I originally wrote a different essay for this week. Then another school shooting happened and I sat down to write this one instead. As is tradition in this country in the wake of a mass shooting, parents and community are grieving in Uvalde, TX while politicians in offices hundreds or thousands of miles away argue about why this happened and how to prevent this kind of tragedy in the future. Democrats want guns to be less accessible to the general public. Republicans want more "good guys with guns" to protect us from the "bad guys with guns." And they're both missing the point.
Even if we waved a magic wand and got rid of every gun in the US right now, we would still have millions of people who are suffering from any number of the dreadful side-effects of just existing in modern times in modern society. And the people who commit these acts are not just monsters we need "good guys" to shoot for us. They are not just criminals who would wreak havoc and terror under any set of circumstances. They are people. People who came from somewhere and probably tried to function in our society, but were radicalized or couldn't cope.
The fact that mass-shootings exist says more about our society than just how many guns we have. People don't need guns to commit unspeakable horror – we've been torturing and killing each other very creatively since the beginning of time. As a society, we kill more people from neglect and indifference than any other single cause of death. Industrial processes make workers sick and poison communities, people with treatable illness die because they can't afford medication, people who live on the street can't get a job without a stable address.
So gun-control is not a ceiling, it’s a floor. We went for all of lockdown without a school shooting while kids weren't in school. Now everyone is back in class and there have been 27 school shootings just this year. The political posturing is the same as it always is and it seems like everyone is resigned to the inevitability of nothing actually changing. And I am unsurprised by any of it. Disheartened and dismayed, even disgusted by some of the rhetoric, but definitely not surprised.
I was surprised to discover this week that something else a little closer to home also hasn't changed. Just before Covid, I left a non-profit board position in a state of overwhelming disappointment. The organization had an unfortunate habit of using up volunteers, and I had finally become one of them. It's not totally uncommon for non-profits to have more work to do than there are people to do it, but some organizations manage it better than others.
I began my board service by doing some heavy-lifting to solve a major internal problem that had been looming over the organization for some time. I set up new systems and trained new people and got the ship pointed in a positive direction. It was work well-done. And it was effortful and exhausting. But giving back to my community, especially in such a lasting way, was also rewarding. So I carried on.
I turned my attention toward helping the organization grow its membership (which would grow it's pocketbook as well as it's pool of potential volunteers). With Board direction, I crafted a campaign, made signs, managed other volunteers to write fliers and design artful membership memorabilia. But when I brought it all back to the Board, they suddenly changed their collective mind and didn't want to do it anymore. And just like that, my efforts and the efforts of all the other volunteers were shunted to the side.
I was outraged. Not because my ideas weren't adopted or because my project didn't come to fruition, but because of the utter lack or recognition for all the community effort that had just been wasted. I invested my time and my social capital to make things happen. Other community volunteers had invested their time and effort and in some cases their professional skills. Announcements had been made on social media and the community was anticipating the upcoming drive. In the space of one board meeting, it all went down the drain. Without a single word to the volunteers or the community about why.
That is not the way an organization should treat volunteers they want to come back. I was quite vocal about my displeasure at how that whole thing was handled. Just as vocal as I was about the mishandling of another significant situation within the community. A major unpleasant incident occurred and the board had to address it. We made a plan and followed the first half of it. But when it came time to follow up, the Board actively decided to drop that ball.
Several months after the vote to not do what we said we would do, it came back to bit us in the ass. Just as I had predicted when objecting several months prior to the original ball-dropping. So the Board had to deal with the resurgence of the original issue, this time from a place of shaky credibility. How could the Board enforce consequences outlined in a plan we, ourselves, hadn't followed? That was the final straw for me. So I quit. And I told the whole board exactly why I was leaving, plainly and directly to all of their faces.
Then covid hit and all community events stopped until very recently. This week I attended a wonderful workshop put on for leaders from various branches of that same community, and it reminded me why I left that board. It's been a couple years (and a pandemic) since I resigned from that position, so I thought I was over my righteous indignation. But sitting in that workshop, listening to comments from some of my former fellow Board members, I realized nothing has changed about the way that organization conducts itself.
So, nope. Not over it. Definitely still mad.
And what I am most incensed by is the same propensity toward missing of the point. The community is currently on the precipice of making a change that will have a significant and positive impact for a lot of community members who are generally marginalized by greater society. Some community members don't want change because they like it the way it is. I understand that desire. But they are asking for things to stay the way they are without acknowledging the status quo is hurting other people.
So where do we go from here? What will bring us into a future that includes everyone instead of just the people who are already always included? The short answer is: doing something different. Figuring out exactly what to do instead will be a lot easier to accomplish if the people currently feeling most resistant to change will please take a deep, calming breath and listen to those of us who are asking you to look at why what we have now is so problematic.
Then maybe those folks who haven’t had to feel the effects of societal slight can begin to recognize their experience is not the experience of all their fellow community members. And since we all love and care about our community, maybe they'll stop getting in the way of change and start trying to enable their same positive experience for everyone else too.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.