Reader alert – my content and statements are strong and emotional. Please understand it is not my intention to offend, but rather to challenge and demonstrate NERVE.
I originally planned to compose my blog on the brilliance and relevance of Edwin Friedman’s book Failure of Nerve. Dr. Clark even mentioned this text as one of the most important, and life changing, texts of our leadership reading list. But I woke up this morning (November 8th) and learned our country, specifically Thousand Oaks, California, became the target of yet another mass shooting by a white male (same profile of almost every domestic mass shooter in the United States) in which thirteen people have died (including the shooter). My hurting heart and mind wonder ‘how and why does this keep happening?’ I pose a probable cause – failure of nerve. Specifically, failure of nerve starting with myself regarding my own advocacy around gun control, and an even larger issue, failure of nerve of our churches, communities, local leaders and national leaders. I have to be honest, taking a strong stand on gun rights is not necessarily safe in my home (my spouse is a law enforcement officer and avid hunter – not to mention a huge advocate of gun rights; consequently we have many guns in our home). Nor is my very rural and conservative community open to discussing gun control and/or solutions to gun violence. But today, I’m taking a stand. Something needs to change, and it’s our access to guns.
Gun violence and mass shootings have become a part of everyday life for Americans. This was evident to me when two women were shot in a random shooting, by a white male, two weeks ago in a Tallahassee Florida yoga studio. The incident barely made news headlines. “An official at California’s Ventura County Sherriff’s office, speaking at a news conference Thursday morning, was almost certainly referring to the United States’ seeming epidemic of mass shootings when he said that the killings in Thousand Oaks were “part of the horrors that are happening in our country and everywhere, and I think it’s impossible to put any logic or any sense to the senseless.” I respectfully disagree with the sheriff. There is a pattern that connects each of these mass shootings. The first pattern is the angry white man (in many cases feeling rejected –“other research suggests white men commit mass shootings out of a sense of entitlement”) and …the second pattern is that every shooter had a gun. If you remove the gun from the scenario, the shooter(s) will still be angry and troubled thinking violent thoughts (and struggling to self-regulate). The difference in the equation is the gun – it’s easy to access, easy to purchase, and easy to use in a moment of instability. We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our seniors to manage guns better!
Did you know “several countries are now warning travelers bound for the United States to be on their guard. Because gun violence is a noted problem in America, visitors are asked to be aware of their surroundings, be vigilant in their activities, or even “exercise extreme caution” when interacting with local law enforcement officers.” Wow! Are we ok with this? What a sad narrative on where we are nationally. I have to believe our very own citizens don’t even realize that internationally the United States is perceived as this dangerous. “We” claim to be the greatest nation – dominant economically, dominant militarily, dominant in freedoms, dominant in our cultural imprint around the world. But guess what, we are now dominant as an advanced country that has the highest rate of violent deaths “This data set provides a multinational example of the central point that lethal violence is the crucial problem in the United States,” Zimring and Hawkins write. “It shows the United States clustered with other industrial countries in crime rate, but head and shoulders above the rest in violent death.”
In Chapter three of Failure of Nerve, Friedman challenges the modern idea that data and its analysis should drive all decision making. In fact he states “this a self-limiting, cultural myth, as powerful as the belief, rooted in the Middle Ages, that it was impossible for explorers to sail past the equator”. I’m committed to forging ahead, with or without, the perfect statistics and data to back up my belief that something has to change regarding gun accessibility. Yes, I know it’s the second amendment of the constitution “the right to keep and bear arms”. The constitution was inherently flawed. As originally written, it was for the benefit of one population – the white man. Women had no voting rights and persons of color had no rights. Friedman identifies the qualities necessary for reorienting oneself out of limiting leadership into effective leadership. I’m willing to put greater emphasis on the emotional processes of self-definition, self-regulation, and non-reactivity to advocate for an overdue, immediate cultural need…gun control. Most importantly I aim to keep standing for who I am and what is true and good.