This editorial was originally published on November 21, 2017.
Every time violence hits close to home, the debate is renewed.
Locally, the death of a college student in a shooting incident on the heels of another student being wounded in a shooting the week before has people acutely aware of violence. A Nov. 14 prayer vigil was held “for healing, peace and hope.”
Nationally, the nation has been stunned by mass killings in Las Vegas, Texas and New York City. In two of the incidents, guns were the weapon of terror. In New York – as has been the case in Europe in recent times -- a truck was used to run over innocent people.
Whether the motive is terrorism as in New York or unknown as in Las Vegas or vengeance as in Texas, the result is terror and senseless killing. The resulting debate focuses often on what can be done about weapons used in violence incidents, with guns always targeted as if to blame for the violence.
It’s time to take a look beyond the surface issue such as weapons – and stop the blame game, says Marianne Clyde, a licensed therapist and expert in mental health in the workplace with more than 27 years of experience. She is founder of the Marianne Clyde Center for Holistic Psychotherapy, in Warrenton, Virginia, and the author of three books. She lived in Japan for more than eight years and has spent time in at least 20 developing countries, teaching about recovery from trauma, personal empowerment and interpersonal relationships.
“After a heartbreaking incident … each of us is horrified and wants to change things so it never happens again. Of course. That’s an absolutely normal reaction to a frightening event.
“This is not a time to politicize by blaming ‘Republicans’ or ‘stupid gun owners,’ as was evidenced by ill-informed tweets as way of expressing frustration. These kinds of tweets enhance division, insist that there is only one way to see things and put up a wall of resistance to intelligent, informed, compassionate solutions.
“It must start by taking personal responsibility. There is an emptiness in each of us, longing for connection and love and value. In a misinformed, reactive effort to fill this place, we try to fill it with temporary measures that only further destroy.
“We fill that place with materialism like more money, power, things, which insulates us to the external problems, or substances like drugs or alcohol, numbing the pain or creating factionalism, homogeneous groupings demonizing others, which make us temporarily feel justified. None of that works on a long-term basis. That kind of thinking alienates us, drives us further apart, and exacerbates the problem.
“We point out evil and crazy thinking and lack of regulations. That is no more efficacious than being a football fan screaming obscenities from the sidelines. It just makes more noise, releases a bit of frustration and makes us angrier.
“Before we react, we need to take a deep breath and step back from the drama for a moment and strengthen our own internal locus of control. This can be done as a healthy coping mechanism, as it causes the brain to operate more effectively in the moments. It helps us think clearer, and be less reactive. Creating this type of personal habit, through meditation, mindfulness principles like meditation, has been proven through recent studies, to actually change the brain. Anger, stress, negative emotions limit our capacity to function most effectively. The more we, as individuals, continue to think it’s OK to react in hatred, rage and blaming, the worse the problem will get.
“The more of us that make the effort to learn and use healthy coping mechanisms like deep breathing, detachment, gratitude, meditation, respect, less judgment and forgiveness, find that our brains change in a way that makes us less reactive to stress, clearer and more circumspect in our thinking, and better able to see our oneness with other humans rather that our differences.
“The world will change, not by over-regulation, blaming, demonizing, but rather by one person at a time, taking personal responsibility for our thought processes and responses, creating an environment that creates unity and solutions that work.”
As much as an individual response might be, “Well and good, by I am not the one with the problem causing such terrible events,” Clyde’s point is to have individuals look deeper and realize that her points back up the title of her writing: “Murder is not caused by guns or trucks, but by our thinking.”
The Rev. Dr. Wesley Shortridge, pastor at Liberty Church in Bealeton, Va., said recently, “We have never been able to stop addiction by outlawing drugs.”
Clyde correctly concludes: “The same goes for guns, trucks, immigrants and anything else.”