The recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has stirred a cauldron of anger with which we have become entirely too familiar. We hear the same refrains after each shooting that meets the increasingly ambiguous criteria for news coverage. From one side comes a cry for increased gun control, with some even calling for bans on owning certain types of guns á la Australia in 1996. From the other comes a barrage of slogans of tradition and strong attachment to personal ownership of firearms. The two camps yell past each other, and some in the middle attempt to have a serious discussion about mental health issues without getting much traction.
Both sides have valid arguments but neither gives the other any credit. Instead, everyone acts as though the debate is a turf war, with any concessions being the beginning of a slippery slope that turns out to be an ultimate loss. Meanwhile, the substance of the issue is completely lost and we remain exactly where we were before. So, nothing changes and the victims become pawns in a conflict that no one intends to finish. After a few news cycles, the combatants pack up their bags, go home, and wait for the next one.
I don’t have any answers to the big issues. But odds are, neither do most people talking about them. The arguments have become so stale and repetitive over the years that they might as well be bumper stickers. I’m sure some of them actually are. Once the debate starts to consist of the same tired taglines, it becomes useless. We resort to this style of argumentation because we know that we don’t have much power to enact the change that we need to see. We do everything we can, which isn’t much on a national scale.
Instead, we can stop the talk. We can sign off of social media for a day or two and take time to engage with those who mean the most to us. Our loved ones can receive the attention that they’ve lost to our computers and smartphones for years now. There really are no words that can explain or help the tragedy that these families have endured over the last few days. Their pain will last for years to come, and all we can do is let them tell us how best we can help them. None of us can know how best to do that. Any of us who have suffered loss know that to be the case.
While most of us fortunately cannot fully comprehend the suffering that Parkland is feeling, we can certainly understand that another social media post is not going to help. We’ll go back to the life we were living before, blissfully ignorant of the fact that dozens of families have been changed forever. That’s okay. It’s part of the nature of being human. But for now, let’s realize that we can’t boil these events down to a few handy hashtags. Let’s take a minute, count our blessings, and think about what change we really want to see and how best we can use our talents to help them come to fruition.