Can We Talk? by Venessa Bowers

As I write this, the television is screaming blame, accusations, “thoughts and prayers,” and my social media newsfeed is full of hot speech, insults, despair, judgment, and I … I am full of numb outrage. It happened again. Another school shooting where 17 young people lost their lives. It happened again. And again. And again after Sandy Hook where six-year olds died – and we said “enough.” But it wasn’t enough was it? Was it?

We need to talk. Just you and me. When is there truly enough gun violence in our homeland? When will it really be enough? Today, I want to serve as the voice of your values. Of your conscience. Of your truth. You know that voice…it’s the one that whispers, “This hurts.” It murmurs, “This isn’t right.” It stutters, “I’m so damn tired of grieving.” I want you to listen to that voice and truly hear it.

In the work that I do, I have been trained to understand the conscious mind as the “parent” and the subconscious mind as the “child.” These two together make up the total of “me.” As you read, I want to draw your attention to the two voices by calling out who is speaking. Please suspend your disbelief and take this in. Also, please note that the “parent voice” is coming off my various news feeds.

Parent: “These liberal idiots want to take all our guns and leave us open to attack.”

Child: “I’m so afraid. I’m shaking and I can’t stop being afraid.”

Parent: “The f&%king GOP lawmakers are to blame for being bought and paid for by the NRA.”

Child: “I’m so afraid. What if this happens to my family? Why won’t anyone help me feel safe?”

Parent: “We need to arm teachers so that they can stop these events from happening.”

Child: “Please don’t ask me to shoot a child. It’s a child. I can’t do that.”

Parent: “How can my friends and family be members of the NRA?”

Child: “I love them. Do they know I love them even though I’m afraid?”

Parent: “They have blood on their hands.”

Child: “WE have blood on our hands. And I don’t want to feel this afraid all the time. I don’t want to be responsible for this.”

If you really read this and take in what each part of all of us is saying, what you will see is that we are is terrified. We are afraid of everything – ourselves, our neighbors, our religion, our politics, our schools, our rights … just afraid all the time. We spin out this fear in countless ways every day and while we do this, children die. The great Nelson Mandela said “May your choices reflect your hopes, not reflect your fears” (emphasis mine). How often does the way you live reflect your fears? For me, it’s nearly every minute of every day. And I’d argue, that the way we die reflects our fears too – our collective fears.

Let me explain. A culture as gun-centered as ours is steeped in fear. Fear of the “other,” fear of losing what’s ours (be that possessions, land, people, money, etc), fear of not having enough, fear of ourselves, fear of pain and grief, fear of fear – let that sink in – we are afraid to be afraid. To combat this, we hide behind things: out privilege (racial, wealth, and possession), out guns, our religion, our “rights,” our righteous indignation, our blame-shifting, our “morality.” And all of this, all of it, leaves us wanting.

We are really a culture of deprivation – not enough love, not enough compassion, not enough empathy, not enough time, not enough accountability, not enough listening, not enough caring, not enough involvement, not enough community, not enough commitment, not enough truth, not enough respect, not enough dignity, not enough…never enough.

So, can we really talk about violence, please? Can we talk about how we are all responsible for this – because even when we are shouting at the opposing side, we are doing violence. Even when I say “Your rights stop at my face” the intent is to push you back on your heels as hard as possible and that is violence. Even when I think “these f$*king assholes in congress…” that’s violence because I cannot see their humanity. Not gonna lie – I truly do NOT see their humanity. Especially right now. I’m also not gonna lie and say my conscious mind isn’t on a rampage right now because it most certainly is. But I also know that I need to get out of my ego, my need to be right – to say “see I f$&king told you so!” and listen to my fear.

I’m afraid that this will happen to the children I love. I’m afraid this will happen to my clients. I’m afraid this will happen to my students. I’m afraid this will happen to me. Then, if I survive the initial impact, how will I live. How will I live with my fear and rage? How can I live with my “rightness?” I cannot. I already know that.

So today, I come to you humbly and ask: Can we talk? Please, please, can we talk? Can we please care about each other? Can we please change things? Can we please work together to solve problems? Can we stop being so damn concerned about who “wins?” Because right now? We are all losing.

Can you hear my fear?

I can hear yours and I’m so sorry you’re so afraid. I want to help us. I will help us. I will match my actions to “the better angel(s) of our nature” (A. Lincoln). I will use my rights to foster change but I will do that in love not fear. I will do that FOR us, not AGAINST you. I will use the most non-violent means available to me for change – I will vote. I will vote for people who are courageous in the face of fear.

Are you courageous?

Will you help me?

Because I believe in the quote by Nelson Mandela that states “It is in (y)our hands to create a better world for all who live in it.” This is us. This is ON us. This is who we are. But we do not have to stay here. We can learn. We can change. We can grow. We CAN. We can live. Together.

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