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It’s all about character

I just watched President Obama’s response to the shooting in Oregon… Wow. Seeing the president of the United States – one of the most powerful people in the world – express such helplessness really hit a nerve with me.

So I did a little research about school shootings. It was easy enough to find. According to Everytown, there have been 45 school shootings in 2015 (26 where one or more people were hurt and/or killed). I’m writing this at the beginning of October, and a little quick math tells us that we’re averaging 2.6 school attacks per month.

What I couldn’t find was any sort of federal legislation addressing the problem. I found some executive orders (back in 2013), but nothing this year, and no legislation this year. I did find an article about Congress putting a stop to CDC research on gun violence.

Again… Wow.

Please don’t start screaming about Republicans, Democrats, or Americans.  This is not a post about politics. This also is not a post about guns or mental health facilities.

This is a post from a guy who writes stories for kids, coaches kids’ soccer, and is a dad.

In all three of those roles, one concept that I keep firmly in mind is character.

When I’m writing, character is paramount to everything. How would this person react to this threat? Would he run away? Would he tell a lie to escape trouble? Would she stand up to protect her friends?

In soccer, personal character is what defines a good team. If you’ve ever watched sports, you’ve seen teams without character. Their players scream at each other (and the coach). They cheat every chance they get and they celebrate the opposing team’s injuries.

As a dad, character is a never-ending topic of conversation in our house. Years ago, my oldest son got in trouble for fighting on the bus. He was in first grade at the time, and I was really surprised. Then I found out he’d been defending one of his friends, a boy who was on the autistic spectrum. A group of other kids had been picking on him, throwing insults and bits of paper. My son tried to stop them.

We had our first real character discussion after that fight, when my wife and I explained to him how proud we were, and that we would always support him taking action to help people who are in need. Later, he learned that he didn’t always have to fight to take action, and that was good, too.

Now let’s apply these standards of character to the legislative branch of our government.

They have been faced with a concrete, identifiable problem: people are shooting students at schools. Their only response has been occasional tentative suggestions for increased gun control. Those suggestions are immediately defeated by people who are in favor of guns, people who offer no solutions.

The result? 535 members of Congress. Zero legislation, zero action, lots of accusing.

Let’s look at that inaction through the lens of character with these three questions:

  1. Imagine you were reading about this Congress in a book. Would they be the heroes?
  2. If Congress was a soccer team, would they be screaming at each other, or playing together?
  3. If they were on that elementary school bus with a friend being bullied, do you have any faith that they would stand up to their peers to protect him?

If you answer those questions the same way that I do, I think we can agree that the legislative branch of our government has serious problems.

In soccer, parenting, and writing, when you’re having problems, you always go back to the basics. You focus on the fundamentals.

In this case, the fundamental that needs work is character.

As a group, Congress apparently has none.

And that is really, really sad.



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Posted October 2, 2015 in Life