School. What’s the first image that comes to your mind? For some individuals, the idea of school brings feelings of nostalgia, a yearning for old friends, perhaps flashes of past athletic achievements or a time of creativity and artistic endeavors. For others, there may be some dreary images: visits to the principal’s office, after school detentions, difficult academics. Whatever the image, for most people, the idea of school brings a feeling of safer and more structured environment.
Disney. What does this image bring up for you? Mickey Mouse? Happy families with young children riding rides on summer vacations? An escapist adventure filled with a world created by a dreamer and businessman? How ever you experience the image of Disney, there is little doubt that it suggests a sense of safety in a well-planned and creatively organized setting.
Now let’s try again: Columbine. Sandy Hook. Orlando.
Children and innocents subjected to dreadful moments that ended or forever changed their lives. Unimaginable horror and violence.
How is it that we as a society can create the ideas of
1) “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (18th century);
2) emancipation and universal education (movements that arose in the middle of the 19th century);
3) the Disney-like experiences of an idealized world (a development of the mid-20th century);
....and yet still not able in the 21st century to free ourselves from the pestilence of a privatized arms race?
As a professional, I can certainly understand the difficulty that Americans have in rationally considering gun control. We tend to over-identify with the idea that gun ownership is somehow equivalent with an ability to protect our individual sense of power. We overlook or discount the overwhelming statistical evidence to the contrary – many more gun owners are killed by their own guns.
No amount of logic or facts, however, can overcome the deceptive belief that guns protect power because it is a belief that is rooted both in our history and in our evolutionary psychology. More unfortunately, it is occasionally, though rarely, reinforced by outlier events (the man who successfully defends himself) and by our romanticized valuing of the gun-slinging cowboy, an archetype of Hero.
What’s the solution to this dilemma?
Perhaps we could offer more innovative solutions: unregulated guns with ammunition heavily taxed and regulated, thereby reducing access to the bullets of destruction?
Perhaps we could heavily tax certain types of guns that are meant only for war and massacre? Undoubtedly, there are clear-cut social and political campaigns that could remedy this growing problem and that would have an immediate effect on this epidemic of violence that we desperately need.
That said, the best solution will take time: we need to teach children the art of practicing compassion, cultivating a sense of curiosity about other cultures and alternative views, and developing a sense of courage to act with compassion and intelligence. We need to incorporate these activities into our educational efforts so that the three Cs (compassion, curiosity, and courage) are taught right alongside the three Rs. We can help our children develop a vision for a world where guns are seen just as primitively as we view past forms of violence as sport (gladiators, bear-baiting, and the like.) Compassion will outlast violence; courage will overcome cowardly acts of massacre; and curiosity will help us understand and cope with alternative forms of being in the world.
At Rock Springs, we are committed to building a future where we encourage and share values of thoughtfulness, kindness, intelligence, and harmony. We do not deceive ourselves by thinking that such progress is inevitable. We know that this future can only arrive with our dedicated intention and committed action.
The time to act is now. The time for solutions is here.
Will you join us in becoming part of this movement for human development?