Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Until we're the ones who can't move on

Disaster burnout is a very real condition. In a recent article for CBC news, Kate Bahen, managing director of Charity Intelligence Canada, talked about donor fatigue. One disaster, Bahen said, can "galvanize the donor community," whereas "multiple disasters can paralyze it" (see the full article here).

If you swap out "donor community" with "the population of the United States" and change "natural disaster" with "gun violence," I feel like what is happening in this country can easily be explained by the same sentiment.

We're paralyzed.

I thought of this today as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and found myself instinctively trying to scroll faster past the many images of the victims of the Vegas shooting. Once I realized I was doing it, I felt guilty for effectively ignoring the tragedy. At the same time, if I think about it, my instincts forcing me past this is likely a pretty clear sign of my mind's push for self-preservation. The emotional investment needed to keep caring so much about every victim of a mass shooting in this country is high. At 4 a.m., after rocking a toddler back to sleep and with my mind reeling over the to-do list for the day, perhaps I just didn't have enough to give.

Logical? Probably. Am I proud of that? Absolutely not. But it did get me thinking about some things.

There is a growing club in this country. Membership is mandatory for those inducted, though their participation is not something they would ever agree to if given a choice. This club is for those people who walk around for the rest of their lives living around the hole gun violence has created.

While I don't know what it is to belong to this club, I do know what it is to live around a hole. I lost my mother to cancer 7 years ago. Her death was slow and forewarned. Every single day since, I have dedicated minutes, sometimes hours, to thinking of her, missing her, and wanting her back. I have learned that grief is not linear, and it is a process that never ends. You never "get over" a loss, you simple learn to live around the hole it leaves in you.

According to USA Today, this country has an average of 8,592 gun homicides each year.  For each and every one of those, there are people left behind- maybe 1, maybe 100- that get their mandatory induction notice into the Gun Violence Grief club. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people in this country are living around the hole made by someone lost to gun violence.

I honestly don't understand. I don't think I am alone in this, I think many of us don't understand.

Drunk driving used to claim a lot more lives than it does now. When this was recognized as a problem on a national scale, we went to work. We pushed education to kids in schools, we instituted harsher penalties for drunk driving. Check points became a thing. Signs started warning us to drive sober. As a result, in the last 35 years drunk driving fatalities in this country have decreased by 51% according to Responsibility.org.

I'll need some help here, since I'm too young to remember the impetus of our focus on curbing drunk driving as a country. When we noticed that it was a problem, did people immediately shut down the conversation with discussions about how it is everyone's right to drive a car? Did we consider putting up bumpers on the side of every highway so we don't infringe on that right? Did we throw our hands up and say that making the penalties harder won't stop it all so why stop any of it? Or did we act?

While I generally try to avoid reading the comments section of any article or tweet, lately I have failed in that. What I see there is a lot of sound bytes and generalizations that equate to very effective ways to shut down any conversation about helping to curb gun violence in this country. You likely know most of them by now...

If we make it harder to get guns, people just get them illegally
This isn't a gun problem, this is a heart/sin/human problem 
The left want all of our guns
Republicans don't care how many people die as long as they get to keep their assault rifles 

These all make an easy form response that chews up news time and makes for some heated and cathartic arguments, but very few of them are very close to the truth at all. According to a 2017 poll by Quinnipac University, 54% of us support stricter gun laws in this country- more than half. More than 90% of us support background checks for all gun buyers.

In the interest of transparency, I am pretty far left on most of my political opinions and beliefs, but we need to take that out of the equation.

This isn't about left or right. I support American citizens' second amendment right. I do not want, nor would I support any law aimed at stripping our population of all of their guns. I also support stricter gun laws in this country aimed at limiting the scale of tragedy one well-armed person can cause.
Just like driving a car, owning a gun is a responsibility. Thus, just like driving a car, I support requiring evidence of someone's fitness to do so before they can purchase a gun.

It's really that simple.

Perhaps if we stop making it right versus left, we could all step back and demand action from our legislators. This is a democracy, so given that well over half of us want something to happen, we should have the power to make it.

If we all stop scrolling past the news of the next mass shooting...

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