Our children are leading the charge for gun reform in our nation. Before you write me off on that, please listen.
What if I can be right and that doesn’t make you wrong? What if we both have our truths and our fears and our values and holding them close does not actually threaten one another? Is it not true that two people viewing opposite sides of the same coin would describe it completely differently, and that both would be correct?
I do not believe the solution to this problem will rise from targeting the disagreements between us. In fact, in my most paranoid parts of my brain, I believe the polarization of this issue is intentional and calculated to divide us. In the best parts of my heart, I believe we are smarter and better than that.
We can agree that we want our children to be safe, that watching them murdered in school is intolerable. Can we also agree that neither of us holds the whole solution, and that the best resolution will come as a result of both our efforts? Can we agree that your knowledge and experience and passion are just as valuable as mine? Can we agree that the best solutions come from robust contributions and that we need each other to understand and overcome our blindspots?
Can we agree on targeting the problem, rather than one another? This is a most serious and difficult challenge. It is easy to fall into sharp contrasts and judgments about one another when we hold these values so close to our hearts, and when we are confronted with such senseless loss of life.
Yet, we are called on to be the grown ups. We are challenged in these moments- the moments where the stakes are so very high- to be our best selves. We are challenged to set the example, to lead with integrity and to do something to protect our children. Rightfully so, they depend on us to shelter them. Sadly, they are so frustrated and scared by our inaction and lack of leadership that they have taken the matter into their own hands. They have resorted to protecting themselves. I am afraid we have failed them in this respect. That is not acceptable.
However, in many ways, the activism of today’s youth is a shining example of what we have done well. We have raised children who are articulate, smart, compassionate, and who are willing to work hard for their convictions. They are brave and they are determined.
But let’s not forget, they are also young. They are testing and tuning their voices. They have jumped into a national arena, often appearing in places and situations that would intimidate most of us. Let us be careful to treat them with the care and compassion they deserve. Let us model good leadership, compassionate discourse and respectful dissent. Let us encourage them in finding their voices while teaching them how to listen. Let’s teach them how to craft the best resolutions by bringing the best minds to the table. In short, let’s teach them how to be better than we have been.
Our children are giving us an opportunity to rise. It is now our responsibility to answer the call. We set the example for them the same as we do for all other things in their lives. Let’s encourage them, respect them, have empathy for them, and give them our love and support even when we disagree. Let’s empower them to believe they can create a better world because our evolution and success as a country depends on them reaching greater heights than the generation before. It has always been that way, and they need to know that carrying the torch is a tremendous honor and responsibility.
Likewise, let’s love and listen to our neighbors and those who disagree with us. It is our chance to stay in the game and to leave the world better than we found it. We do not reach those new heights by pulling each other down. Remember, we considerably more powerful than our fears. Let us slow down, listen up, and come together. We are so much more than this.
Give ‘Em Hell
PS. Thank you to Dr. Jerry Evans and Leadership Montana for sharing the “coin metaphor” with me and for encouraging me to invite the stranger into my personal life and public discourse.
The below is a mash up of two great musicals that are on Broadway at the same time- Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. They are very, very different pieces of work created by two brilliant artists. What they have created together is amazing and it illustrates my point quite perfectly.