Boys with Guns: The American Eschatology

On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, the Sunshine State experienced yet another savage act of gun violence as 17 students and teachers lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

The shooting has sparked a new round of ongoing debate about gun safety issues, federal laws, mental illness, background checks, state legislation and school policy.

Our current president has said that one solution could be to arm some of our beloved teachers with guns.

Our former president has argued publicly that part of the solution might be to let the Center for Disease Control study gun violence just as they had done with automobile fatalities in order to propose multiple possible solutions, including seatbelt laws, texting-and-driving laws, and even the way roads are made.

The issue with school shootings and automatic weapons cannot be compared to seatbelts or cigarettes, but we must start somewhere. And it’s clear that there is an entire culture (and industry) built around guns that needs to change.

If ever there was a time for a “yes, and …” approach, this is it.

Yes, we need to march on our government to demand a change in legislation at the state and federal level (education, training, registration, insurance, etc.).

AND, we need to let science and organizations like the CDC into the debate so that we might make informed and data-driven decisions about what is such an emotional topic.

AND, we need to encourage our teaching communities to communicate about student warning signs and family or mental health conditions.

AND, law enforcement needs to listen and have contingencies in place when someone asks for help.

AND, we need less militarization of our nation’s law enforcement so that our communities can feel safe and relate to police officers as fellow humans.

AND, we need to acknowledge the portrayal of violence in the mainstream media (when television says yes to beheadings, but no to nipples; when radio says yes to “gat” but no to “dick”).

AND, we need more “good guys” (and women) with guns.

AND, we need to make it more difficult to buy certain types of weapons.

AND, we need to address the immature and toxic forms of masculinity in our MEN — providing space and opportunity for them to confront and talk about their issues with power, privilege, sex, impotence, anger, loss and pain.

AND, we need to continue to pray for all involved and affected by these shootings — that their suffering is continually held and healed by their community, that they continue to trust and love those around them, and that their world change to ensure that it never happens again.

We can all take up pieces of this problem, but the real paradigm shift needs to happen in the towers of business, medicine, politics, insurance, education, etc. where those in power (just like mass shooters) are predominately white and male. We need a reformation of the conscience, values and policies of our nation, and the NRA needs to publicly be part of this reform.

Where do we begin? For starters, we may give some of that power to those who have been marginalized or have been victims. The more women and people of color we elect, the more minority-owned businesses we support, the more we talk to each other about our illnesses or differences instead of unfriending or shutting down, the more we provide physical touch and comfort to each other instead of disconnecting, the more MEN can talk about their fear and anger and feel like they’ve been heard and validated, the closer we will come to healing.

Calling this problem “evil” is cowardice. That shifts the argument to those in the business of morality. And no one thinks children should be shot.

The problem is not a lack of morals and the solution isn’t to put more “God” in the schools, though some comparative religion and interfaith dialogue couldn’t hurt. The problem isn’t a decline in Christianity, but there is a kind of American eschatology at the root of this debate. Maybe it serves as the shadow to the idyllic potentialities of the American Dream. Will the American experiment fail? Will my power be taken away? Will democracy survive? This type of inquiry is based in a sense of fear at the worldcentric level (concern for broader and more inclusive structures), as opposed to the ethnocentric fear we see with white nationalism (concern for the tribe).

The America our parents and grandparents once knew has died, as it has before and will again. But instead of grieving together around a fire — as a community — to share memories and stories, we clench our teeth and clutch to those memories, shut ourselves indoors, blame the neighbors for our pain and continue to suffer alone. And, our children are watching. They learn from us how to respond in times of crisis. Do we turn toward each other with more compassion and a mind for solutions or do we lash out and reach for something — anything — to use as a weapon.

It’s time to openly grieve for what we’ve lost. Only then can we have the conversation about what happens next.

It’s time for the “boys carrying pain” conversation. Only then can we have the “boys carrying guns” conversation.

It’s time to ask ourselves what MEN look like when they are spiritually mature, confident in their willingness, and powerful in their ability to love and forgive.

Only then can we recognize these men when we meet them.

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