Last week when we had yet another tragic mass shooting, as my heart was breaking once more I wanted to write something about this, I wanted to do more than posting quotes and stats about gun violence on Facebook, but I hesitated because I thought – this is a spiritual blog, I write about mystical experiences or soul realizations, I don’t want to be “political” or write about something that is “controversial” or that “polarizes” people, I’m not one to write vitriol against the NRA or engage in heated debates on reinterpretations of the 2nd amendment.
Then I remembered what my friend the college religion professor Dr. Timothy Johnson said in preparing for our International Day of Peace panel discussion: The Franciscan way of creating Peace means that you have to be in the middle of conflict. You can’t run and hide from it, you can’t cloister yourself away from the world and pray “make me an instrument of Thy Peace.” Francis wanted to be in the midst of the poor and the suffering, he found God’s Peace in the midst of the violence of poverty and war. In Richard Rohr’s book ‘Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi‘, he tells how Francis made 3 trips to the Middle East during his life time (before trains or planes or automobiles) and historians always assumed that he was trying to convert the Sultan to Christianity, but documents now show that he actually went there to urge the Christians to stop killing their Muslim brothers and sisters. He walked himself into the middle of the conflict to be a voice for Peace. To be an instrument of God’s Peace, one has to place oneself in the middle of the muck of it – the pain, the confusion, the controversy, the anger, the violence – and answer it all with Peace. The prayer goes “where there is hatred, let me sew love.”
In reality – everything is spiritual. And everything is political. There is no separation. We are all a part of the living organism that is our collective consciousness, our world society and our Mother Earth. Who we vote for is not separate from how our earth’s resources are used, how people all around the world are treated or how our society evolves into either more peace or more violence – and the politics of peace and guns is no exception.
One of my dearest closest friends once told me that she didn’t vote because the whole system is so corrupt that she didn’t want to take part in it. But we ARE a part of it – every one of us is a part of the sociopolitical system we live in just by being alive. We participate in it every day with our every thought and action. A non-vote IS a vote. A non-vote is passively condoning the corruption instead of actively voting FOR something better. As Martin Luther King put it during the Civil Rights movement: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” We might not be monks choosing between hiding away in cloisters or marching into the Crusades to be a voice for peace, but we can’t hide away in our “spirituality” or our “counter-culture” and say we don’t want to participate – we have to DO something.
As President Obama said in his speech after the mass shooting in Oregon last week: “This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.” If you haven’t already, you can see the full speech at the bottom of this page. And along with President Obama, I ask: What will it take for us to take responsibility for change? Even the mass shooting of innocent little elementary school children at Sandy Hook hasn’t moved us as a society to make change.
Yesterday, even People magazine, usually dedicated to celebrity splits and the top ten fashion fails, published an editor’s letter urging readers to contact US lawmakers about gun control and posted the contact information for ALL 535 voting members of the House and Senate. So, please visit their site and find your law makers and contact them to make sure they hear your voice. Our elected officials work “for the people,” so let People magazine be a reminder to us all of that very important fact.
You see, we CAN do something about this. Humanity can evolve. Through our internal consciousness and our outward acts of conscience, we DO change the world. And the politics of peace and guns are an inherent part of our social responsibility.
This is reiterated by Ram Dass, who unlike his fellow Harvard acid tripping colleague Timothy Leary, didn’t urge us to “drop out.”
“One of the systems we’re part of, of course, is the political system. We may wish we weren’t part of it often, but we are… The political system is a system in which you are a member whether you like it or not. You’re part of a government, and your not voting is voting. So there’s no way out. You can’t say, “I’m not going to have anything to do with politics.” You can say it, but you’ve got to watch where you’re saying it from. You may say, “I’m not going to get involved with politics because I am so busy with something else that I think is my dominant theme, and I’ll vote, but I’m not going to put my time into campaigning for candidates and issues, because my energies are best used here.” That’s fine. If you’ve thought it through and can look somebody in the eye and say it. If you’re saying, “I’m not having anything to do with politics because it’s too dirty and because I don’t approve of it,” forget it – you are abdicating your responsibility to society. It’s as simple as that.
We’re at an interesting moment within the shift of collective consciousness, specifically around the way in which we’re integrating the changes in power structures… How is the shift in collective consciousness going to evolve and what part do you play?”
– Ram Dass, October, 1995
So, there is a lot that a caring and common sense society can do about gun violence – in our culture, our consciousness AND our politics.
This is seen in any number of other practical ways in our society. When children died by being trapped in an old discarded refrigerator, we enacted laws to make the manufacturing and disposal of refrigerators safer – a there was no National Refrigeration Association lobbying to block these safety measures. In order to combat the death and injury caused by auto accidents we enacted seat belt laws and in order to drive a car, one must have a license proving competency, one must have current registration, and we get fines and even jail time for breaking our social covenant to keep each other safe on the road. Why can we not do the same exact thing for guns?
In Australia, after a gunman opened fire on a crowd of tourists in Port Arthur, Tasmania, killing 35 people in 1996, the government enacted bipartisan gun control laws. Banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons and putting stricter controls on hand guns and rifles. In the decade before the
Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country. There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since. And not only has there not been mass shootings – gun related homicides and gun suicides have decreased dramatically, as well, without a corresponding rise in other methods of killing self or other. And San Francisco, who led the way on gay marriage long before it was supported by the vast majority of Americans, is leading the way now with common-sense gun regulations that could one day also be the law of our entire nation.
There are numerous studies documenting how gun control laws work – and yet the NRA and the American gun culture won’t even entertain the most common sense of gun controls – such as requiring background checks nationwide or simply following the same guidelines at gun shows. States have no problem enacting 72 hour wait periods and mandatory vaginal probes for women seeking an abortion – but somehow asking for a wait period on a gun sale is an invasion of our God-given rights?
President Obama, People magazine and the host of every news show on TV are becoming sad and disgusted at how frequently they have to roll out the same “we are in shock and mourning” routine. And we’re not even shocked anymore. In one data graphic compilation, it shows that between Jan 1, 2013 and Oct 1, 2015, there was a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident – nearly every day. There were 994 mass shootings in 1004 days in this country. Clearly, something is very wrong and something needs to be done. Now.
And the thing that really makes NO SENSE whatsoever about the total gridlock and unwillingness to even LOOK at any viable solutions is that no one is even suggesting that we remove the right to own guns altogether or that homeowners can’t buy a handgun to protect themselves against intruders (even though said gun is statistically more likely to harm a member of the family itself). But even a ban on the purchase of assault rifles is considered an unacceptable step on the imaginary “slippery slope” to dictatorship. When will the massive amount of people dying to gun violence become unacceptable? The 33,636 people who died from gun homicides and suicides in just the year 2013 are REAL, not imaginary.
In President Obama’s speech, he challenged the media to compare deaths from gun violence with deaths from terrorism in the US – to show the completely illogical, nonsensical failure to even look at gun reform. “We spent over a trillion dollars, and passed countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so,” Obama said. “And yet we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?”
According to numbers from the CDC and State Department, between 2001 and 2013, there were 3,030 American Citizens killed by acts of terrorism worldwide (and this includes those who died at the Twin Towers) and 406,496 deaths from gun violence just on American soil. With those numbers, how could the Congress pass a ban on the CDC even doing research on gun violence? Yes – the US government is not only NOT enacting gun reform – it is cementing our ignorance into law – literally making the pursuit of knowledge about gun deaths by federal agencies illegal. Isn’t it time we start making sense?
This is not a time to not participate in politics. If you truly believe in Oneness Consciousness, then take action for change in our society. This is a time to bring REAL PEACE to the front line of American gun culture and to change our consciousness and our politics – and if the sitting senators and representatives won’t do it – it’s time to change our politicians. It’s time to vote. It’s time to be a voice. It’s time to BE the Peace. It’s time to be engaged in the spiritual politics of peace and guns.
HERE IS A LIST OF ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE:
- Call and write your senators and representatives to let them know that you want gun reform NOW.
- VOTE – be an active participant in our political process. Register to Vote on line and find out where the candidates for 2016 stand on gun reform.
- Sign petitions supporting gun reform on the White House We The People site.
- Make a donation and sign the petition at Everytown for Gun Safety.
- Sign the petition at Move On and share it with friends on Facebook and Twitter.
- Educate yourself through books and articles on facts and policies that would prevent gun violence so you can help educate others in your family and circle of friends.
- Pray and heal your own consciousness of violence – Healing Our Violence through the Journey of Centering Prayer
- Meditate and become a model of Peace and non-violence in both thought, feeling and action.
- Deepen your understanding of Peace, violence and non-violence to help create a cultural shift.
WATCH John Oliver’s Daily Show segment on Australia’s gun law reform.
And as my vote of confidence in the new host of the Daily Show – here is a video of Trevor Noah’s take on the hipocracy of being Pro-Life and Anti-Gun-Control:
Further reading and practice:
President Obama’s speech: