The Las Vegas Tragedy needs all our focus and energy.
1. As it became clear that the bullets were being fired from somewhere above, a man covered his wife’s body with his own. She could viscerally feel as the bullets ripped him apart. She lived, he did not.
When we move too quickly to our intellect, we lose the transformative power of grief.
Watch this heartfelt response as all ye need to know.
"I’ve been reading comments from people saying this is terrible, but there is nothing we can do about it. But I disagree with that intensely, because of course there’s something we can do about it. There are a lot of things we can do about it. But we don’t."
We are human animals. Who bleed and feel fear and are willing to kill out of rage, despair, intense alienation or in self defense. We will not merely think our way out of our current self-inflicted gun-tolerating regime of terror because our animal instincts won’t ever go away. Not now, not ever. Give up the fantasy of ever transcending our animal bodies.
We also have argued and pontificated in terms of ideas and theories and in terms of blame. But the mass shootings haven’t stopped. We now have explicitly cruel evidence for this––and the next mass shooting is on its way. I hope it’s not you or your loved ones who get killed.
So what can we do, then?
Some actionable ideas:
- Anytime you try to prove someone wrong, their claws open and they defend their position vigorously like a pissed off mother bear protecting her cubs. It doesn’t matter if they, too, subconsciously suspects they're wrong; it’s most often more important to humans to protect themselves and their views than to admit fault. Criticizing and attacking and blaming don’t work, especially with identity bound issues about gun control and increasing funding for mental health because the heritage in which people are raised makes it inconceivable to them that they could ever think other than they do. Do not try to convince people they are wrong. Even with facts and numbers and fancy pie charts.
- If someone will ever change their mind about something they've long believed to be true, it will only happen once they've felt genuinely seen, heard and understood. It takes real balls and tolerance of steel to be able to listen wholeheartedly to an argument you don't believe in or know to be misguided without making the other person feel criticized or judged. Listening is really fucking hard. Arguing is easy. This is why the mass shootings keep happening: we keep taking the easy way out.
- After listening, care about the person. Establish a real human connection. Whatever idea they have that you disagree with has a reason for being there and is usually born out of genuine fear or instinctive self-protection. Everyone is an animal just like you. Love and understand the human who holds the problematic belief, regardless. Shit will not change without this step.
- In case you missed this letter the first time around:
Executive Mansion, Washington, November 21, 1864.
Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts:
DEAR MADAM: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
- Consider what Abraham Lincoln's phrase "sacrifice at the altar of freedom" actually means and asks of us.
- Hint: as animal beings, we will always be vulnerable and the more energy we use to protect ourselves, the less energy we have to live freely and in genuine community. There is an actual cost to freedom. In the case of guns, the more of them we have, the more we feel individually protected, but the more: terror; fear; suspicion; metal detectors; homicides; police brutality; power games and deadly dickwagging we have to endure. And mass shootings.
Protestors non-violently sacrificing their bodies to earn a right to vote.
- To sacrifice means to give up something that's hard to give up. It's what makes sacrifice so gut-wrenching and so powerful. We like to think about sacrifice in theory, or in symbolic terms––like the sacrifices of our far away military or our flag––but to sacrifice our own safety and perceived inalienable rights right here, right now, is beyond what we can tolerate, often. So, again, consider deeply what the great movements of reform always ask of us: to sacrifice our well-being for the greater good. When the leaders of the civil rights movement fought for equality, they had to sacrifice their bodies and walk peacefully into violent opposition waiting for them across the bridge.
- David Foster Wallace in slight paraphrase: Assume for a moment that the right to bear arms really has helped make our persons and property safer—is this right still worth it? Where and when was the public debate on whether “the right to bear arms” is worth it? Was there no such debate because we’re not capable of having or demanding one? Why not? Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don’t even want to consider whether some things trump safety? What kind of future does that augur?
What will your own sacrifice look like?
- People of character are deliberate about how they use their energy. Saying true things on social media doesn’t work because words are not embodied. You only dissipate your energy and nothing that will affect genuine change gets done. Instead of reacting and posting shit in an echo chamber of frustration, pause and reflect on what actions you can take that would actually do something. Contain your energy and channel it in a useful, real-world direction. How effective would MLK or Gandhi or Nelson Mandel have been if instead of organizing marches they tweeted and facebooked their frustrations?
- "The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, a number of other lawmakers who won’t do anything about this because the N.R.A. has their balls in a money clip, also sent their thoughts and their prayers today. Which is good. They should be praying. They should be praying for God to forgive them for letting the gun lobby run this country.” ~ Jimmy Kimmel
- Ask your self: Why do we continue to vote for lawmakers who do not represent the best interests of our country and its people but only their own greed?
"By making it even a bit harder for killers to get guns—as action taken in Australia, Britain and Canada shows—America would have fewer gun deaths. Yet only a quarter of Republican voters accept that demonstrable truth. Most say America would have less crime if only more Americans were armed. The usual explanation for this delusion is brilliantly effective lobbying by gun clubs. Since the 1970s the National Rifle Association, supported by gun makers, has recast what was once a public- safety issue into an argument about liberty: if you believe gun ownership is a thin red line against government tyranny, as the NRA claims, it scarcely matters whether it also leads to more killing. At the same time, the lobbyists have bullied Republican lawmakers so thoroughly that none dares speak against them. Asked for his position on gun control this week, Paul Ryan said he’d rather talk about cutting taxes. The Onion could not improve on that."
~The Economist October 5th, 2017
- How many times have you called your senator's office to express your concern for how easily anyone can get an automatic weapon without even as much as a background check?
- If you live in Texas, Ted Cruz's number is (202) 224-5922 and he sincerely wants to hear about your concerns he's told me on his voicemail. I therefore have it on speed dial. My morning routine until this shit stops is: wake up, brush my teeth, go for a run, meditate, call Cruz and tell him how fucked up it is that I have to live in unnecessary fear because ours is the only government that won't pass sensible gun control laws. I also mention that if he doesn't support gun control, he doesn't get my vote.
- Learn from the NRA! There's a reason the NRA is so effective even though its members are a minority vastly outnumbered by people who want gun control laws to pass. If something you're doing doesn't work, learn why not and change it.
For example: "The most effective groups used relationships as a vehicle for bringing people off the sidelines of public life and teaching them to speak truth to power. After Sandy Hook, I joined several gun-control organizations in a desperate effort to do something. These organizations asked me for money and sent me links for places to send emails or make phone calls. But none introduced me to anyone else in the organization or invited me to strategize about what I could do. Instead, I felt like a prop in a game under their control. I eventually asked to be taken off their lists."
- After the mass shooting last year in Orlando, John Oliver ran an in-depth segment about the NRA. Watch the whole thing or skip to 7:45 to see the rug that ties the whole room together: your energy and how to harvest it to save lives.
- "NRA members seem to care more consistently about preventing gun control than most of us do about passing it. NRA members are highly motivated and mobilize quickly." ~ John Oliver
What are you highly motivated by? How will you consistently and deliberately use your energy? How will you be the change you want to see? I believe you can fly.
Do people still give a shit about character? Please forward this newsletter to anyone who wants to be less of a dick to others, to the animals, to the planet or to themselves.