another mass shooting

I was on my way to drop our kids off at school while listening to PBS when the reporter starts going into detail about the mass shooting that happened this past weekend in Alabama. I say out loud, "that is so sad and heartbreaking. Another mass shooting." 

It's officially Gabriel's tenth birthday today and we've been celebrating all weekend. Today is the day I'm supposed to drop a treat off for his class, but I won't be able to because Cristian isn't feeling well and he's staying home with me. Although we're all listening to the radio, Cristian asks me to repeat what I've said. We have never shied away from these difficult conversations with any of them and I immediately tell him that there was another mass shooting and more people were killed by a person with a gun. I hear him clear his sore throat and he immediately says, "All guns should be banned from the entire world. So, no one can get hurt." I look over at Gabriel and his eyes are glazed over but he asks me if I'm going to drop off a treat today. I tell him that it will probably have to wait until tomorrow. It's LucĂ­a's turn to get out of the car. I tell her that I love her so much and I hope she has a great day. To take care. She makes sure to wave and say goodbye before she closes the door. 

During the 2016 elections, I remember seeing certain photos on Instagram with people holding their semi-automatic shot guns as a way to affirm who they would be voting for. It was jarring to see images like this, but the point was very clear, the person with the gun was willing to overlook any other harmful behavior as long as their right to purchase and use a firearm was protected. I was still really sensitive about speaking out about these topics online and would become so angry and hurt that it would spill into my day-to-day. You probably remember my graduate school era. It was because of the elections that I decided to go back and finish my degree. You all know how that transpired, but I'm mentioning it because I learned a lot about empathy during that time.

I stopped trying to convince people who disagreed with me that my viewpoint was the right one. I was enacting the very same close-minded approach that they were enacting because I was not willing to meet them where they were. To be clear, this does not mean that I don't believe in truth per se, but I will get into that later on! Before I begin unpacking this a bit more, it's important to note that I argue from the basis that our humanity should be morally neutral. 

One reason I was enacting their same behavior is because it is harmful to argue on the basis of 'moral superiority" even if that was never my intention. Morality has and is used to wield power and control in our world. When you're trying to get a point across to someone who has already made up their mind, doubling down on whether or not they are wrong will get you no where. In fact, it will probably shut the door to any future conversation. As someone who grew up in the Pentecostal church, during my deconstruction of my deeply held beliefs, I felt how difficult it was to uproot harmful ideology that is planted with a kind of power that is meant to leave you weak and questioning when you are beginning to do that kind of work.

 What I also realized during this time is that, it's really difficult to teach a grown adult empathy. I apologize that I don't have a link to back up what I'm going to write next, but I truly believe that empathy is something that MUST be nurtured in our children and is as important as giving them food or water. Our survival as a species depends on it. When a grown adult refuses to even at an infinitesimal level extend a willingness to curiosity and conversation, to set aside their deeply held belief for a moment in order to have an open dialogue about how another human being is being harmed by something that can be controlled, I think there's a lack of empathy there.

I believe that the ultimate truth, or at least one of them, is that we are all human beings. That our humanity is what we know to be true. Now you can probably see how even that truth isn't even fully believed by all of us, but just imagine (cue the Beatles) if we all did believe.  My deep desire is that the only conversations I have before drop off with our three are about treats and how much I love them. But sadly, they probably won't be. I will continue to instill in them a deep understanding of our humanity, connectedness and demonstrate what empathy looks like in action. That is something I can control for now.

I always have organizations doing grassroots work in this area on my link tree.



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