Many moons ago, our American founding fathers spurred a dialogue of constructive conflict that yielded a model constitution and a free republic. These innovators risked their lives in perilous times to give birth to a new nation. Some became very wealthy (e.g.- Washington, Franklin) while others died with no riches (e.g.- Jefferson, Madison). Country for these diverse men was above all, a first priority versus a selfish pursuit. In 200+ years, the ideas and foundation they implanted, allowed a fledgling country to grow from modest beginnings to an enviable land with magnificent cities, vast connecting highways and citizenry of 300+ million inhabitants.

America welcomed immigrants, innovation, talent and faith into a melting pot brew of many cultures to create the great society. Over the years, people have struggled, compromised or broken ground on a variety of topics that has made America what it is today. Fear of the British, French, Spaniards, new frontiers, emancipation, Vietnam, Korea and World Wars kept a palpable yen and respect for guns alive in most Americans for a good portion of our growth. America was borne, after all, with the use of gunpowder, steel and bayonets and replaced over time with a military and defense complex that is the largest in the world.

Abraham Lincoln’s “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” continues to resonate in our minds and souls. Faith, government and people come together to play an integral part in the building of a great nation. And even with these key ingredients, our founding fathers embedded the lessons of history to create checks and balances within our society so that no man (or woman), no branch of government, could have ultimate power. Why would our nation’s forefathers not create a monarchy or a dictatorship when it was within their power to do so?

Technology, science and societal infrastructure have given us a chance to walk on the moon, explore the universe, travel the world and live with modern conveniences that we can easily take for granted. With all of this innovation, and opportunity, why is America’s happiness index at 105th, lower than many 3rd world countries (Costa Rica, Vietnam and Columbia took the lead in 2012)? Why are we obsessed with guns, and fear (88 guns per 100 people in the US, the largest of any nation)? Are our fears of loss encumbering our thought process?

One might consider the 2012 Newtown, CT shooting of kindergarten students a uniting moment where empathy, concern and rallying action come together. Instead, it has become a polarizing event with automatic machine gun enthusiasts on one side and fed up agents of change on the other. One side looks back in time touting the birthright of America with guns under the Second Amendment and the other looks for a more harmonious society in the future; a future not only where we will continue to coexist but where our children will thrive and prosper.

We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
Native American Proverb

Our “fast food, get it now, entertain me at will” expectations create a climate of convenience where self-interests drown out a utilitarian conscious that seeks out the greater good. This self-interest sense of entitlement, coupled with fear, is an elixir that suppresses empathy and forward-looking diversity of thought.

My daughter died a few years ago; the grief is heart wrenching. The Newton, CT tragedy should be a rallying cry for human arms, instead it has become a rally for building up arms. “Arm our schools, fight government, save my right to have a machine gun and have fun!” Selfishness abounds, in a cloak of fear and insecurity, for the self-preservation of “my” interests. Why is empathy such an elusive trait? Can we not feel some pain as if it was our own and offer more than sympathetic rhetoric followed by a “Yeah, but…” answer that in essence protects gun rights over societal rights, private rights over government background checks, fun over safety?

The teachers at Newtown, CT exhibited heroic selfless concern for the well being of their students. They cannot tell their own story now but their resting embrace in the slaughter, protecting the children entrusted in their care, is a rallying cry that we all need to do more. Gun violence in America is a complex issue that involves many solutions. It starts however, by putting our own self-interests and outdated fears of government oppression aside to continue building a greater society.
Progress involves a modicum of altruistic values. Is it dead?

Enrique Ruiz

Author's Bio: 

Ruiz is an accomplished Program Manager that has led large scale IT operations over the past decade. His credits involve Census Operations in three countries, hiring and training for the Veterans Benefit Administration Document Conversion program and military/commercial manufacturing.

He is the author of four books and speaks regularly on Diversity Management and Building Leadership skills.