The question: Do I really want to share this writing? The answer comes twofold. First, I can’t seem to let go of this quote from Thomas Merton:
Solitude has its own special work; a deepening of awareness that the world needs. A struggle against alienation. True solitude is deeply aware of the world’s needs. It does not hold the world at arm’s length.
– Thomas Merton Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
On the whole, I prefer solitude and silence, yet within those times, my reflections often center around the world and its people – our good, our ills, and our needs. So, in choosing not to “hold the world at arm’s length,” do I share my reflections and actions?
Second, after having relatively dismissed Merton’s words and leaning heavily toward not sharing, this morning I read this in a random email newsletter:
Write relentlessly, until you find your voice. Then, use it.
– David Sedaris
So, here goes! NOTE: I have already sent this letter to Senators Cornyn and Cruz – hand delivered in a face-to-face conversation with Cornyn’s staff and emailed to Cruz.
An Open Letter to our Legislators – Both Federal and State
We all are complicit in the recent deaths of 19 children, two teachers, and the assailant in the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, TX. That is a hard pill to swallow, and it is the truth as we have experienced multiple mass shootings and taken no meaningful action to do something different that might have even the slightest possibility of lowering the alarming number of gun deaths in our nation.
I am writing today as your constituent and urging you to support and vote for legislation that addresses the multiple causes behind our current epidemic of gun violence. Yes, we need to address our national mental health concerns. At the same time, we must be cognizant of the data concerning mental health and gun violence.
- Suicide deaths are typically impulsive acts and are the number one cause of firearm-related mortality in the U.S.
- When ranked with other countries of similar economic growth, the U.S. does not have a significantly higher proportion of people with mental health conditions than other industrialized countries but does have exponentially higher rates of gun ownership and gun violence.
- It is critical that the public and policymakers stop responding to gun violence and mass shootings with statements that mental health conditions are the underlying cause. The claim is false and discriminatory.
- People with mental illnesses – some living in jails and prisons and others in crisis – need more services and supports: employment, educational, social, family, community, and peer supports. These necessary treatments and supports should be available to those who need them, but not because it will reduce violence in the U.S.
We have an anger problem in America! We have too much of it, and we don’t know how to express it in appropriate, healthy ways. We need more programs offering Social and Emotional Learning — SEL in our schools. We need community programs offering training and growth in personal social/emotional awareness, anger management, and conflict resolution. We need to learn how to get to the root causes of our anger, deal with those, and express our anger without blasting others — with vicious words or bullets.
Our mental ills and poor social/emotional skills are not quick fixes! What do we do in the meantime to curb the tide of gun violence? We need reasonable gun legislation! We need universal background checks. We need red flag laws to keep weapons out of the hands of the known mentally ill and those known for previous acts of violence — the only known predictor of future violence. We need assault-style weapons and high-capacity munitions, designed and intended for military use and seemingly the arsenal of choice in mass shootings, regulated. At the very least, we need the purchase of this type of weapon and munitions special permitted and age restricted. Ideally, we need them out of the hands of the public and reserved for military and law enforcement use only, as they were designed for.
These are steps we can and should take in the immediate short term and the continuing long term to address our nation’s rising gun violence. I ask, at this pivotal juncture for our nation will we and you, our representative, continue to ensconce ourselves in our polar political ideologies and do nothing?
Or will we, and you, garner the moral courage to come together regardless of ideology to stand up and speak out with such fervor – in the halls of government and the public square – as to truly initiate change on behalf of our children’s lives and the common good with efforts to address our immediate need for common sense gun legislation and our underlying need for social and emotional learning as well as improved mental health services.
Yes, America, we have a problem! Our nation is at a crossroads. I urge you as our representatives and leaders to consider all right and reasonable options in stemming the tide of ever-increasing gun violence in our nation.