Note from Kathie: Dr. Doe West, member of the Engaging Peace Board of Directors, Psychologist, and Counselor, is also a pastor. The next few posts will focus on her sermon on Sunday October 8, 2017, a week after the horrendous mass shooting in Las Vegas. It is a message for people, regardless of their personal faith.
Note from Kathie: Doe West, member of the Engaging Peace Board of Directors, Psychologist, and Counselor, is also a pastor. The next few posts will focus on her sermon of Sunday, October 8, 2017, a week after the horrendous mass shooting in Las Vegas. It is a message that everyone should hear, regardless of their religious affiliation (or lack of affiliation).
This is not the sermon I prepared last week to deliver today. That is because none of us are the same people we were a week ago today. We all came out wounded to some smaller or greater degree by this latest — and one of the largest — massacre in US history — the massacre in Las Vegas. People lost their lives. People lost their loves. People may have lost hope or may have lost faith.
And with the understanding of a counselor as well as a pastor, I see a next dangerous occurrence:
The transition whereby anger without a pathway for safe expression turns inward.
Anger turned inward creates depression, a depression associated with helplessness and hopelessness.
In my psychology training, I learned about the experiments done with rats put into a cage with electrodes on all four walls and ceiling and floor. When they were shocked from one side, the rats were startled but found balance. When they were shocked from all sides, the rats fell over and became catatonic.
In my nearly 40 years of working with human minds, emotions, and spirits, I’ve seen how we can deceive others and ourselves about how much shock we can take before we go catatonic — or ballistic.
I’ve witnessed how often we define ourselves by how we’ve been wounded. We can wear it like a skin, and thus be seen in that shape.
At such times, the counselor in me will offer tools of expression and decompression, for ways to get out of the cage, but that is a harder trip than people think.
Once we are in a cage, we begin to structure our lives in alignment with the pain as long and effectively as possible, even after the way out is pointed to, or after the outside infliction of pain stops.
Engaging Peace is delighted to announce that Dr. Doe West, one of its newest Board of Directors members, has just earned major recognition for her accomplishments on behalf of social justice for the most oppressed members of our society. She has been named a Lifetime Achiever by Marquis Who’s Who.
In this post, we share some of the accomplishments that led to this honor. In our next few posts, we will be sharing her perspectives on violence, nonviolence, apology, and forgiveness in the wake of the recent Las Vegas mass shooting.
Dr. West received an MS from Boston University and a PhD in Law, Policy & Society from Northeastern University. As a Native American Scholar, she was awarded an Advanced Minority Fellowship for her dissertation, a widely respected work on bioethics.
In addition to her PhD in Law, Policy & Society, Dr. West also holds a Master of Divinity, and has nearly completed a doctorate in Religious Philosophy. The two doctoral degrees reflect her belief that work and faith in union are the foundations of social justice.
Dr. West wears many hats in her commitment to the generation of social justice. She is currently a full-time tenured professor and program chair in the human services department of the School of Public Service and Social Sciences at Quinsigamond Community College. She also serves in teaching and consulting roles at Bay Path University and Assumption College.
Dr. West has served in ministerial or pastoral roles at Quincy City Hospital and Charlton’s Overlook Lifespan Community; her home church is the First Congregational Church of Woodstock, CT.
Among Dr. West’s early achievements was work that led to the current Americans with Disabilities Act. Her work with the City of Boston’s Department of Health and Hospitals helped create national guidelines for reasonable accommodation and definition of undue hardship. She was the first Commissioner of Handicap Affairs and 504 compliance officer for Boston, and worked with Senator Edward Kennedy to ensure that historic Faneuil Hall was accessible to people with disabilities.
As a social justice activist, Dr. West has served as executive director of Social Action Ministries. She has worked with the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance and provided “street ministry” for homeless individuals in the Boston Common area.
As a mental health advocate, she worked with the New England Family Study on familial schizophrenia, and coauthored the book Coping+Plus: Dimensions of Disability. Further publications can be found at her Marquis Lifetime Achiever website as well as https://doewestmsmdivphd.academia.edu.
Memorial engraving of the first ‘World Day of Prayer for Peace’ in Assisi (1986), with Pope John Paul II hosting religious leaders from around the world. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: User:Chris Light
By Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D
“If you seek justice, choose for others what you would choose for yourself.” (Baha’i)
“One should seek for others the happiness one derives for one’s self.” (Buddhism)
“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” (Christianity)
“What you do not want done to yourself, do not unto others.” (Confucianism)
“Do naught to others which if done to thee would cause pain.” (Hinduism)
“No one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (Islam)
“We should . . . refrain from inflicting upon others such injury as would appear undesirable to us if inflicted upon ourselves.” (Jainism)
“What is hurtful to yourself, do not do to our fellow man.” (Judaism)
“As thou deemest thyself, so deem others.” (Sikkhism)
“To those who are good to me, I am also good; and to those who are not good to me, I am also good. And thus all get to be good.” (Taoism)
“Do as you would be done by.” (Zoroastrianism)
It is indeed ironic, tragic in fact, the Golden Rule is considered an essential truth of world religions, and yet is abandoned by religions in favor of self-serving social and political goals keeping people apart, separate, and disconnected. As has been said by wise voices: “There is no other.”
Apparently, mere presence of alternative beliefs confronts people and religions with an experienced threat to their beliefs, diminishing the value of their beliefs, because there is alternative.
“How can you say this?” they claim, “when I know fervently in my heart and mind, and, because of everything I have been told, my view is the only right view. “
“Now I must try to inform you of your errors, even if I must use force and violence. It is for your sake I do this, so you may know the truths I know and belief. My God is more powerful than your god.”
There is no easy answer to this paradoxical behavior, rooted as it is in complex historical, cultural, political, and economic reasons. Perhaps, a first step, unlikely to bring immediate results, but gradual success, is for an individual to say:
“Peace begins with me! I will practice non-violence, and offer healing to all in need. I will constantly ask forgiveness for the acts I committed bringing sorrow and grief to others.”
Humility is required! There is healing in apology. Individuals, groups, and nations can forgive, and can apologize, and with these acts find “Truth” in the Golden Rule, and a new sense of identity and purpose in these acts.
As Vaclav Havel noted: “Perhaps it was always there, and our selfishness prevented us from seeing it and knowing it.”
Special appreciation to an old friend, Stephen Blessman, for his knowledge of the Golden Rule in world religions.
School children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut; parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina; co-workers in San Bernardino, California; nightclub attendees in Orlando, Florida; and now concertgoers in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Each time, the horror of yet another mass shooting leaves us stunned, grief-stricken, and desperate for answers. But always lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce, is a modern-day Cerberus. Like that three-headed hound of Greek mythology that patrolled the gates of hell, the National Rifle Association, the firearms industry, and their bankrolled politicians obstruct every step toward gun reform, ominously warning that any restrictions will make us helpless to protect ourselves.
When it comes to promoting this manipulative “we’ll all be helpless” mind game, the leading huckster is undoubtedly Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s longtime CEO. In an op-ed shortly after President Obama’s re-election in 2012, LaPierre explained, “No wonder Americans are buying guns in record numbers right now, while they still can and before their choice about which firearm is right for their family is taken away forever.” In the same piece, he described the NRA as “the indispensable shield against the destruction of our nation’s Second Amendment rights” and “the only chance gun owners have to withstand the coming siege.”
That same year, a week after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, LaPierre called for armed security guards in every U.S. school, arguing “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” And in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he listed “home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers” among the threats that only assault-style rifles and other guns can stop.
The NRA and gun lobby aggressively push these psychologically-potent appeals because they know nothing sells guns like fear — including the fear of not having a gun. Indeed, in the aftermath of massacres, worries about gun restrictions often lead to sharp increases in handgun purchases. Sure enough, gun stocks rose on Wall Street in the days immediately following the Las Vegas attack.
The bottom-line here is simple: easy access to deadly weapons means greater profits for gun manufacturers and dealers. At the same time, let’s remember that our country’s far-too-frequent mass shootings actually account for only a small part of the bloodshed. The number of deaths from gun violence in the U.S. this year — including homicides and suicides — is again likely to exceed 30,000. That figure is comparable to the number of Americans who are killed in automobile accidents.
To help give their “we’ll all be helpless” scare tactics the sheen of academic respectability, the gun industry has eagerly turned to the likes of economist John Lott, the high-profile promoter of the widely discredited thesis that more guns lead to less crime. Lott has argued that gun reform “will leave individuals more vulnerable and helpless” and that “instead of making places safer, disarming law-abiding citizens leaves them as sitting ducks.” But his claims have collapsed under careful scholarly scrutiny.
The prestigious National Research Council dismissed Lott’s findings and his methodology, and researchers at Stanford and Harvard have shown that higher rates of household gun ownership are associated with higher, not lower, homicide rates, both nationally and in state-by-state comparisons.
Of course, scientific evidence regarding gun violence isn’t popular with many beholden members of Congress. For them, propaganda is just fine. In fact, thanks to NRA lobbying, Congress prohibits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from even conducting research related to guns and public health. And let’s not forget who’s in the White House. Benefiting from millions of dollars of support from the NRA during his presidential campaign, self-proclaimed “true friend and champion” Donald Trump has opined, “You take the guns away from the good people, and the bad ones are going to have target practice.”
Making matters still worse, the NRA’s messaging machine has been winning over large segments of the public as well. For the first time in decades, recent national polls have shown there’s greater support for “gun rights” than for “gun control.” This support is especially strong among those white Americans who mistakenly believe crime rates are rising. And whereas people used to report that hunting was their primary reason for owning a gun, now they say it’s for personal safety.
A fearful country is exactly what the NRA and gun industry want. But to protect their turf and profits even more, they also want us to believe there’s yet another terrifying monster under our collective bed: the prospect of a future in which we’re all disarmed and helpless to keep our loved ones safe.
How can we resist these fearmongering ploys? By recognizing that sensible gun reform is only a phantom menace — and that the real one looks like the deadly arsenal of firearms and munitions on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas last Sunday night.
Published by royeidelson on Psychology Today. Reposted by permission.
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