As I try to process the rhetoric and discourse that has become a defining perception of American society of late, I am troubled most NOT by the loudest voices that seem to be spouting hateful language and separatist – discordant verbosity, but by the silence of voices guiding us in moral, values-based conversation that brings us together.
I long for that voice of my grandfather, Federico, teaching me to be a loving man at the age of nine, in what seemed a simpler time.
I dream of a powerful voice that envisioned an equitable existence for all mankind regardless of “the color of their skin”, religion, national origin, ethnic background, gender identity, sexual orientation, or …. political affiliation.
I hope and pray for a future for my students, children, and grandchildren that affords voice without fear of persecution, an ability to practice their belief without fear violence, and the ability and courage to accept the differences of others with respect, honor, and integrity.
I am reminded of the trainings and the guiding research that has brought an awareness of the impact of trauma to the education professional, the soldier and military leader, the police officer and first responders, the crisis therapist and mental health provider. The plethora of research and evidence linking experiential trauma to a life-time of health and mental health complications, to include greater likelihood of high risk activities and even a diminished life expectancy, is irrefutable. We all know this as professionals. However, we haven’t examined the effect societal traumas on the social and emotional wellness of our school, community, nation, and the world as a whole. I know that I cannot do justice to the academic discourse surrounding the long lasting effects of local, national, and international events that have shaped our human experience, but I would like to make some observations about a few.
As a trauma trained educational professional, I am prompted to think of our societal traumas as I would a school aged child. In one of my trainings the facilitator exemplified the effects of a child’s trauma by pulling books out of a backpack labeled with things like; domestic violence, alcohol in the home, bullying online, sibling in jail, etc. The backpack seemed bottomless. I would like to pull a few things out of OUR proverbial backpack:
- Closer to home than we would ever like to be … active shooters in schools. Students, parents, grandparents, school faculty and staff, local first responders. Let’s think about the level of fear that these have propagated, and the resulting effects on educational priorities. Other ramifications of the fear is the “hardening” of schools to the point that you can’t tell if the fences and walls are to keep the danger out, or to keep the danger in. Likely the most divisive effect of this circumstance is the enduring contention between sides over armed Teachers or staff that has caused great distress among families, friends, and communities. The discordant rhetoric surrounding this disagreement has caused seemingly irreparable harm as it has often devolved into fractious, hateful language, and greater division within our society.
- A week ago, my wife and I went to see the movie “The Hate You Give.” This movie, as an artistic representation of the antagonistic political discourse attributed to the theme of maltreatment of oppressed populations, attempts to refocus the discussion on the concept that these issues will never be addressed until we can set aside the hate and address the root causes to the circumstances. Even before the release of this movie the discourse took a sharp turn toward accusation, animosity, and deflection to political agendas, rather than a willingness to listen, debate, and work toward a solution. The seeming unwillingness of leaders, formal and informal, or a suppression of voices of reason to see this as an opportunity to resolve societal ills only encourages greater fragmentation of values and morals and bolster fanatical perspectives.
- The seemingly burgeoning human rights atrocities propagated by war, conflicts, political unrest, crime, and what seems to be an increase in religious, racial, and ethnic contention throughout our global society has had the effect of stoking the dormant fears we have of the unknown and averted our attention from the value of service to others. Rather than meeting to address a distressed circumstance that may have displaced a group of people from another part of the globe or even near our borders, the divisive rhetoric has once again embraced the discourse of fear and hate and displaced our values for human rights. This continuing discourse of fear and hate has handicapped our societal value system and disabled the ability of our leadership construct from acting in the interest of the natural rights of all humans.
- Fanaticism and extremism have been terms copiously alleged from all parties, viewpoints, belief structures, as well as pundits, politicians, and from organizational platforms. The accusatory use of these terms toward opposing perspectives propagates the hate language and affects a climate of division and conflict. De-escalation of of this divisive rhetoric and realignment of societal and political discourse based on the values of respect, honor, and integrity, which are arguably the cornerstones of our constitutional foundations, must be achieved to combat the perception of fascism and engender the concept of democracy.
As a father and grandfather, as an educator and education leader, as a veteran and current member of the armed forces … I beseech my fellow American, my fellow human, to take a moment to reflect on the discourse we are involved and assess whether values are being compromised. I am not asking to set aside your beliefs and passions, rather to guide the discourse we have in a manner that values our neighbors, our communities, nation and global society.
Reflecting on what I can do to alleviate these concerns, even within my own small community, I know that I can affect change in one certain way … I can pledge my personal attention to equitable discourse.
- I will honor your voice
- I will express myself with respect
- We will find a solution that reflects our integrity