Guest Columnist

Leaders: Please tell it like it is

Microphones are seen outside of the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 27, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Microphones are seen outside of the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 27, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Hope for this country resides in its children. As one school shooting after another fades from popular memory, our children are speaking out and are organizing. They are the victims of the society they are growing up in, and they are demanding change. They ask to be safe in their schools. And in their homes. And in their world.

Our leaders are so sorry each time a school shooting happens and are so eager to utter words of comfort, to praise the bravery of responders, to admire the spirit and resilience of the American people. Our TVs are filled with pictures and details of the horrors and the emotional suffering of children and parents and school personnel who are victims of these atrocities. It has become a publicity heyday every few months.

Let’s tell our leaders we don’t want their ever-ready heartfelt expressions of sympathy and encouragement; let’s turn off our TVs and social media, and demand a real look at a society where these things are becoming commonplace.

To our leadership: Please, tell it like it is! How many more sad days will it take to face the real problem of school shootings in this country? It’s easy to say, “It’s terrorism,” “It’s guns,” “It’s mental health.” Obviously these are toxic ingredients that have escalated in recent years, and they must be addressed now. But from a wider perspective, shouldn’t we also address whether they are symptoms of the kind of society we have become.

To begin, let’s ask some questions:

1. Do we understand the many influences both biologic and environmental affecting our young people as they are growing up?

2. Do they have the help and support needed at various stages of their development?

3. What are we teaching our children about how to live and how to solve problems?

Then, let’s tell our leaders: you are responsible to us, the people of this country; you are responsible for the general welfare; you are responsible for the example you are giving to our children and to all of us. Yes, we are responsible, too, but you have the prominence and the power.

So we expect you to actually do something, to tackle the problems in our society. You could start by examining how you are contributing to these problems. Are people’s, especially families’ basic needs being met? Are you exhibiting qualities like honesty, compassion, generosity, civility, moral fortitude that can be influential and make for a good society? How are you dealing with the many domestic and world problems? Are you employing violence or non-violence to solve these problems?

So we ask you, count yourselves in when these massacres unfold.

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You set the stage that especially the young respond to, either following the example or rebelling against it.

Many people, especially the young, are turned off or angry with government and with life as they are experiencing it. So listen up, and deal with the “holistic” as well as the immediate problem of mass killings.

It might take some time, but if you lead in a new direction, people will follow. Then maybe the problems of mental health, guns, and terrorism will fade away.

• Sally McMillan lives in Iowa City.

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