A Moment of Silence for Accountability

Paul Tong / Op Art (Paul Tong) 2009 ©

With this latest tragedy in Parkland, Florida comes the predictable chorus of voices. Politicians taking to the podium offering condolences and calls for change. Citizens taking to social media offering thoughts and prayers and opinions as they demand change. Pundits taking to the television offering narratives in an attempt to explain our pain away. Together, we pledge to do better. And then silence. A deafening and maddening silence for those left behind as we move on. As we shrug our shoulders, point our fingers, and bury our heads, the next shooter is carefully laying out their plans, buying guns, studying reactions, sitting and waiting. Silently we delude ourselves. Repeating like a mantra to ourselves: it won’t happen here (this is a nice neighborhood), it won’t happen to my kids (they’re in a great, safe school), it won’t happen again (someone is going to fix it). But it will happen again. And it will happen near us. And our children may be next.

We failed the families from Parkland and Newtown and Las Vegas, Aurora and Sutherland Springs, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and more. Our words tell them we care, but our lack of action shows them we do not. We look out the window for solutions when we should be looking in the mirror. How quickly we go back to our lives of leisurely worrying. Devoting our time to wondering and debating about what age kids should have cell phones and social media accounts or whether a ten-year-old can walk to the park alone. We pass around GoFundMe pages and Change.org petitions as if they are tic-tacs and we update our social media profiles to signify approval or support of a cause. But when it comes to solving the issue of our time — silence. It’s been almost two decades since Columbine and our handling of the issue has signaled the death of accountability.

It’s time to become personally accountable

If you believe our own rhetoric — that politicians only care about re-election — then make gun violence the issue at the next ballot box and every one thereafter until we fix the problem. If you believe gun lobbyists and dollars are preventing action — then make inaction more costly. If you believe the second amendment is sacrosanct, then look again because every right has limitations. Stop falling for arguments where guns are presented as morally neutral objects akin to cars and spoons — only made dangerous by human intentions. Stop pretending it is a partisan issue. And stop looking elsewhere for accountability — become accountable. Educate yourself on the issues surrounding gun violence — second amendment rights, mental health issues, and take a stand.

Be accountable; hold others accountable. Translate your social media protestations into something tangible — you took the time to write it, now act upon it. Turn your private thoughts of fear and sorrow into action — your thoughts are powerful and relevant when spoken aloud. Be brave. Encourage others to be brave. The problem is not too big to solve, and it’s not someone else’s responsibility. Stop asking politicians when will this end and tell them it ends today.

We are a country capable of change

The problem of gun violence is large and pervasive. It will take time and effort to remedy — commodities that seem to be in short supply these days. However, if the #Metoo movement proves anything, it is that, we as a nation, are capable of having a sustained conversation and harnessing our energies to demand change. Where is this indignation for gun violence? Mass shootings have cut across every artificial cultural line America has, affecting every walk of life — red states and blue states, rich and poor, gay and straight, black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. It has turned church pews, concert grounds, and school hallways into scenes reminiscent of war zones. Creating untold numbers of invisible victims along the way: those relatives and friends who grapple with loss, but also, survivors guilt; the first responders who struggle with the grotesque images thrust upon them; the teaching staff and administrators that second guess their actions; and the community that is never quite the same again. Despite this, we remain stubbornly complacent.

We all have a responsibility to support the school administrators, teachers, sheriffs, and citizens across the country that every day are making laudable efforts to make our schools and publics spaces safer. All the video cameras, security guards, and crisis action plans in the world won’t end gun violence alone. We need to have a sustained conversation that addresses all the uncomfortable and inconvenient realities that surround the issue of gun violence. The solution — and there is a solution — must come from the people. It’s time to hold ourselves accountable, for the greatest impediments to change are apathy and diffidence. Politicians will continue to fail as long as we allow failure as an option.

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