A couple of days ago, I felt compelled to write a piece on the most recent school shooting tragedy. It was all about how complacency has played a major role in these types of tragedies. I published it through my Medium account because I was worried that it was too emotionally charged for my platform here at PH. I shared it with friends and my blogging circle to get their take on it and how it may or may not fit in here.
And then it hit me.
I am part of the problem.
You see, by worrying about what everyone here would think, I was partaking in the very complacency I'm talking about. I was going to share a piece from the heart somewhere else because I was worried I'd offend someone here, or that the piece wasn't filled with enough happyness insight that it didn't have a place here.
The fact is- happyness is often messy and hard, and we have to remind ourselves that without the counterbalancing effects of sadness, frustration and anger, we would have no way to measure our contentment.
So, I've decided to re-blog the piece here, after some revisions and additions. It is long but powerful. Please enjoy:
This evening a friend shared Mark Manson’s recent piece on school shootings and it really hit home with me. Not only did he do a wonderful job of staying out of the political blame game, but he made a point to draw your attention to the real issue at the core of this type of violence.
His brilliant insights about the complete self-centered nature of our culture and the general loss of empathy across society are something that have become more and more obvious to me as I delve deeper in to living a life of mindfulness. All too often, when people pursue their passion and chase their dreams, they seem to forget that if you have nothing and no one to share those successes with, then all of it is pretty darn moot.
Living a purpose driven life does not mean living selfishly, nor does it mean living selfless either.
It's All About the Blinders
What Manson talks about is what H and I have been saying for a long time. It’s not the guns, it’s not the mental illness, it’s not being bullied or going goth that leads to these horrible tragedies. Manson says it's the utter loss of empathy. I have to agree, but what is the cause of that loss?
It’s the simple act of not paying attention.
Of being complacent.
Of putting up blinders every day in our lives.
Of living through mindlessness instead of with purpose.
Of being a follower instead of a leader.
Of living in fear.
Americans are way too good at building their value systems upon their far-flung bipartisan beliefs. They fail to realize that the powers that be want it that way. The media just eats it up and regurgitates it for more ratings, while congress uses the division to keep themselves in power. More importantly, a conversation we’ve been having in our house recently centers around the fact that sticking to any sort of system blindly seems to be the norm, and its creating devastating consequences.
I’ve discussed this frequently from the parenting perspective. Go here and here for more on that. H and I don’t really have a parenting system or philosophy other than just working off of instinct. Mostly our instincts are right, but sometimes our actions are wrong and we have to change something. We both are learning to let go of our EGO when it comes to raising our boys and think about whats truly important.
What a 4 Year Old Can Teach Us About Instinct
When I first heard of the shooting in Santa Barbara I thought what most Americans did.
Oh No! Not Again!
Then I did what I do best, I researched what I could about exactly what happened.
The more I read, the more incensed I became.
I was heartbroken for the families of the lost. But I was also struggling greatly with an overwhelming sense of frustration.
So I took a few days to process. I retreated into myself and tried to analyze why I was feeling so angry. I sifted through the bipartisan rhetoric that ran across my news feeds and filtered out the knee jerk reactions in my own mind.
I let go of my EGO and tried to think very clearly about what it was that my instincts were telling me, and why my defenses felt up.
Then it hit me as H and I were discussing the boys and how profoundly independent they are- more often than not to the point of frustration.
You see, about a week and a half ago we had a pipe burst in our basement. There was gushing water, hot mind you, spewing like a fire hydrant from a pipe downstairs and within minutes there was several inches of water on the floor. While MA (our nanny) was pushing the water down the drains in the floor to keep the flooding to a minimum, I was frantically trying to turn off the hot water valve. Turned out that the valve labeled “main water shut off” didn’t actually do a darn thing, neither did the second valve, or the third. It took ten minutes to get the water off.
In the middle of this craziness, Little P came running halfway down the stairs wanting to see what all the fuss was about. He saw the water and heard it as it echoed up the stairwell. I shouted at him and Little R to stay upstairs and watch their show because I didn’t want him to slip and fall or get near the hot water. Well he interpreted my shout, and heard the rushing water and instantly decided that we were in danger.
Whilst I was attempting to get the water off, he quickly and instinctively did what he thought he needed to do- get the hell out of the house.
He sensed danger to him and his brother. He was very, very afraid, but still ACTED on his instincts to get not only himself, but also his brother, out to safety.
I know he was very, very afraid because when I came upstairs a few minutes later all I could smell was Cheetos. I immediately thought our clever and rather opportunistic four-year old had raided the pantry while I was dealing with the pipe. Nope. I came around the corner and saw orange vomit all over the floor leading to the front room. As I walked into the front room I saw another place with vomit, and yet another across the large storage bench that he had pushed to the front door in order to undo the dead bolt to get himself and his brother out to the front porch and to safety.
My four-year old, despite being afraid and stressed to the point of vomiting, kept his wits about him and followed his gut.
Why We Should Be Outraged- It's Not What You Think
Later as we shared this story, filled with hilarity, with a few friends, it suddenly dawned on me that our sons will ACT. They will be doers. They will not be followers.
They will not be complacent.
And I am so glad.
In every single one of these shootings, there are almost always a multitude of opportunities to head them off before they occur.
If only someone would act.
Complacency is the worst un-act anyone can perform. [tweet this].
Time and time again, there were a myriad of warning signs that these young men were precariously close to doing something devastating. And no one did anything.
No one wanted to ruffle feathers.
No one wanted to offend anyone.
No one wanted to stand up and take the lead.
Almost everyone turned a blind eye.
And in situations where someone attempted to bring things to the attention of authorities, those above them brushed it off.
Some of you may know that I had the incredibly difficult and humbling experience of working on the famous (or infamous depending on your stance) Virginia Tech litigation. I was one of the first paralegals to work on the case for the plaintiffs. I had the pleasure of sorting through the 50,000+ pages of discovery produced in the case, much of which was later published in an online database for the public. In a lot of ways working on that case is what opened my eyes to the fact that almost nothing you see in the media is accurate, and what may be accurate is literally a grain of sand in the massive amounts of actual concrete source information available to those in the know- most definitely NOT journalists.
What Manson states in his article is true. Multiple teachers and fellow students and even department heads brought the tech shooter to the attention of those above him, but because of complacency and an agenda of political correctness, he was left alone. Each of them instinctively felt physically and emotionally threatened by the presence of this quiet Asian kid who wrote a LOT of very disturbing essays and poetry, continuously harassed female students, and made teachers want to quit their jobs. But because for decades our society has shunned criticizing anything about anyone, in the name of tolerance and equality, he slipped through the cracks on multiple occasions. His own roommate was deeply concerned about him, but in the end even his attempts to get help were ignored.
And then on the day of the event, no one was able to disarm him because of their fear and perceived helplessness.
We have become so comfortable in our high-tech, relatively violent free, lives that we’ve forgotten how to live instinctively. We no longer have to hunt for food or protect our own property as we did a century ago. Medical care has become so advanced that we no longer have to worry about preparing for the winter to sustain life. Instead we are able to sit idle at computers, gossiping about friends or living alter egos through the world-wide web. We have the privilege to worry and fret over our hairstyle and eye color and how our jeans fit. We’ve replaced farming and hunting with video games, the Kardashians and mani-pedis.
When the reality is that the majority of the world still has a keen sense of fight or flight. In Kenya many tribes still do not name their newborn children for the entire first year of their lives because of the likelihood that the child will die. Here in Jordan, the monumental refugee crisis has put incredible strain on the economy in the second most water poor nation on the planet. In the empty lot across the street from me, an impoverished refugee farmer uses two rib thin horses to hand plow the rocky, dusty, trash filled terrain, so he can plant a few hundred feet of okra and some sunflowers.
As the realization hit me that my frustration was not just in the violence that took place, but also in the complacency leading up to such events, I thought about how disempowered and incapable our youth are becoming.
Complacency is what leads to the destruction of whole civilizations. [tweet this].
America's Disconnected Youth and Young Adult Population
We’ve raised two entire generations of people to believe that they can do everything and anything and that they are entitled to all that they desire. Our government has even gone so far as to make parents legally and financially responsible for their children until they are 25. We’ve refused to allow them to think and play and act on their own. We’ve squashed every ounce of creativity and individualism under the pretext of being politically correct. In our acceptance we’ve created a society where everything, no matter how odd or violent or different is becoming the norm.
We’ve raised them in such complacency that there is no patriotism, no sense of community, no empathy, and no honor.
We have not armed them with the tools and problem solving skills required to survive in an unpredictable and often violent world, because the new American motto seems to be “anything goes.”
Hardly a single person was able to act on a fight or flight instinct in those classrooms in Santa Barbara. Some of the students were young, others older, all of them adults, but none of them felt empowered or confident enough to ACT.
We’ve created such fear mongering surrounding school shootings and terrorists and guns, that our young adults are not adults at all and cannot act and think for themselves.
Here’s the thing: Bad people are everywhere and are always going to do bad things. Murderers are going to murder, regardless of whether they have easy/legal access to their weapon of choice, or whether they are in honors classes, or whether they have a loving home.
I, for one, will not have my sons believe that the right thing to do in the face of a murderer is to cooperate or cower.
I want them to live off instinct. I want them to be able to rationalize and think on their feet. I want them to know and accept that if they ever find themselves in such a horrible situation that they are most definitely going to get shot or cut or otherwise injured, and may likely die, but that regardless of those things they WILL be the ones that go down with a fight, in the hopes of saving themselves and others.
More than anything though, I want them to DO and ACT on their instincts and be that person who will point out the rabid elephant in the room and say that something needs to be done before that elephant kills people, regardless of whether or not they are going to hurt the feelings of the elephant or the elephant’s family or friends.
It’s not about the guns. It’s about a society that has lost its way, and in the name of equality and fairness is slowly losing its independence.
I will raise my sons with integrity and honor and bravery. I will raise them with independence. I will encourage them to stick up for others and be a force of guidance. I will teach them that blinders are for the blind and the mindless.
I will praise and congratulate them whenever they stand up for what is RIGHT and JUST, even if it results in Cheeto vomit on my floor.
I encourage all of you to do the same.
It’s time America took off the rose-colored glasses and smelled the Cheetos.