By now, I’m sure you’re all aware of our nation’s latest school shooting, which occurred at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this week. Many of us are angry, horrified, and deeply troubled that the lives of those so young were tragically robbed of their future (and let’s not forget those adults whose lives were abruptly cut short as well). These are feelings we’ve all experience far too often over the years as gun violence has normalized throughout America.
I want to focus on and further discuss the realities of how gun violence has normalized and why this most recent shooting in Nashville will be forgotten sooner than it should be until the next school shooting comes along.
Dictionary.com defines “to normalize” as “causing something previously considered abnormal or unacceptable to suddenly be treated as normal; to become the standard.”
Regardless of your political affiliation, there’s no arguing that gun violence is a serious subject in America, and it sickens me that it’s becoming “the standard” in our everyday lives.
Why gun violence has normalized?
We share our condolences and prayers with the victims and their families. Discuss details of the shootings with family members, friends, and co-workers who are equally frustrated by our country’s inability to enact constructive legislation to try and repair our broken society.
But after a week or so, we all return to our ordinary lives – compartmentalizing the loss of life caused by gun violence as just another news story happening to other people’s families.
And that, my fellow Americans, is how gun violence has normalized in our country. It’s better known as the inability to feel empathy. If it’s not impacting my family, then it isn’t a problem.
Very Well Mind defines empathy as “the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place.”
Empathy is not easy. It requires a courageous, reflective, and humble individual to practice this critical element of emotional intelligence successfully. Though I’m often disheartened, I refuse to believe Americans cannot empathize with gun violence – especially those with school-aged children.
Even extreme politicians have families. Children who establish their legacy while providing unending joy as they grow and develop into adults. After a school shooting, as such politicians say goodnight to their families, they must realize how their children and all children rely upon their parents for protection from all the bad things happening in society. The thought must creep into their psyche that it could have been their child who never came home from school that day.
With that in mind, why have politicians unquestionably failed to protect our children?
The other issue, as I see it, is no one can agree upon the root cause of gun violence in America, and because of that, nothing gets accomplished in trying to remedy the situation.
Gun manufacturers and extreme politicians blame mental illness for the dramatic increase in school and mass shootings in America. Many others blame access to assault weapons and improper vetting to ensure guns land in the right hands.
Whichever school of thought you subscribe to, when is enough enough?
How many more innocent children need to die before politicians finally decide it’s time to create a viable solution to tackle this problem head-on?
Political double standards
My greatest disappointment comes as politicians strive to control the narrative of protecting children by pushing two misguided and unpopular solutions: banning abortion and certain books in schools.
There’s something incredibly hypocritical with politicians’ proposed legislation to ban abortion nationwide, touting their commitment to protecting the unborn fetus as though they were saints. Why is it that they’re doing NOTHING to protect the children who are already here? Why are they not being provided the same courtesy as the unborn fetus?
It’s mind-boggling to me how politicians can deliberately turn their backs on the hundreds of innocent lives being cut short inside a classroom meant for learning while celebrating and leading the initiatives to protect the rights of a fetus that isn’t even born yet.
I know many politicians are also super busy these days banning books and curriculums that focus on African American History or LGBTQ themes – an incredible waste of time and resources given the issues surrounding gun violence in America.
When will Americans realize that the dangers to our children are NOT found in the pages of a well-written book supporting the uniqueness of all Americans? Instead, the real threat comes from the ability of a questionable individual to purchase weapons of war to obliterate children to the point of being unrecognizable at their funerals.
I started this post thinking it would focus primarily on how gun violence has normalized throughout America. But in truth, I believe the issue surrounding gun violence has more to do with Americans’ inability to feel empathy. So while it might sound like I’m minimizing the problem, I think it’s important to remember the psychology surrounding empathy.
Empathy is part of emotional intelligence – “the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.” Notice it says, “empathize with others.”
Why are empathy and emotional intelligence so important for our elected leaders?
In an article on Business Leadership Today entitled, Emotional Intelligence Is an Important Part of Strong Leadership, they state, “Emotional intelligence is important in leadership because it improves self-awareness, increases accountability, fosters communication, and builds trusting relationships by helping leaders process their emotions in a more positive way that allows them to address challenges more effectively.”
If Americans, especially politicians elected to protect our children, not segregate education from them, cannot empathize with the hundreds of families who have lost their children to school shootings and gun violence, then gun violence will continue.
Change only happens when you truly understand the pain and struggles of others. When you sit down and fully listen to their stories and share in their grief – forever impacted by the experience.
Such an experience doesn’t require bravery. It requires an intense perception, a compassionate heart, and a firm understanding that securing the safety of human life should always be the priority in governmental decisions, not money, power, or greed.
Revered author, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once wrote, “I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.”
Leaders who inspire and demand positive change by engaging with their allies and foes are a rarity in America today. It seems politicians have replaced integrity, honor, and morality with cowardness. As long as our politicians lack the courage to stand up against what is socially and morally wrong, gun violence will continue to be normalized.