In the Wake of Tragedy: Choose Peace Advocacy

Is there anything sensible left to write when it comes to the tragedies like the one we are facing right now in our lives? In the last week, Orlando has experienced three horrific events that have shocked us as a nation, sending ripples of grief worldwide.

While each of the events is tragic in its own right, the Pulse night club massacre where a gunman opened fire and killed 49 innocent individuals punches us so deeply for its senselessness.

“The shooting resulted in 50 deaths, including the gunman, who was killed by police after a three-hour standoff. Another 53 were injured. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history, and also the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks.”

Such attacks are not new in our country, and after each one, we refresh the wellness initiatives, employee assistance programs, and countless other proactive plans and strategies we have created to provide help and build strong community and organizational foundations.

And, I am certain that these programs have assisted many individuals in overcoming their anxieties and illnesses. Believing that these programs are ineffective or a waste of money is completely ridiculous. We must do more — not less — to help others, in all ways.

With that said, it is becoming very clear to me that, despite the work of many millions of caring individuals, we cannot close this ugly and once unimaginable door that has been opened. It is horrific, it is unconscionable, and it is a part of our existence that we cannot deny.

The vast majority of people who have committed such atrocious acts as the Orlando massacre are not those individuals who were denied services, who fell through the cracks, or who were just looking for a little attention. Something went wrong internally, and they shifted their focus to the evil residing in that Dark Place.

Perhaps Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened that door on April 20, 1999, when they murdered 12 students, one teacher, and injured an additional two dozen others at Columbine High School. Since then, more than 50 massacres have happened in the United States, with 27 of them occurring since 2007. These are not isolated, retaliative attacks against one or two individuals; these are full-blown assaults against innocent individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, or gender; although the Orlando massacre occurred at a gay nightclub, it is still uncertain how sexual orientation might have played into the gunman’s decision of where to carry out the attack. As new information is learned, there is a speculation about the gunman’s own sexual orientation.

An infinite number of security systems, wellness programs, and lines of love are not going to close this door. They help tremendously, and we need to continue to support them unconditionally.

But completely close the door on such horrors? Impossible.

Goucher Easter 011This is why we need to shift our energy, our thinking, our focus.

Friends on social media have been pleading the case for love, not war. Hope, not hate. Life, not death. Their words have a powerful impact on me and, I hope, many others. Yet, with the presidential campaign using this massacre as a means of condemning candidates, we are left with a less unified reaction. We are quick to blame instead of being quick to love.

Instead of blaming others, though, I think we need to be aggressive in our activism for peace.

So, in addition to the thoughts and prayers, in addition to living the lifestyles of gentle peace, I believe we must now live our lives with aggressive intent to be peace activists, and recognize the value in having a genuine awareness of the beauty that not only surrounds us, but absolutely bursts from within us. We need to harness that energy and use it purposefully, mindfully, and with serious intent.

We need to see that, despite these horrors that are now a part of our world, we possess an infinitely greater power to change lives for the better, starting with our very own. It takes action, though, to be engaged in the solution, to be cognizant of those around us who are in need or who are hurting, to reach out in ways that lead to solutions.

The gunman who slaughtered 49 people in Orlando talked about his intentions. He wrote about them. He was investigated twice by the FBI for reasons that placed him on a terror watch list. Even on a personal level, there were opportunities for individuals to say something, to add new information to existing files.

These three simple rules to living a purposeful life with an aggressive advocacy for peace can save lives.

First, you need to find the Prism of Life in every moment. You need to recognize and embrace life’s beauty. Even in the darkest of personal times, beauty still surrounds us. See it and absorb it. Let the prism of life radiate through you, not around you.

Second, you must believe in your power to radiate an infectious, inspiring, and unconditional love. Your energy, limitless in abundance, can and will change lives of the people you meet, interact with, and share a space. We do not need to know when we change lives, or even the specific actions that we have done that have been effective; we just need to know that our actions of peace and love make a profound difference in our communities, both virtual and real.

Third, you need to know, with your entire being, that all we really need is love — to feel, to give, to live. You need to understand that we are not alone in our bouts of confusion, anger, sadness, and frustration. These emotions are just as real and genuine as joy, happiness, and calm. They are allowed to occupy our minds, our hearts, and our souls just as freely. In understanding that these emotions and feelings are real among the millions of Americans and individuals throughout the world, we begin see people in a different light. We begin to approach our relationships with empathy and understanding, with compassion and love, with action and with support.

Yes. There are differences in belief systems that drive some individuals to carry out horrific acts. But these individuals share their thoughts, they throw signals of intent, they talk, write, and publish their plans. If we, with a heightened sense of peace and love through advocacy and activism, can report such signals and provide support for the individuals in need, then we are contributing to more peaceful communities and diminishing the chances of such horrific acts from ever taking place.

Love. Act. Serve. We cannot wait for the next tragedy to advocate for peace. The days are long gone for us to talk about how bad it might get. We are already there.

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