Gun Violence and the Solution That’s Right Under Our Noses

Last month, President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hosted a roundtable discussion where they invited victims of school shootings to the White House to discuss their experiences and ideas for solutions. Regardless of your position on the president and Mrs. DeVos, this was a welcomed development in the debate over gun violence. Instead of debating, arguing, and the typical candor between politicians, real people came together to share solution ideas for a problem that has divided us for years. Not one to watch the news (or what I call “the noise” because I’m just so damn clever), I was transfixed. In a culture where we’re focused on who’s right vs. who’s wrong rather than “How can we come together to create a solution?” for once those in attendance had a common goal: create a culture of safety. Not five minutes after the meeting ended, came the hot takes from pundits and social media accounts focused again on who was right and who was wrong, why the president is an asshat, and his meeting notes, including a reminder to “hear” those voicing their concerns. We were right back to focusing on problems instead of creating solutions. In all this noise, we missed out on the solution to the problem that was offered during the meeting that doesn’t just take care of the symptoms like mental health reform, banning certain guns, or arming teachers: a cultural shift focused on how we see one another.
During this meeting, one person really stood out to me: Darrel Scott, father of Rachel Scott, who was killed in the 4/20/97 shooting at Columbine High School. This was the school shooting that brought the topic of gun violence into the national spotlight almost 21 years ago, and still, few solutions have been reached. In fact, mass shootings have only intensified, because in these twenty-plus years, Columbine has dropped out of the top 10 list for deadliest shootings (um… yay?). It’s time for new ideas, because the ideas we’ve been working with for over two decades are clearly not doing the trick. What Scott said struck a chord with me since I study and share how to create positive workplace cultures for a living. Scott has a brief opportunity to get to the core of, not only the issue of gun violence, but the issues of violence in general and the underlying lack of happiness plaguing the country. Scott isn’t just talking about it a solution, he’s actively doing something to fix the deeply rooted cause of violent behavior: a lack of human connection.
Since his daughter lost her life, Scott has founded Rachel’s Challenge,* a nonprofit on a mission to create a positive climate focused on making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect. According to Scott, the program has touched 28 million students since its founding in 1998, has prevented 7 school shootings, prevents an average of 150 suicides a year, and has seen improvements in the schools with whom they have partnered. According to the website, this includes gains in community engagement, faculty/student relationships, leadership potential, and school climate, as well as reductions in bullying, alcohol, tobacco, and drug use. While debates rage on over whether to arm teachers, ban automatic weapons, or apply stricter background checks when purchasing a firearm, Scott, a private citizen just like me and you, free from the entanglements of bureaucracy and politics, is, putting it bluntly, getting shit done.
Scott’s solution: “We must create a culture of connectedness. We must create a culture in which our classmates become our friends.” He goes on to explain how he has seen students connect with one another and makes a fascinating point: “Every single one of these school shootings have been from young men who are disconnected.”**
In his book, Flourish: positive psychologist Martin Seligman lists positive relationships as one of the five elements of human well-being.***

“Selfish-gene theory argues that the individual is the sole unit of natural selection. Evidence shows that the group is a primary unit of natural selection.”

Sure, I have read books in the field of positive psychology that re-affirm this, but it’s through my research in other fields like leadership, history, and, yes, even improvisation that have led me to go as far as to say that a lack of human connectedness is the causation of aggression, violence, and discrimination.
From Simon Sinek in his book Leaders Eat Last:

“When we cooperate or look out for others, serotonin and oxytocin reward us with the feelings of security, fulfillment, belonging, trust, and camaraderie.”

Humans are wired to get along, but we’re conditioned to covet personal gain, which goes against this biology, and costs us opportunities to make connections, become happier, and grow exponentially. In his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, historian Yuval Noah Harrari wrote:

“Evolution favors those capable of forming strong social ties. In addition, since humans are born underdeveloped, they can be educated and socialized far greater than any other animals.”

To solve the problem of gun violence, we must create a culture focused on humans connecting with one another in order to make each other better and to make the world a better place, which is what Darrel Scott and his wife are doing with Rachel’s Challenge. I believe that the long-term solution is an overhaul of the education system where the goal is for students to learn to connect with one another and work together, rather than work separately for individual accomplishment. Until then, each of us can play a small role on creating a culture of connectedness in our own lives and circles. Though each of us as individuals has a small voice, we have an opportunity to come together and connect as a cacophony of voices on a quest to create safety, happiness, and love. It is in the pursuit of creating something we all believe in that can connect us, rather than arguing over who is right or who is wrong, which denies us the chance to create connection.
Darrel Scott is just one voice who has brought together a chorus of many voices to make a difference and bring us closer to a more human culture:
“The focus must not be just on unity or diversity, because if you focus too much on diversity, you create division. If you focus too much on unity, you’ll create compromise. But if you focus on relatedness and how you can relate with one another, then you can celebrate the diversity and you can see the unity take place. The focus really needs to be on how we can connect. That’s something our organizations have learned: how to connect students with each other, with themselves, with their teachers, and with their parents.”

Imagine the freedom of walking the streets without the fear of violence – with a feeling of confidence that every person you pass has your best interests at heart. We have the choice to focus on how this isn’t possible, which is what has been happening, or we can shift our focus onto how we can come together and create this culture. One thing you can do today is not to debate, but to listen to the ideas of others and remember that no matter who we are, we all want to feel safe and loved. How can you help make this happen and connect with others today?

“The most important decision we make is whether we believe in a friendly or hostile universe.” – Albert Einstein
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in looking with new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
*Darrel Scott speaks at about 33:50 in this video:
https://www.denverpost.com/2018/02/21/darrell-scott-columbine-shooting-donald-trump/
** Learn more about Rachel’s Challenge and how a culture of connectedness is helping students all over the country build relationships with classmates, parents, teachers, and themselves.
***The other four are positive emotion, engagement, meaning, and accomplishment.

Why Does This Keep Happening?

When you turn on the news, how do you feel?

When you think about how a human being can do something so barbaric, how does that make you feel?

When you hop on your social media and read people’s comments, what feeling does that create?

When you hear stories about the kindness, generosity, and heroic sacrifices of others, what do you feel?

Which of those feelings do you want to feel more of?

Is this going to be a blog post with only questions?

Allow me to answer that with a question: with so many people offering the same right/wrong, black/white, conservative/liberal opinions, wouldn’t it be nice to hear something different?

How can we bring more feelings of inspiration, love, abundance, joy, compassion, and meaning into the world?

What if each of us set out on our days to spread these feelings to others? What if we refocus our perspective of work, success, and life itself onto making the ultimate goal the spreading of those feelings?

What if, every day, we focused on bettering ourselves rather than being better than others?

What if, no matter the ideologies, opinions, and actions of others, we still responded with compassion and love?

How would your personal relationships be different?

Would your professional relationships become more personal?

What if we spent more time educating our children on kindness, working together, and understanding those different than us?

What if we were to measure our success by the number of people we serve?

What if we smiled more at strangers?

What if we accepted the imperfections of our humanity and laughed more at ourselves?

What if we looked at our differences in thought, belief, and action as opportunities to understand more about each other?

Would this make it easier to work together?

How could our different perspectives be combined to make the world a better place?

How would the world be different if we focused on solutions instead of the severity of problems?

If, every day, most people felt love, joy, compassion, abundance, inspiration and meaning, do you think they would want to inflict harm unto others verbally, emotionally, or physically?

What does that world look like?

How does that make you feel?

How can you share this feeling with everyone around you?

Can darkness exist where there is light?

Can fear, anger, bigotry, and hatred exist where there is love, compassion, understanding, and joy?

Does pointing out the faults of others show them how to grow?

Is fighting anger, hatred, and fear with anger, hatred and fear creating less anger, hatred, and fear?

What feelings does every human being strive for?

This keeps happening because we keep responding the same way. This has nothing to do with politics, being right or wrong, or even guns; it’s much more basic than all of these things. This has everything to do with being a human being, and the most human feelings we can feel are love, joy, compassion, understanding, freedom, kindness, and a desire to grow.

So what can you do to create those feelings within yourself?

What can you do, starting now, to inspire those feelings within others?

Start now. Share with others.

Let’s change the narrative and make the world and the people in it better together.

 

A Piece on Peace: The Gun, the Horn, and Bacon Hands

In this week’s blog, I wanted to take the opportunity to present some alternative perspectives on violence and some ideas on how we can create solutions focused on peace. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If we were coming up with the right solutions, I would be writing about how to make delicious bourbon braised pork and the news would be filled with more stories about skateboarding bulldogs.

I’m not, and there are no bulldogs to be found, so that means it’s time to at least consider some new ways of thinking.

Solutions and change begin with different perspective. I wrote some humorous shorts accompanied by solution-oriented ways to think about problems. A maintained focus on problems eventually creates more problems while maintained focus on solutions can only create solutions. I use humor and my own observations, which are based on a combination of human history and our psychological tendencies, to break up problem-oriented thinking and replace it with solution-oriented thinking. I hope you enjoy and I would love to hear your thoughts on my ideas and how we can use them to promote peace on this planet we’ve been gifted. – David

(The following are excerpts taken from an article found on Upworthy)

Portland Pacifist Promotes Peace With Pistol

There have been more mass shootings in the United States so far this year than there have been days. Many people would consider this a problem, but a Portland inventor sees this as an opportunity for a solution.

Paul (who refuses to use a last name to identify himself) is a self-proclaimed pacifist and who has come up with a concept that, he believes, will solve the problem of gun violence; it’s called the Fun Gun, and he’s working on getting a patent.

“Essentially, when someone pulls a gun on you, you pull out the Fun Gun, aim it at them, and fire,” explained Paul.

“The subsequent explosion of confetti, flower petals, and little pieces of paper with hilarious improv suggestions will disarm your attacker and initiate a laugh-filled opportunity to make a new friend. As soon as they see the Fun Gun pointed at them, chances are, they’re going to shoot you a smile, put their own gun down, and join you in a joyful jaunt at the ATM. Everyone wins!”

“Hold up the hold up with the Fun Gun”

The Traffic Tantrum of the Pacifist Isn’t Much of a Tantrum at All

Weapons aren’t the only peace-promoting invention up Paul’s sleeve. According to him, he recently invented a horn that shouts, “Good try, but I know you’re a better driver than that; drive safely!” rather than the honk we’ve become accustomed to.

“The normal horn sounds so aggressive, so I went with something more conducive to safety and friendship,” offered Paul with a smile on his face.

“I call it the Helpful Honker because it offers a positive suggestion, rather than criticizing someone else’s mistakes. I want other people to hear ‘Hey, you have opportunity to grow as a driver,’ rather than ruin their day with the car version of ‘F YOU!’ When someone pulled out in front of me today, I honked my horn, and for the next five minutes I drove behind them, they didn’t pull out in front of anyone else. It really works!”

As Paul likes to say, “Stop Going Bonkers and Get Some Helpful Honkers!”

The Helpful Honker should be on store shelves by this time next year.

What’s the Point?

Most people in the world aren’t violent, but if we respond with violence to the few who try to violently exert themselves, we can only be met by resistance, or more violence. This law has constantly repeated itself throughout history. Violence cannot be solved with violence. Debt cannot be solved by spending money and creating more debt. Fire cannot be extinguished by more fire, no matter how much less fiery it is. So what will happen if we try to solve gun violence with more guns?

When we tell someone they’re wrong or that they shouldn’t behave a certain way, they focus on the negative, start to feel negatively, and then tend to search for and focus on all of the other negatives they can think of. We’re resisting them, which drives them to resist our resistance, and no one wins. We’re much better off complimenting someone on what they’re doing well, offering improvement suggestions like “Drive safely,” and giving them words of encouragement that can work to inspire them.  Instead of focusing on what they’re doing incorrectly, we subconsciously prompt them to focus on the opportunity to improve, which lifts their spirits, offers them a different perspective of themselves, and shows them they have some external support.

 

Bacon > Violence

When I was six, I wanted pistol-hands, but didn’t think about the consequences. If you’re thinking about replacing your hands with guns, consider replacing them with something completely different: bacon hands. Gun hands unintentionally turn handshakes into holdups. Bacon hands, on the other bacon hand, turn handshakes into friendships (and milkshakes into deliciousness).

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 5.10.24 PM

Why don’t we teach people that when they think a thought like, “Other people make me so angry! I want to shoot someone!” it isn’t very positive? Why don’t we teach people that we can rebut violent thoughts by simply interrupting and changing our thought patterns? “How else can I view the situation in a way that makes me and other people feel happy?” 0r “Bacon is delicious,” are more conducive to solution-seeking than, “I hate the lifestyle of these people and they need to die!” This way of thinking is focused on the problem (the fact that this person hates something about others), and can only create more problems.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a bacon-related mass shooting. If everyone shared bacon (or something else that promotes goodwill), I can guarantee fewer mass shootings and more mass huggings. What if we learned to use our thoughts to grow ourselves and contribute to the world? Our thoughts either work for or against us. If we learn to trace negative feelings back to thoughts, we’ll quickly understand how our thoughts work against us. If we examine these thoughts, explore thoughts that make us, and others, feel better, and think those thoughts, we can replace negative action with action that is more conducive to the well-being of ourselves and our world. Chances are, murderers aren’t thinking, “I want to bring joy to the lives of others today.” If we learn to replace constricting thoughts with thoughts that expand ourselves and others, we realize the level of control we have over our existence and can then experience the freedom of self; one of the most fulfilling joys of all… other than bacon hands.

In closing, some (definitely not fake) motivational quotes:

“He who establishes his argument by noise and command, shows that his reason is weak. Either that or the music is way too loud and he should turn it down so you can hear what he’s saying.” – Michel de Montaigne

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind… Unless we’re referring to eye transplants, which can make blind people see. Are eye transplants a thing yet? If not, I need to invent them before I die from an abdominal aortic aneurysm.” – Albert Einstein the day before he died