Knowing that I was involved in the gun-violence prevention movement, one of my students asked me this morning to respond to the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, as well as the shootings in Dallas last night.
It is a difficult moment for our country now, and very often, it is equally difficult to respond coherently to these events, even as the details of the tragedies are unfolding.
Still, I found the request reasonable, even necessary. Here is what I wrote:
I stand with all innocent victims of gun-violence. And I view the senseless taking of life, whether by snipers or unnecessary police-shootings or accidental shootings or suicides facilitated by the easy availability of guns, as symptomatic of a country whose gun lobbies have established the gun as a reasonable, though military solution, for settling civic and psychological problems.
The point is that gun-violence has been taking American lives now in practically every corner of the population for a very long time, although police violence in the black communities has finally and rightly risen to national attention. There are many ways to respond to gun-violence in our communities, and when faced with this kind of brutality, most of us want to help. That is a very human and essential reaction.
One strategy, however, will not work for every community. We have to be creative; we have to share our ideas; and we have to respect the different approaches that we will encounter. I have for the past two weeks, anticipating the Dalai Lama's birthday on July 6, been posting on my Facebook page, once a day, pictures of peace-workers who realized that violence is never the appropriate response to violence—and to be sure, cultivating fear, division, paranoia, and insecurity, which the NRA, and the politicians they fund, do so well, is a potent form of violence.
I posted these pictures because I take these people as my models.
Their vision and method of working are two-fold, and by example they make two recommendations:
- Work in your immediate arena, doing what you can, where you can, when you can (social media, talking, writing, connecting, organizing, raising awareness).
- Tap the long-term, unfolding commitment to the principle that peace and nonviolence are the most effective responses to violence, particularly for the long term. Last night's protest in Dallas had embraced this philosophy. And the workers I most admire and who continue to be my teachers have all, without exception, acted with the same conviction.
It is not a solution that everyone will accept, or that works for everyone, and I often fall short of its ideals, but I believe that this path, the path of nonviolence, of civil disobedience, is the right path.
After the initial shock of the tragedy passes, many people return to their normal lives, but it is then that the real work of gun-violence prevention begins, continues, and develops. But I do feel that each of us, if we are to be responsible citizens, must choose a method to respond to this violence, a method that is sustainable over the long-term.
This choice will be and should be different for everyone.
The point is not to over-react, and not to undertake activities that we can't sustain—the NRA and Congress depend on this draining burst of hyper-activity, knowing that the American people will soon forget, at which point the gun-lobbies and the NRA can get back to making money and buying our elected officials. This is what they do best, and tragedies of this sort provide only a momentary inconvenience for them.
So, it is better, in short, to tweet once a day in support of a GVP organization for three years than it is to tweet 100 per day for a month.
Find your pace, an activity, a method that works for you, and stick to it. Many of my friends do far more than I do, many do far less.
It doesn't matter.
The long-view is the important view. Thanks for reaching out. I hope you are well.