Today, students around the country are walking out of schools to demand common sense gun laws.
I have lost count of how many times I have heard people say some version of “What they really need to be doing is x.”
For example, my daughter’s high school principal told students yesterday that, instead of walking out, they should be “walking in”. Instead of protesting, he said, they should be calling their elected representatives. A friend of my wife suggested on Facebook that, instead of walking out, they should be “walking up”, i.e., they should be walking up to kids who are sitting alone and befriend them.
I wonder why people like my daughter’s principal and my wife’s friend think the two are mutually exclusive. We can protest and we can call our representatives. The kids should walk out and they should befriend others who seem lonely.
I also sometimes wonder if the people who present these false dichotomies are doing either. So they think we should be petitioning our representatives instead of protesting? When was the last time they called their congressperson, I wonder? I suspect that much of the criticism of protesters comes from armchair warriors and serves as a cover for apathy and inaction.
I frequently encounter the same false dichotomy as an adult protester. In fact, just yesterday, I read an editorial in our local paper about a recent protest at a local gun show. The editors were of the opinion that the protesters were “speaking out in the wrong place” and that they should take their arguments to the county council.
This was ironic because I was one of the organizers of the gun show protest and I was reading the article on my phone as I sat in our government building waiting for the county council meeting to begin. On the agenda was a resolution calling for greater gun control. Seated all around me were people who attended the gun show protest. We were doing both. We protested and we petitioned our government.
Either-or thinking has become all too common in our public discourse. After the Parkland massacre, people raced to offer the reason why this happened and the one thing that should be done to prevent it in the future. As if the reasons were mutually exclusive. As if the solutions were mutually exclusive.
We can pass stronger gun laws and provide more funding to mental health treatment. We can protest and petition our representatives. We can petition our representatives and engage our neighbors in civil conversations.
In fact, this blog is dedicated a form of this kind of both-and thinking: the idea that we can be both spiritual and activist.
We can do both. We should do both. Many of us are doing both. We hope you will too.