When everything was on the line in the 1940s, it was the United States of America that joined the fight and made the difference in defeating Nazi Germany. It was American initiative that led to the atomic bomb and ended the war in the Pacific, saving hundreds of thousands of American lives which likely would have been lost in an invasion of Japan.
The United States of America rebuilt Western Europe and kept those nations safe from the Soviet Bloc for 45 years. This country has held the line in Korea and protected the South from another invasion from the North. Through our nation’s strength, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are dead.
We’ve protected the world from Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and other wannabe despots. But we can’t protect worshippers in church, people out enjoying themselves at a club on Saturday night, music lovers at an outdoor concert, people exercising their free speech rights in the streets, travelers picking up baggage at an airport carousel, and children at school.
We are a great nation. We have shown that we can do the impossible. When we come together, we can accomplish anything. Why is it so hard to solve the problem of violence in our communities, churches, classrooms, and lives?
We can save the world, conduct full-scale wars on two continents and still have time for Netflix and an ice cream sundae. But we can’t protect ourselves.
How long until we can end the American war on Americans at home?
This is not a call for gun control. Be real for a second. That’s not going to happen in the United States. If you cut an American, you’ll find that gunpowder and lead flows in our national bloodstream. So, let’s set that debate aside for a moment and address the problem.
No. 1: Bring back respect for others and treat them like you want to be treated.
Americans must accept “others” as equal human beings who each have a right to life, liberty and happiness -- the inalienable rights of all people. We must stop looking at as “others,” we can dehumanize into nice separate boxes on a government form.
Too many communities are filled with people who distrust one another. We don’t know our neighbors. We don’t trust our political leaders. Everyone is in it just for themselves.
That makes people feel alone and unsafe and compels them to find protection. Often, that comes in the form of a powerful firearm.
The universe keeps reminding us that we are all in this together. We need to start acting like it.
No. 2: Stop focusing on stupid stuff.
Let’s cancel the national reality show soap opera that’s invaded our daily lives. Reject the continuing obsession on the off-topic, left-field Twitter distractions from our leaders and call for more action from them and from ourselves. And when we fail, we should hold ourselves and our leaders accountable.
No. 3: Rethink everything.
Education: Why do we still have an education system designed in the 19th Century and based on the agrarian calendar? This is a new world that demands new tactics.
It is good to promote STEM, but there’s more to life than numbers and equations. We must enrich students with knowledge from every aspect of life. That includes the arts, communication and our history -- including the hard truths of our past that get erased over time.
The fact that a child can find history boring and love the production of Hamilton and memorize the story tells me we are teaching history the wrong way. There are stories as rich as Alexander Hamilton’s in our libraries that deserve to be known and remembered.
Crime: Stop treating petit drug crimes the same as mass murder. How many resources have been wasted on enforcing modern-day prohibition?
While the influence of the Koch Brothers can become a lightning rod in political debates, set aside partisan prejudice and take a look at the good ideas coming from the Charles Koch Institute on this issue. This is a place where progressives and conservatives can find common ground for the common good.
No. 4: Take responsibility.
This is our world. This is our life. We are responsible for ourselves and our world. Accept your role in it.
Team sports provided me with valuable lessons in my life. I learned that you are responsible for the role you play on a team. In the final analysis, the team comes first and achieving the goal is what matters. If you fumble, get up, figure out why it happened, work to keep it from happening again and run the next play. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about helping the team reach the ultimate goal.
No. 5: Remember to laugh and to love.
Unless something radically earth changing happens, there is a 100 percent chance we are all going to be dead one day. It could be tomorrow. It could be 70 years from tomorrow. Live for today and hope for tomorrow. That means, unconditionally love all the people who are important in your life. Let them know you care.
Stop taking yourself so seriously. Laugh. Create memorable moments. I don’t remember my father working late. He certainly did. I remember him coming home one day, putting us in the car and driving to the mountains for a weekend of exploring and throwing snowballs at each other. Now that dementia has taken him from my conscious life, I love that he gave me that memory to go back to when I’m sad. We need to pause and give a memory to the people we love in our lives.
So, what does all this have to do with guns?
The problem runs deeper than guns. Guns are how the problem is manifested in our society.
We can solve this problem. How? It’s about reconnecting with our communities, respecting one another, recognizing our common humanity, focusing on things that matter, accepting responsibility for our mistakes and forgiving the mistakes of others, rethinking how we run the world, and holding elected leaders accountable for their actions -- no matter their party.
There are no easy fixes. The government will not rescue us. Few politicians will risk going out on their own on an issue until they get a sense of where the parade is going. People must show elected representatives where we want to go, trust them to take appropriate action to help us get there. If they fail, then we do what bosses do and find someone new who will.
Remember, the special interests may have a lot of money to throw around. But they don’t walk into the voting booth and cast a ballot. That’s our job. There’s no amount of money in the world and no campaign commercial that will convince me to support people who put my children’s lives in danger.
If you’re rightly incensed about Parkland, call, email, tweet at, text or visit your elected representatives at every level of government -- school board, city and county commissions, state legislators, Congress, the White House.
Don’t wait for President Trump or Congress to fix this. They won’t unless the people force their hand.
It starts with you.
Just like what happened in the civil rights movement, real change begins locally -- at the lunch counter, at the swimming pool, on the bus and in the schools. Take that approach and lay the foundation at the local level and the movement will grow to the point where it reaches the Lincoln Memorial, where tens of thousands of people will gather and demand change.
Once upon a time, a friend would say, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” That’s true. One person can spark a movement that can change the world.
Yes, it’s up to every individual to accept we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We then must conduct our lives that way. You can take little actions. For example, sometimes I won’t use a straw as part of the effort to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans and killing the sea life.
Yes, other countries have strict gun laws and don’t have mass shootings. These events are the result of a systemic breakdown in modern American society that we have not addressed. That must end.
The Valentine’s Day victims and survivors demand us to take action. Survivors are literally begging all of us to wake up! We can do that by first looking within, assessing our core values, and making a commitment to do our part on behalf of everyone.
Ryan Banfill is a veteran public relations, marketing and communications professional living in Florida. The views expressed are his own. You can find him on Twitter: @RyBan1001.
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