Look for the helpers – be a helper

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“This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations.” –The Onion (which publishes slightly different versions of this after every mass shooting for years).

Today members of Congress send thoughts and prayers to Las Vegas. The Onion, a satire site, posts: “NRA Says Mass Shootings Just The Unfortunate Price Of Protecting People’s Freedom To Commit Mass Shootings” and “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

Guns are big business, and this year they’ve looked to keep shooters’ eardrums safe through the sale of silencers. Who cares that some students at the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 credited hearing the shots fired with keeping them at a safe distance? Mass shootings are good for business, and on the Monday following the deadliest mass shooting in American history it was quickly reported that: “Shares of Sturm Ruger (RGR) were up 4 percent while American Outdoor Brands (AOBC, the company formerly known as Smith & Wesson) gained more than 3 percent. A company named Olin (OLN), which owns the Winchester brand of ammunition, rose 6 percent to an all-time high.” Guns are highly profitable and our representatives have been bought and paid for by special interests like the National Rifle Association and the businesses Congress is entrusted with regulating. A year ago the Washington Post reported, “Since 1998, the National Rifle Association has donated $3,781,803 to current members of Congress.”

There are so many headlines like the current Newsweek, “Congress Has Basically Done Nothing On Gun Control Since Sandy Hook Shooting,” and they tell stories of polarized politics and a failure to act. Even in the areas of huge public support (89 percent), like broad agreement on policies to ensure responsible gun ownership, nothing happens. We’re going about it wrong. What can we do with this apparently endless cycle of tragedy? The endemic problem of gun violence is real, but hope need not be lost.

Fred Rogers, famous for his role as Mr. Rogers, has shared the advice his mother gave him. As a boy, when he would see scary things on the news, “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” Conditions are grim, but they are not hopeless. With the shooting in Las Vegas, just like the others, there are always more people doing good than than the person/people doing bad. Countless people putting themselves in harm’s way, sometimes as literal shields. Never forget, the good outnumber the bad.

Oct. 2 also serves as the 148th anniversary of the birth of Mohandas K. Gandhi and we can look to his wisdom. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world,” and “Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.” When we focus on love, like the kind Mother Teresa is credited with: “We can do no great things – only small things with great love,” we focus on what we can do.

Do not forget the strength of truth. On Sept. 11, 1906, Gandhi introduced the world to satyagraha, truth-force or soul-force. He opposed a law discriminating against Asians that was passed by the British colonial government of the Transvaal in South Africa. Gandhi’s campaign forced an end to that law, and Gandhi’s teachings show us how we can nonviolently change the world. We see many more cases of nonviolence working, from civil rights and bus boycotts in the U.S. to resisting the Nazis in WWII Europe to Gandhi’s successful campaign in Africa and his Salt Marches in India.

It’s true: Citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations, but it’s also true that we can change the world if we truly commit to it. Like Willy Wonka says: “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it; want to change the world… there’s nothing to it.”

Wim Laven, syndicated by PeaceVoice, worked on reconstruction in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, and is an instructor in International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University.

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