“We may feel genuinely concerned about world conditions, though such a concern should drive us into action and not into a depression.” –Karen Horney, Self-Analysis
On the heels of a mass shooting in Oregon, the death of a little girl over a puppy (when are we charging Daddy, by the way, for keeping a loaded shotgun where his son could access it so easily?), another fatal shooting in Ohio where an 11 year-old fatally shot his brother while target shooting, and the arrest of four students who plotted to “kill as many people as possible” at a California high school, it is an easy time to be despondent over the state of the United States. I cannot discredit young people for resigning themselves to a bleak future where we accept the gunning down of our peers and friends in their places of learning and worship.
Up until a few weeks ago, I was solidly in the camp of “gun control in the U.S. will never change,” until someone yelled at me. I will attempt to convey their point, with fewer four-letter words and the hope that perhaps it will change some minds.
We, who purport to someday be teachers and influencers of public thought, should be wary of setting an example of dejected resignation to an unsatisfactory status quo. As leaders and thinkers we lay the foundations for action with our ideas, preparing a roadmap and fostering an ideal among students and others that will lead to real and tangible change. It would be irresponsible to take any action that would restrict the space, freedom, and enthusiasm with which others may wish to attack change.
People have criticised, for example, some of my personal ethical choices (eating– overlooking that maybe young women’s eating habits are criticised quite enough, thank you), levelling the meaningful: “It will never make a difference.” Of course my single actions will never make a difference. But perhaps it will inspire or encourage others to take similar action that is important to them, and the idea of empowering someone else to act by example is enough to ensure I don’t eat bacon (which is, yes, pretty hard to do most days).
Need something to say? Ask them to support legislation to close the Charleston and Gun Show Loopholes in order to ensure complete and effective background checks for the sale of firearm, regardless of the fora. This is not enough, but it is a necessary start; incremental progress is an honest response to an insufferable status quo (I wish I could take credit for that last clause, but those words belong to this scholar).
I will close with some of the wisest advice I’ve ever received: Once upon a time, as a 20 year old researcher at the European Court of Human Rights, I was very lucky to receive some unsolicited advice from a judge after discussing one of the more depressing human rights violations (forced disappearances). She said: “You will never see huge progress in your life or work. But you will make progress—small progress—and this is very worthwhile.”
Let us not be the miserly crushers of aspirations and hope. May we be so lucky as to have our own moments in our unassuming offices to inspire, and may those students go on to affect the change we cannot. As thinkers, teachers, and practitioners, we may temper expectations, but we should never extinguish optimism.