel as though we have acted, we have done something good, something to help. We can do this and then go home and not take any further action, thinking we have done our part. In this, I do not judge. I only bear witness. Think on it yourself.

As powerful as is prayer, for the departed, we must also pray for the strength to do the hard work of changing the nation’s zeitgeist. It will take several generations but we must change the way we do this business. Praising those we call heroes and changing our laws and offering prayers are all good things but they can only save a fraction of the lives we need to.

These things are right things to do but they are not the best things to do. It is not easy to find and choose the best thing over the right thing. Doing the right thing we are so tempted to be satisfied and go home. I am convinced that, for America, the best path to hope out of pain is accepting our own pain and finding our own hope. This will give us the confidence to teach our children well. I believe we all know in our hearts that this path is true.

Let us start on this path together in love.

 

I Kept Threatening To Do This

It’s time for the true identity of Will Servant to be revealed. It’s a pretty flimsily disguised nom de plume to begin with. A lot of you already know me anyway.

My name is Ric Studer and I’m coming out of the anonymity closet to announce my candidacy for School Board in my home town District 742, in the St. Cloud MN area. Several current board members whose terms are ending have chosen not to run. I have been feeling I should run for this important community service for some time and there is need for good candidates to step forward. I’m not normally one to toot my own horn but I believe I have the skill set and character to represent our community well.

Although I am politically a progressive it is clear to me that School Board membership must be a non partisan position. It is my goal to be a voice of reason based on common sense and humility. I will advocate for adequate funding to assure that every teacher and student, including adults, in the district gets all the tools they need to succeed. But I will also look for areas where we can reform and conserve in order to spend each dollar wisely and to the benefit and best interest of the local taxpayer.

There are new ways of approaching education that serve all stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, students and the taxpayers who support them and we must consider them before doing the same old same old because it’s easy and has always been done that way. At the same time we can’t just throw out the baby with the bath water. Many time tested methods and programs should continue to be used to serve the district and it’s community. We will be wise to fully explore there new ways of looking at education, and the forward thinking they represent.

Capital expenditures, currently in the form of replacement and renovation of aging structures, has been a major local issue for several years and the district has struggled to make an effective case for adopting their recommendations, even after extensive research into all the alternatives. The unfortunate disconnects between the Board and community can be bridged through hard work by all parties. I’m sure of it.

Trust in the board, by community leaders and citizens alike must be restored and that can only be done by reaching out into the community and having honest conversations with area residents from all economic, ethnic, racial, political, underrepresented minority backgrounds. Every voice must be heard and every decision transparent. This is the only way to conduct business in the 21st century and the only way the Board can regain the trust and support of the people.

St. Cloud area schools have also reflected the major social issues of the community, as religious tensions have found their way into our schools. As a quality learning environment is imperative if we are to give our students a place to excel, it behooves us to do everything in our power to resolve the religious and ethnic differences that have poured over into the school district from clouded and muddy pools that have sprung up in the community.

Although the conflicts have, to my mind, primarily arisen from the activities of small groups of activists. Their voices are loud and the fear they generate is real. It infects many in the community. Once again, honest, open and respectful conversations are the key to reducing the tensions that impair student’s ability to thrive. I am certain that through this effort the good hearted and self respecting people of the district can find the common ground that will nourish us all.

As we aspire to a new educational philosophy our efforts must can only be directed inward. While researching and discussing the direction of district development and allocation of resources from a new perspective, we must reach outward as well. We must go to the students themselves, in their environment, and meet them where they are, learning for ourselves by discovering what they know and want to know, their life experiences and how they learn.

We must also use this approach to work toward solutions of our social challenges, engaging in meaningful conversations with both the hurt and the hurtful to better create the unity so desperately needed, not only in our schools, but in our communities. We have to humble ourselves, coming together in good faith to listen to everyone’s concerns and working as one  forge a path toward what we all ultimately want, a school system that provides the best possible learning experience for the most possible students.

Everyone says that the single most important thing to them is the kids.  If we really believe that we need to set aside our egos and desires and surrender to our children, who are more precious than gold and and most worthy of our love and nurture. They will show us the way if we have ears to hears and eyes to see.

I ask for your vote and support in my journey toward excellence in service, both public and private, as I learn and grow through giving.