The clock stared me in the face.
I didn’t set this alarm, but it rings on a regular basis. Sometimes, like last night, it comes mercifully, with nearly three hours left before I have to start my day. Other times, it’s cruel. Pulling me from my slumber when I have just twenty or thirty minutes left to sleep. My wife calls this affliction TTS.
Tiny Tank Syndrome.
But this is not a post about frequent urination. Though, if this post finds its way to any fellow TTS sufferers, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone (and, there is likely a bathroom near you right now. So go!)
When I woke last night, I couldn’t feel my right foot. It was completely numb. For some-odd reason I was sleeping with my ankles crossed, restricting blood flow. So, when I finally swung my legs over the edge of the bed, I felt that not-so-pleasant tingling.
I walked gingerly to the restroom. It was painful. Not like childbirth painful, but probably pretty close to what childbirth would feel like if men who do drug research and make pharmaceutical policy were also the ones in the stirrups.
Like any of you, I’m not a fan of pain. But last night, if I was going to move forward - and eventually get back to bed – I knew I was going to endure some discomfort.
You can’t stay numb forever.
So my real alarm went off this morning and I drove to the gym at 5:30. As I lifted (super heavy) weights and sweated profusely, TVs hovered overhead. Each one blaring the same story.
Kids. Teachers. Seventeen of them.
In their own high school.
And while the news blared, we all went about our business. Lifting. Sweating. Running. Crunching. Cycling.
Now, do I think that we’re all heartless people? Absolutely not. The gym this morning was filled with people who care for elderly parents, volunteer at the food bank, and donate money to charity. If I know one thing about my community, it’s that it is filled with loving, caring individuals. And, no doubt, yours is just like it.
But most of us also live in communities where it hasn’t happened to us. So it makes it easy to become numb. We have the luxury of forgetting the names of the towns and the people who have been impacted over the years. Because thinking about it brings about that not-so-pleasant tingling. It’s easier to stay numb.
But the people affected don’t have that luxury.
They have to push through pain I cannot fathom.
Which makes me feel ashamed that I’ve been silent this long.
It’s no secret that I’m not a gun owner. Heck, I hardly trust myself when using a staple gun to hang Christmas lights. That alone should tell you I don’t have all the answers. And I’m not naïve enough to believe that any single law would have prevented yesterday’s shooting. Or the one before that. Or any of the shootings that will happen today, either intentional or accidental.
But it’s also naïve to think that no action at all (or more guns) will help. I have loads of friends who own guns, and I cannot think of a single one of them who opposes common-sense gun laws. In fact, an overwhelming majority of gun owners are in favor of background checks for private sales and at gun shows (77%), and preventing the mentally ill (89%) and people on no-fly or government watch lists (82%) from buying guns. And, due to the fact that over two-thirds of gun owners and non-owners alike believe that family instability contributes a great deal to gun violence in our country, it stands to reason that most of us would be in favor of restricting access to guns to those under suspicion of domestic violence.
The time for working through those icky, tingly feelings is long overdue. We must move forward.
So what can we do?
The first thing is easy. Refuse to stay numb. If you are one of those who agree with the stats above, then copy and paste them into an email and implore your representatives to draft and pass common sense gun legislation that protects the rights of responsible gun owners AND makes us all safer. It’ll take you five minutes.
But the second thing is so much harder. Without a doubt, we all sympathize with the victims of these unspeakable tragedies. None of us wants to see our fellow man experience such depth of sorrow. Yet, as soon as our conversations turn toward solving the problem, our hearts seem to turn as well. And this is what has to change.
We must stop dehumanizing one another for the sake of a cause.
I’m as guilty as anyone else. As we work our way out of the numbness, it’s eventually going to be prickly and painful. I will read articles I disagree with. A good friend will post an opinion that contradicts mine. And, in these moments, it is easy to form camps of us vs. them. We see it all too often. A dialogue becomes a disagreement. A disagreement becomes a debate. And the debate grows defensive. Pretty soon, when statistics and rationale don’t persuade the “other side”, I start to see the other person as my enemy. Calling them mindless sheep. Dirty, lying snakes. Ignorant jackasses.
And it has to stop.
Because when I do this – when WE do this - we become the problem we are trying to solve. The truth is, dehumanization is at the heart of every violent act that floods our newsfeeds. Shootings, Sexual assaults. Racial injustice. The only way our reptilian brains can justify the mistreatment of another person in this way is to see them as something less than human. And when we start to see one another as predator and prey, we feed this beast of conflict and division.
And it gets us nowhere.
The truth of the matter is – we need each other. None of us is going to solve this problem on our own. And, I’m sorry, but we cannot work through the gray by standing across from one another, fist to fist, in a race to see who can debase the other side the fastest. Nor can we afford to wait for the day when everyone is personally touched by the tragedy so we are forced to act.
No matter your position on this issue, we must remember that we are all children of God, and worthy of love and respect. If we hope to make progress, we have to work from passionate points of agreement. Standing side-by-side. Wrestling with the difficult issues, but never losing sight of the common goal.
Because we’re all in this together.
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