Keep Talking

Negotiators working in crisis settings like hostage situations and threatened suicides, is nothing new. Buying time to avert tragedy is an established practice - risky perhaps, but valid and at times effectively saving lives.

In our own homes, almost any parent would take a gun out of the hand of his or her young child or a distraught family member. We would try to talk and coax the individual out of what it seems he or she might do, accidentally or otherwise, to hurt themselves or someone else. Talk is not wasteful. It is part of the prevention.

Solving urgent social problems, slightly less than crisis ones, is another example where using communication skills can minimize emotions that  otherwise obscure rational policy choices for serving the common good. I want to write about a specific one here.

The Florida shootings are the latest as of this date in the list of innocent American lives lost in mass shootings.  A list is published periodically by the Washington Post and it compares to the lists of The Fallen -  soldiers who died while serving in wars abroad. There are facts in common in these mass shooting horrors such as weaponry used, extremely vulnerable victims like school children, and tormented and/or ill perpetrators. The tragedies are painful beyond comprehension.

There is a similar pattern of reaction each time too - tears, prayers, anger, insistence on preventive action. Then we get stuck. Strongly divergent opinions about a multi- pronged approach to prevention hold up taking effective measures.

On December 18, 2012 following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, I posted, “Newtown: Prayers for Peace and Healing,” and called for taking next steps.  Are we really still here 6 years later? 

A February 19, 2018 Op-Ed piece by David Brooks in the New York Times suggests a healing approach to precede actual rules and legislation concerning gun control. I would say “to accompany” rather than “to precede.”  But I agree with Mr. Brooks and others that dialogue to build mutual respect is vital to strengthen social cohesion and minimize alienation and anger that may fuel disagreement as to effective prevention.

 Let us resolve to talk, listen, and to take effective steps that we may live to see another day in which we respect each others’ rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Jeanne Franklin