The last few weeks have seen reports of yet more terror attacks and mass shootings in our country. One of these attacks even happened in a church as services were going on! Often, there seems to be no warning of any kind, no way to stop these horrific acts, and a lot of hand-wringing from authorities over an inability to stop further attacks.
Human history has shown us that people are capable of terrible violence against others and all kinds of motivations can be cited for their actions. It is very likely that these kinds of attacks will continue into the future. After one of these attacks our responses have become commonplace. There are those who call for prayer and those who shout that prayer isn’t doing any good. There are those who call for more regulations and those who shout that we mustn’t give up our freedoms. There are those who call for more programs for the mentally ill and those who shout that we can’t afford it. Some want to limit who can come into our country while others remind us that we are a nation built on immigration. The debates go on and on while very little changes.
The main problem (at least as I see it) is that both sides have good points, but the other side is rarely able to acknowledge this. As our nation struggles to come up with a response to evil, it may be a good idea to examine the nature of the problem, organize our own beliefs and determine where we are willing to compromise on the issues that are important to us.
Step One: Acknowledge the problem. Example: “Terror attacks are killing too many people.”
Step Two: Acknowledge all the possible solutions, even the ones you don’t like. These are often hot-button issues that everyone has a problem with, such as immigration policy, personal freedoms, governmental surveillance, mental health policy, religious belief, etc.
Step Three: Rank your own beliefs. Examine each of your own deeply held beliefs and see how they compare to the problem. For example, would you agree to broader governmental surveillance if it meant saving 10 lives in the future? 100 lives? 1,000 lives? What is your break-even point?
Step Four: Admit that there is a place for compromise. Our current plan, shouting at each other from the opposite corner of a large room, is not working. Try to imagine a place where people were able to make reasonable, common-sense decisions and agreed to give up a little something they hold dear for the common good. For example, few people would argue that seatbelt laws, though they restrict your freedom, have made our lives worse over the last 50 years.
Step Five: Take positive action. If you have an idea for a compromise or are willing to support someone else’s, call your legislator and let them know. Run for office yourself. Make policy changes in your own workplace. Do something that moves the debate along.
We should all pray for an end to violence, but this must be accompanied by positive action.
Father Paul Appel
(Father Paul Appel is Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Davenport and moderator of St. Alphonsus and St. Mary parishes in Davenport and St. Peter Parish in Buffalo.)