Walking in the Shoes of Others

For days I have tried, unsuccessfully to get my mind off of the events that took place last week in Charleston.  If you have spent anytime reading my posts on this blog you know that I try very hard to avoid controversial topics like politics and religion.  I also generally try to keep my posts leaning towards the positive and good in life.  Admittedly, in my first draft of this post I wrote entirely from the negative.  I wrote with anger.  I wrote with embarrassment and sorrow for our culture.  As I write this over Father’s Day, I find it unimaginable to walk in the shoes of the victims or the victim’s families.  I try and the grief and anguish seems overwhelming, unthinkable.

Last Sunday our family attended church in our normal routine.  We learned all churches in South Carolina would ring their church bells at 10am in solidarity and support of those families suffering at the hands of this racial terrorist.  Hearing the bells ring and listening to the homily from Father John about our need as people to connect in these tough times, not hide in fear of such unspeakable events and to believe that good will come from this act of deep hatred, I returned to my first draft only to delete most of it and try to write with more compassion, less anger.  I also found myself trying again to feel what those 9 souls felt in the minutes during their senseless murders and I too found this impossible.  Unthinkable.  Unimaginable.

In the days since the massacre last week, through exercise routines, long runs, walks alone between meetings at work, hot commutes and even while enjoying a baseball game with my kids my mind finds a way back to the events in Charleston.  Not just Charleston, but also Sandy Hook in 2012 where 27 people were gunned down, the Washington Navy Yard in 2013 where 12 people were murdered senselessly, Aurora, Colorado in 2012 where 12 peoples died and 58 were injured by a shower of bullets in a movie theatre.  To engage in a debate about whether the gun or the person with the gun kills seems ridiculous.  To deny that fewer guns in a society means fewer gun-related deaths also seems ridiculous.  Silly.  Wrong.

I have largely avoided the media view on the Charleston Shooting.  The few snippets from Twitter that I have seen, like Jon Stewart’s no-joke Daily Show monologue or this Australian Comedian’s take on the absurdity of our 2nd Amendment (warning: contains language not appropriate for the kiddos) make me wish that these views would polarize us as Americans who are tired of seeing these events and allow us to tackle this tough issue once and for all.  That is my hope.  I realize hope alone won’t move our country to solidarity on this issue.  I also know other countries have cured their mass-murdering ways (100% of them) and while I cannot believe they are immune from crazed, hateful bigots, they are proof this issue can be drastically reduced if not eradicated. Eliminated.

So, where am I going with this post?  Truthfully, I am not sure.  I’m not going to blab on about the statistics of other countries with strict gun laws and the lack of people being shot in those countries.  I’m not going to use tons of words to show that we, as a pure democratic society, can change our laws and even our sacred Constitution (after all it has been amended from the original state 15 times if you don’t count the first 10 that were written as a part of it and the 21st that repealed the 18th).  I won’t talk at length about the extremely high percentage of highly responsible, safety-conscious gun owners in our country and the lack of threat any of these law-abiding citizens pose to society.  It seems unfounded to do so from my position.  Untimely.  Fearful.

I CAN pledge that I will never own a gun.  I won’t willingly allow a gun in my home.  I won’t teach my kids gun safety.  I will actively teach them gun avoidance.

I personally believe guns exist for only two purposes beyond the necessity of law enforcement/military security:

  1. For entertainment for the enthusiast who simply likes to shoot guns in practice, sport/hunting or competition.
  2. As a tool to kill for the criminal, murderer, terrorist, lunatic or upset human with access to a gun.

I don’t hate, dislike, mistrust people in this first group.   I am actually a little sad for this group because to fix our problem where groups of innocent Americans are murdered with regularity, this group would have to give up something they enjoy and something to which they have had lawful access.  No, that doesn’t seem fair.  But I also can’t see any clear path to identifying all of the 2nd group and curing them of what drives them to kill before this happens again (and again).

9 black Americans, praying in church, were executed last week.  These people were praying.  A man they welcomed into their church, a man with a gun, killed them all in less than a minute.  No stone, knife, fist or even bow and arrow could have done this.  No human of love and respect for mankind could either.  9 Americans died in church.  We should do everything in our power to keep this from ever happening again.

From this event, I also pledge to teach tolerance, acceptance and for my kids to actively look to walk in the shoes of others.  I will teach them to wish all humans, no matter their differences, goodness and well-being.  Kindness to all.  Respect for others.

I feel deep sorrow and grief for the families of the nine victims.  Much of this is driven by the sadness of this repeated narrative.  People using guns to kill.  And people disliking others for their differences.   And most of all, the hopeless feeling and fear that nothing will change regardless of how many times the narrative repeats.  To overcome such hopeless feelings I find myself hoping more than ever for the following:

  • A future without mass killings at the hands of humans wielding guns.
  • A society that can walk in true equality – one where race, gender and sexual orientation is a diversity we embrace, not hate.
  • A country that no longer tolerates celebration of a heritage steeped in bigotry and division – after all it is 2015 already.
  • A media that unbiasedly reports on these acts exactly as they are – in this case, racial hate-based terrorism.  Nothing else.
  • A government that finally understands the negative connection between campaign finance and rampant lobbyist abuses and the direct harm these abuses have on our citizens.
  • A human race that places at least equal value on the lives of our planet’s inhabitants as we do the freedom to place such value on items that exist to do such harm.

I hold hope for a day in my life where our American people stand up to make tough changes for our greater good.  What would it take to fix it?  If we knew we could eliminate or nearly eliminate events like these would we take the steps?  If we could sacrifice a freedom some enjoy for greater safety for all would we?  If you were one of the nine killed or related to the nine my bet is on yes.  But then you’d be wearing the shoes rather than being asked simply to try them on and take a short walk in the them wanting to understand.  Change.  Embrace.

Closing questions:  Does any good come from a tragedy like this and if so, what do you think it will be?


2 thoughts on “Walking in the Shoes of Others

  1. Jason, I saw your post in David Kelly’s twitter feed. I wrote a letter to our elected officials after the Sandy Hook tragedy, expressing some of the same feelings you shared. I received a form letter back from Tim Scott that made it clear that he had not read my letter, and that his key-word search mistook my position as being pro-guns. I also received a letter from Lindsey Graham that thanked me for my letter, but he stated his position which was contrary to mine. I also sent a letter to Mick Mulvaney, but I don’t remember ever receiving a response. Here is a link to the letter I wrote. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YGl2f04xqbMg5acfrpCT8V3lf63IpSpKEoR59nm72jM/edit?usp=sharing

    You ask what good can come from the Charleston shootings. I don’t have an answer for that, but I would just urge you to share your position with your elected officials, as they’re the only ones who can stand up to the gun lobby. Also, I support a political action committee called Americans for Responsible Solutions, which is led by Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords. Their position is very reasonable, they’re both gun-owners, and they’ve been advocates for all sides of the issues from improved background checks, to limiting high-capacity magazines, to better funding and support for mental health programs. When I found out about this PAC, I honestly couldn’t give them my money fast enough. I have also been a contributor to Sandy Hook Promise, which is not a PAC, but is a non-profit that also focuses on advocacy. Here are links to both of those organizations. The NRA is the largest political action committee in the U.S. with the most members. Not sure if they have the most $$, but they can’t be far from the top. It’s going to take a huge amount of public support in order for lawmakers to stand up to the NRA lobby. It’s scary how much power the NRA has. Fox News covered the NRA annual convention like it was the RNC or the DNC.

    I’ll say this for Lindsey Graham…he was the chairperson for the committee that heard the proposed legislation to limit magazine sizes a couple of years ago. Even though the bill didn’t make it out of the committee, and Graham publicly spoke against the bill, he could have kept it from even coming to a vote at the committee level. He didn’t do that. He let it be heard, and it was voted down. I don’t agree with his position, but I don’t think he’s a puppet for the NRA.

    • Great response and information. I will continue to write my elected officials and spend some time reading more about the advocacy groups and PACs you outlined. Thanks for the input and your response.

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