For the past ten days I have been traveling outside of the United States. We had a packed itinerary and my intention was to disconnect and just be where I was with the person I was with. Halfway into my trip, the Parkland shooting occurred. Since these horrific acts of mass violence have unfortunately become part of our daily life, I realize that I've actually developed a pattern of how I digest these heartbreaking events. I tend to watch hour after hour of commentary, making sure I check in from the morning shows to Jimmy Kimmel Live’s opening monologue. Since Parkland is less than an hour drive from where I live and I know people who live there, I am sure that had I been home, I would have been that much more fixated on learning more. Being in Europe, I actually felt a bit guilty about not being more on top of the subject. Yet every time I entered a designer store in Paris, I was consistently struck by the lack of gun control and safety precautions in our schools. How was it that to enter a designer store my bag would be searched and in some cases an armed guard would stand at the door, but in most schools in the U.S., people can walk in carrying anything?
I really was at a loss for words and also acutely aware that just words were not enough. But then standing in line at the Milan airport, I saw a video of Emma Gonzalez, a senior and survivor of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and I was riveted.
A total believer in our need both as individuals and as part of the collective to break through the excuses, justifications, rationalizations, and wishful thinking and to bust ourselves of our own BS, I was in awe and applauding when she called BS on lawmakers, politicians funded by the NRA, gun advocates, companies trying to make caricatures out of today’s teens, and many of the lame one-liners people use to justify doing nothing to create change. Although we all have a tendency to do it, believing our own BS is our way to, consciously or unconsciously, excuse ourselves from taking responsibility. Instead of living in our power, we give our power away and imprison ourselves in a past that may not be fitting or beneficial for the present or the future.
On a personal level, underneath our BS usually lies some fear, limiting belief, laziness, or insecurity that we assume is too much to deal with. It keeps us fighting to keep our BS firmly in place. With issues like gun control reform, mental health care legislation, and school safety, whether it is self-advancement, monetary gain, or needing to be right or in control, I am sure that there are also a plethora of underlying issues that drive politicians and gun advocates to keep their BS firmly in place. But as Emma Gonzalez so passionately said, “...maybe the adults have gotten used to saying 'it is what it is,' but if us students have learned anything, it's that if you don't study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it's time to start doing something.”
For change to happen, busting ourselves of our own BS is a necessary step. Another necessary step is getting to that place of intolerance. I have said it a lot lately. When we get to that point where we finally and truly declare “Enough is enough!” that is where change begins. Intolerance of that which we can’t be with anymore has always been the prelude to not only personal but also social change. I, for one, am so impressed that so many of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have declared that they are going to be “last mass shooting in America.” You can see the fire in their eyes and the conviction in their voices and know that they will not stop until action is taken. Although people often think of the concept of intolerance as being a negative, it is often a positive. Intolerance is a tap on our shoulder trying to awaken us to action.
Action is, of course, the most important step in creating change. On a personal level, I meet a lot of people who spend lots of time studying self-help and personal growth. They go to seminars, and workshops and work with coachers, healers, and therapists. They have lots of insights and “Ahas.” Yet if people don’t turn their “Aha!” moments into action, change will not occur. And similarly when dealing with the collective, conversation without action is just a lot of talk. The students of Marjory Douglas High School have wasted no time in turning their words into action by planning a march and a National High School Walk-Out and publicly asking for conversations with the President and other politicians funded by the NRA. They say they are prepared to work tirelessly, so they will go down in history as the students that made the difference and made it safer for our children to go to school...and I believe that they will turn this commitment into reality.
As a mom, I have always known that my children were my greatest teachers. As adults, we say we need to be the change we want to see for our children. But now we are seeing that our children are the change. How great that, as a group of students told Chuck Todd on Meet The Press, not only are they committed to seeing reasonable change but also “this is a time for people to come together through love and compassion.”
Transformational Action Steps
(1) Watch Emma Gonzalez’s entire speech here.
(2) If you are committed to creating change in the areas of gun control and mental health care legislation, contact your congresspeople and representatives and visit websites like Everytown.org and MomsDemandAction.org.
(3) On a personal level, look around your life and get honest about:
- Where are you buying into your own BS? What are the excuses, rationalizations, justifications, and BS you buy into, keeping you stuck and limited?
- What have you become intolerant of? What issues, situations, patterns, relationships, or behaviors no longer serve you and are holding you back and keeping you down?
- What action(s) do you need to take to create change?