A Special Encounter With A Local Business Owner

This morning I had a scheduled meeting with a local business owner here in Fort Bragg whose family happened to originate from Greece. This gentleman described the trek they made nearly 40 years ago to our great Nation! The owner, we’ll call him Cristo, sat down in a tiny booth located at the back-end of the restaurant where we began talking about the photos on the walls within this local family mom and pop shop.

We discussed the history behind the photos, and his families long journey to the United States. He pointed to one particular photo of the village his mother grew up in and spoke with such unwavering pride when exclaiming that he was the first generation in his family to be born and raised in America!

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Without hesitation Cristo immediately went into his thoughts about the media frenzy surrounding the separation of children from their parents at the border. He held back nothing as he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “My family came here legally, I have no sympathy for those choosing to break the law.” We then dove into the medias sad role in furthering the divisive rhetoric.

While I persisted in saying that the media was the primary source of the charade in recent weeks, he couldn’t have disagreed more. He exclaimed, this is not an issue of the media, but of our education system. Cristo went on to state that his three younger sons have made their way through both the private and public school systems and that, all three have had teachers preaching political agendas within the school. He frustratingly told me that he does not pay for Biology and Math teachers to force their political beliefs on his sons.

We had a long discussion regarding the now seen byproduct of the liberal indoctrination/victimization mentality preached within the public and private sectors of education. We further expressed a joint concern over the effect that this has had, and will continue to have, on our youth.

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I recalled the very permanent memory of a professor who demanded that the American Dream was dead. She, along with several other teachers and educative members of the University insisted upon a highly polarized political viewpoint. One that was not warranted, and was undoubtedly not supported by the University itself. The issue I have with the public school system however extends far beyond this one professor.

One parent from a school that I will refrain from listing said this;

We’re tired of the school trying to indoctrinate our children to believe what they believe rather than teaching critical thinking and actual course work. We’re tired of our kids coming home feeling defeated because their beliefs are forbidden at school and they will be ostracized if they speak out.

I can unfortunately attest to the fact that these types of school interactions happen far too often. The day after the election results were announced, myself and two others sat in the front of the class. We were known as supporters of the Republican party, and while we sometimes disagreed with President Trumps policies and methods, we had no problem advocating a desire to see him succeed. We were called crazy, stupid, and a few other not so nice names that I won’t bother listing.

The teachers were crying (no joke) and telling students to “just stay calm,” as if the Country was crumbling before our very own eyes. Blatantly stating that the University did not support the results of the election, nor did it acknowledge the outcome as policy. Teachers time and time again stated that he was “not my president.” It was absolutely ludicrous!

An excerpt given by a College Fix article really drives home the point in that;

It’s no surprise that a system that is state-funded and state-run advocates for a bigger government.The public school system is a microcosm of the socialist system, one that is bureaucratic, wasteful, and does not serve its original and intended purpose. Education is the cornerstone of Western society, a place where our youth are taught to think broadly and develop their own unique worldview. Instead, we are often taught what to believe instead of how to think.

While Cristo and I agreed that the education system needs serious reform, it’s no secret that nothing changes overnight. And that, if the system were to ever change, it would take decades to reach sizable reform. So we concluded the discussion on the note that we would just have to remain persistent in our efforts to enforce the code of ethics and challenged thinking from home. While it doesn’t fix the problem, we can at least manage on the home front.

I made my way out of the restaurant and as I looked back to Cristo he said, “If there’s any living proof of the American Dream, it’s me… and let me tell you, it’s not dead. Thank you for the reminder that there are individuals like yourself still out there.” And we went on to continue our day. He left me with a feeling of hope that there are more of us out there than what we see on social media and the news. I hope this acted as a reminder to you that, while we may remain silent, the hard-working, patriotic, men and women of America are not in fact a dying breed.

 

 

 

What’s So Bad About Patriotism?

via Opinion 

Who would have thought that we would one day live in a society where Patriotism would be so highly frowned upon and despised? And even more so that anti-nationalism would be such a trend. The deterioration of patriotism can be seen steadily declining in recent years. According to the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, from as late as 2003, Americans were the most patriotic people on earth. So what happened?

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As of today, only 34% are extremely proud of this great Nation. One could pin a direct relation between these numbers and the lack of American History being taught in schools. I can vividly remember growing up in the public school system and studying our history as a Nation. Perhaps, I’m one of the last few to make it before we changed focus from a national identity to a globalist one.

Now we live in a world where deliberately insulting the Nation, one that has brought us the freedoms we enjoy, is more common place than showcasing gratitude towards it. This, partnered with an increasingly hate filled rhetoric by political figures, has created the perfect storm. In an article written by the New York Times, a survey said that “In general, millennials have more appetite for egalitarian principles than older people.”

Egalitarianism, holistically speaking, is fine. However, there are two variations to this word that are more often used. Economic egalitarianism and the egalitarianism in the form of equal opportunity. Let me tell you, there is nothing wrong with equal opportunity.  What has became a more popular rhetoric, however, is that of economic egalitarianism. Where individuals feel that they are entitled. Entitled to money, success, etc. And what we are experiencing because of this mindset is a rapid decline in patriotism when the government doesn’t grant handouts, paired with an equally startling rise in self entitlement and laziness.

The beauty of patriotism in America that my generation seems to have lost sight of is something called “The American Dream.” AKA work hard and get rewarded. Aspire to a better life. And you know what’s a shame? It’s being taught in schools as a dead notion. I remember being told by a college professor that “the American Dream isn’t real.” What a sad shame that must be to truly believe such a thing.. as she sat there, in a University classroom, living in a free Country, surrounded by men and women of many races, teaching us (BS I might add). And this is the problem with the world we live in.

The Founding Fathers created the Constitution to act as a protection to the American Dream in that, every American has the right to achieve their fullest potential. To further contribute their “utmost to society.” It was their belief that, in order to ensure national progress, we must protect citizens their right to improve their lives. This is a fundamentally different approach than that of economic egalitarianism.

 

I’d like to end this post with a few of my final thoughts, starting with this…

The world does not owe you anything.

Not money, respect, health, happiness. None of it.

If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, stop. Work hard and reap the benefits, play the victim and plan to lose. If there’s anyone who owes you a thing it’s yourself, so start acting like it and stop asking for handouts. Just because we honor hard work and deny those who wish to align with a victim mentality doesn’t mean that this great Nation isn’t great anymore. It means you need to reassess what you’re asking for.

Our society could gain a lot from a change in mindset. A change in priorities.

Now I’m no person of major influence, I know, but I can tell you that what I plan to do is preach these words until the day I die. Preach them to my children and to those around me. If you’ve been given a tough hand, use that hardship to motivate you in the now and forge ahead! It’s a mindset, it’s a lifestyle, it’s being an American.

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Mental Illness: Why Aren’t We Talking About It?

One in five adults have a mental health condition. Let that sink in. That’s over 40 million Americans, and the number is steadily rising. While the mainstream media loves to undermine America’s mental health crisis to further their anti-gun agenda, the facts are hard to dismiss.

3.JPGThe United States has a serious problem, with a serious workforce shortage that further exacerbates the issue.

In the paragraphs following I will shed light on my key findings through research of Psychology Today, The National Institute of Mental Health, Mental Health America and more. Having experienced and battled with mental illness myself, this study hits close to home. My hopes in publishing my work is to shed light on the ever-growing problem, discuss potential solutions, and walk away feeling enlightened and determined to be the means to an end needed to better combat the rise seen in mental illnesses in America.

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Of the 43 million, nearly 56% do not receive treatment. Not including the 76% of youth who are left with little to no sufficient treatment and care options.

That’s more than the populations of New York and Florida combined. 

Before we dig too far into this pandemic, let us first define what I mean when I say “mental illness.”

Mental Illness, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association, is a health condition involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associate with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities. Further, the illness does not discriminate; it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, social status, race, etc. While is can affect anyone at any time, most cases are identified by age 24.

Common symptoms include but are not limited to prolonged depression, feelings of extreme highs and lows, excessive fears, worries and anxieties, social withdrawal, strong feelings of anger, a growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities, suicidal thoughts, and more. With over 200 classifications, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. its toll affects each and every one of us in some capacity whether it be direct or inadvertent.

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Despite its scope and severity rising in the millions, we have still yet to see commensurate visibility, policy reform, research, or funding on a local and federal level.

So what should we do? Can we even help? Well, the first thing to know is that there is hope for those battling mental illness. Between seeking psychological treatment methods and utilizing medications, even the most complex cases can see major changes in just a few short months.

On the flip side of this I want to write a disclaimer. Just speaking from personal experience. Seeking out a psychologist can prove to be immensely beneficial for not only you, but for your loved ones and families who provide your support network as well. However, it is common to get comfortable living in the anxiety and emotions of what you’re battling. Often times seeking a psychologist can provide short-lived relief, but can also make the healing process even more drawn out.

From my own experiences I know that there came a time where I was so comfortable in feeling miserable for myself that I let it take over me. It seeped into every aspect of my life. Every time I would speak with my counselor I would live in the past. I’d fixate on things and develop compulsive thoughts. There came a point where I had to just part ways with the process, accept how far I had come, and move on! Luckily my family was able to snap me out of the funk I was in. They said,

“Amanda, sometimes you act like you’re the only one going through anything. Everyone battles their own demons. But the longer you let it control your happiness, the less time you have to live your life.”

Which brings me to my next point… surround yourself by family and friends.

One of the biggest lies you can tell yourself is that you are alone in this. Let me just tell you, you are not! The more you surround yourself by those who will remind you of this, the better you’ll feel. Now all that to say, we must find a more comprehensive solution at every level.

On a Federal level, the government plays a major role in regulating systems and providers relating to mental health in America. They also set the tone in terms of the quality of care given.  In other words, the federal government ultimately provides the oversight across the states. They also controls the protection of rights given to individuals with mental health disorders, as well as the sustained funding and ongoing research. Here is where I feel we can expand the most in terms of monetary changes as well as raising awareness.

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While the government does provide a major funding stream, including a match of Medicaid (single largest funder of mental health services in the country), we are still facing a startling shortage in qualified workforce professionals. Alongside a shortage of providers, we’ve seen a lack of accountability in diagnosing and treating children from an early age, often times missing the crucial onset of symptoms. Lastly, while we are constantly gaining insights into the mind and it’s complexities, there is still a lot to learn. Funding research must be put on the forefront of any political campaign, rather that be at the local or national level. Which means we, as a society, must hold our world leaders accountable!

If you feel called to raise awareness and make a difference, click here to maintain your voice in the federal decision-making processes on mental health! Or, let your money do the talking and donate to Mental Health America for research and treatment solutions.

If you or a loved one you know are struggling, please call or click the

“Get Immediate Help” link to find out more.

There is so much more to this life than what you’re feeling right now. I promise you things will get better and know I’m always here if you need someone to talk to.

Get Immediate help

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Vetrans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 Press 1.

A Little Positive Reinforcement

Wow, what a crazy start to the year it has been. Made some life changing moves, both figuratively and literally. And I must say, change sucks… but boy is it great for growth! I am now a proud member of the “adult working class,” fiancé to the most amazing man, and I must admit it feels pretty darn great. Now let me be clear, I have my days. There’s been times in recent weeks that the lowest of lows have been really… well, low. But that’s when I grant myself some positive reinforcement and a bit of a reality check. Let me explain what I mean.

I’m at a point in life where others around me are doing some pretty amazing things. Traveling the world, making money doing what they truly love, etc. It’s easy to get down on myself when comparing to others. And I’ll be the first to admit that this is a terrible way to live life. I’ll quote from scripture in that, “Each of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others.  Assume your own responsibility.” Galatians 6:4-5. Think about that, assume your own responsibility. Those words are pretty powerful. Assume your role in what you make of your life. Only YOU are in control of your own personal journey. Let the doubts and naysayers empower your own thirst for growth!

 

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Syria: Once a Pivotal Actor in The Regional Power Struggle, Now a Failed State. What Happened?

While Syria has taken center stage in recent years as one of the many strongholds for Islamic Extremism, the prospect of a brighter future could be seen just a few short years ago. After citizens sought to peacefully protest and shape outcomes for a more inclusive partnership between modernizers and the local opposition, it seemed as though Syria was on the cusp of making way for Westernization in the Middle East. With a new leader in charge, Bashar Al-Assad was said to have created a lot of optimism among the people due to his ideas of modernizing Syria.

Perhaps some of the biggest challenges that faced Assad upon his coming into power was providing economic reform, stimulating growth, and combating the dwindling oil revenues seen in the early 2000’s. However, his short lived promises and influx of Arab investments stabilizing the region would soon dwindle down to nothing. Further, mismanagement of peaceful protest that shortly thereafter turned violent would cause a deadly civil war resulting in a failed State. This ultimately left a vacuum for extremism that would lead to yet another ISIS controlled region.

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Bashar Al-Assad assumed power in 2000. With the Damascus Spring of 2000-2001 it was thought that a partnership could take place. Many exercising peacefully their protest of the current system, it wasn’t long before Assad shut down his idea of political reform. Claiming that social and economic reform needed to take place first before liberalization could happen. Assad attempted to keep the Middle Class under wraps by allowing for certain political decompressions. By encouraging an increased consciousness of abuse without allowing for proper institutionalized channels of retribution, Assad inadvertently paved the way for the 2011 Uprising.

Moving in conjunction with the peoples growing consciousness and disdain for current policy, another advancement made way that would forever alter the the destabilizing nature of the Middle East… smart phones and social media.

The Arab Uprising, stretching across various countries of the Middle East, started as peaceful protest documented via social media that quickly turned violent. It wasn’t until after the detaining of 15 young boys for graffiti as well as the torture and killing of one 13 year old that violent protests erupted. Despite the mobilizing nature of these mass protests, momentum wasn’t strong enough to successfully overthrow Assad due to the geographical nature and dispersions away from the Capital.

Conflict quickly broke out between the regime and opposition. However, as democracy activists that led the initial protest withdrew from Syria, the only thing remaining were Islamic hardliners. These remaining individuals had two things that proved momentous in times of an emerging war economy: money and guns. Between Assad’s polarizing nature and increased use of violence, Syria found itself on the precipice of a major Civil War. One that we’ve seen play out in recent years… One that has taken more than 465,000 lives, injured over 1 million, and left nearly 12 million displaced. The odd nature of Syria as a key actor in the Arab Uprising is that, despite conflict and civil war, the overthrow of power has still not yet been seen. Both the President and the regime are still at large, how?

Alongside the dispersive nature of the initial protests away from the capitol, we also see the conflict framed in sectarian terms, in a way so that the opposition could better appeal to the Sunni majority. Add a president with a backing army willing to defend against the opposition, all with ties to the Ba’ath party, and you have a force to be reckoned with that differs insurmoutnably from Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya; all of which either led peaceful protests or successfully overthrew the current president.

Another intricate part to the system at play can be seen through external forces. One of which was the United States. By placing sanctions on the regimes source of oil , the U.S. by default rid the region of any sort of stability that could have benefited from its supply. Despite our efforts to sanction, the United States further failed to halt regime operations. What started as an internal conflict quickly found external forces that would use the sight of a failing State to regain momentum lost in the original Arab Uprising. Fast forward to three years after the initial Uprising, the State was divided between regime and opposition with much of the Northern and Eastern regions of Syria out of government control. The lack of structure created a domino effect that would result in extremist factions using the region in an attempt to set the tone for regional balances of power in the Middle East.

With the emergence of a war economy, extremist groups were given a stake in the continuance of conflict as a three way struggle for power between the regime, “moderate” opposition, and Jihadists.

Fast forward to today and we are still bearing witness to regions of Syria under attack i.e., Eastern Ghouta. Under Siege by the Syrian government since 2013, Turkey, Russia and Iran labeled it a “de-escalation zone,” in which a strict no fly zone had been enacted. However, on Sunday February 19th 2018, backed by Russian planes, relentless bombings killed hundreds by Syrian forces. With no end in sight, it’s hard to imagine an ending that doesn’t involve the entire Country self-imploding. Even if the constant state of war was to subside there’s still the rebuilding phase which, judging by arial views, could take anywhere from 15-20 years at least. Children have been deprived of any sort of education, which leaves yet another vacuum for radicalization.

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It is to my belief that in order for the deescalation of the Middle East to happen three major factors must be present: a rebuild of infrastructure and education, distribution of wealth to create a strong Middle Class, and access to resources. We must also encourage modernization for Syria and surrounding regions, as striving for such is a key component in restoring structure to a destabilized region. Will this ever be possible, it’s hard to say.

I used to think we could change the world when I was younger. Perhaps it was flawed thinking then, or maybe the problem just wasn’t as bad. Either way, we’ve been in a constant state of war with an ideology for over twenty years. I’ve had conversation after conversation discussing the future of Islam and the Middle East.  The question I continue to ask myself is “when will it ever stop?”  I want to believe in our government, that we truly do look out for the better interest of the world. It’s hard however, to ignore a region such as the Middle East when each extremist group is more radical and militarily sophisticated than the last. Is it just a part of life? I hope not. I hope we can find common ground. I hope my kids can grow up in a world different than this one. Call it wishful thinking, call it being naive.. I call it hope for the greater good.

Gun Control, Mental Health & Media Glorification

It’s sadly no surprise to see another mass shooting on the news, and we have to ask ourselves if we’re really doing all that we can to minimize these horrific episodes from happening?  There’s always various distinguished sides to this debate and we’ve grown pretty familiar to the agendas. It seems as though the Country is at a crucial divide, in a climate where political control within the media is at an all-time high.  We must seek to find the answers outside of mainstream media and that’s exactly what I aimed to do when starting this post.

My question today is this, “how do we ensure the safety of our Nation?” Putting all politically charged issues to the side, I want to dive into the facts… the most unbiased way to hone in on what triggers an act of violence such as the Florida School shooting and others alike. I’ll be pulling from various sources, The American Psychiatric Association, the FBI’s Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013, and the LA Times.

Let’s Look at the Facts: US Gun Deaths Broken Down

Between 2000 and 2013 160 incidents have occurred.

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In 37 incidents (23.1%) the shooters committed suicide at the scene before police arrived.

In 21 incidents (13.1%) the situation ended after unarmed citizens safely and successfully restrained the shooter. Two of these were off duty law enforcement officers and eleven were unarmed principals, teachers, other school staff and students.

In 5 Incidents (3.1%) the shooting ended after armed individuals who were not law enforcement exchanged gunfire with the shooter. Of these 5, 3 perpetrators were killed, 1 was wounded, and 1 committed suicide.

In 64 of the 160 (40%) committed suicide. Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 9.52.28 PM

Demographic Breakdown

The FBI reported that areas of commerce held the highest likelihood of a mass shooting with 73 out of 160 (45.6%) incidents. Educational Environments were the second largest location grouping, with 29 incidents out of the 160 (24.4%).

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Weapon of Choice

Of the 143 guns used, more than three quarters were obtained legally. Most mass shootings were from Assault and Semi-Automatic weapons with high capacity magazines. Gun related killings as a percentage of total homicides in the U.S. was 64% as of 2016. It’s safe to say this number has only increased in recent years. All together it’s estimated that about 68% of perpetrators acquired guns from their own or relatives home.

The Perpetrator 

44 of the killers were White Males and 1 was Female.  The youngest age starts at 11 and the average is 35. A majority were mentally troubled, many displaying signs of mental health problems prior to the incident. Common factors seen are feelings of anger or revenge, social isolation, and most have at some point been bullied or isolated from peers. Other common trends that often are seen by others as red flags are violent pre-engagements prior to the incident resulting in behaviors that cause for concern. Often times the perpetrator will leak malicious intent to fellow peers. Unfortunately, these leaks are rarely reported to authorities until after an incident occurs. With the most recent Florida shooting, the police were in fact notified of the killer’s odd behaviors and social media presence. He was reported at one point to have posted on a YouTube video that he was going to shoot up his school and yet was never taken seriously until it was too late.

With the facts thus far, it’s easy to see why people are so quick to jump on gun control.  It’s a lot easier to place blame on a type of weapon that contributes to such a high volume of deaths within the United States than to dig deeper into the psychosocial characteristics of a mass shooter. However, the issue alone cannot be determined by one variable. There’s no simple preventative measure as we will see in following findings. The first step in pinpointing a call to action is to realize that the nature of these incidents is multi-determined and circumstantially different on a case by case basis.

Mental Health: How Interconnected Does the Relationship with Gun Violence Get? 

Mental Health problems as they relate to mass shootings can be seen in over 60% of cases stemming from the early 1980’s and leading all the way to 2018. This rate is substantially higher than what can be observably found in the general population.  This statistic is also 15x higher than the rate of serious mental illnesses found among American Adults according to the LA Times. Among the 60%, only 1/3 of mass shooters sought or received mental health care prior to the attack. This treatment gap can be seen at an even larger rate for Males, who make up 99% of the total mass shooter population.

There is often an association between mass shooters and a sort of paranoid cognition as well. While the paranoia may not rise to a level of psychosis, many are driven by social persecution… often rooted in bullying and social alienation, most perpetrators have at one point considered suicide. According to The American Psychiatric Association, most mass shootings are Homicide-Suicide, or an event where an individual commits a homicide and subsequently commits suicide. This particular shooter undergoes a two stage sequential act of identifying the specific relationship along with a motive.

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You can see the process broken down in the above chart, where the perpetrator identifies the type of incident, i.e. a School-Resentful or Workplace-Resentful and further identifies the motive. Almost all of which hold some sort of resentment and/or revenge element. Another key piece of information here is the paranoid cognitions column. We can see that the positive results of paranoia take place in all types of incidents. Further, serious mental illness can be seen as a primary component in all types as well. However, the assumption that all individuals with mental illnesses are a high risk is not only fundamentally incorrect, but an oversimplified notion that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the complexities within an individual’s psyche.

Few perpetrators have verified histories of receiving psychiatric treatment. Most of these individuals who commit shootings in such a magnitude are often angry, aggravated, and have nurtured fantasies of violent revenge (Knoll 2010). It is said that “most of these individuals function (marginally) in society and don’t seek treatment.” This being the case, it is nearly impossible to insinuate that professionals within the mental health setting could ever catch a person capable of such violence.

Cultural Shift Within the Media and the Effects of Expansive News Coverage

There’s something to be said about the increasingly glorified nature of our mainstream news today.  It’s become a convoluted, agenda driven, machine that most people look to for accurate reporting. This cultural shift that we’ve seen could play a heavy role in the influence of one mass shooter to the next. Most perpetrators who either failed to commit suicide or were arrested on scene expressed a heavy amount of influence by previous mass killers that received significant media attention.

There’s a phenomenon known as the Narcissism Logic commonly expressed by mass shooters. Also known as an obsessive rumination with the mindset that “I am right and I’ve been treated badly or wronged by people or life.” The narcissistic mindset seeks a “reverse specialness” by fighting the unjust reality and seeking a victim role. Rather than burdening their rejections from society they instead plan an attack to prove their “worth” (Knoll & Annas, p. 93).

Narcissism and social rejection work together to cause aggressive behavior (Twinge & Campbell 2009, p. 199).

Between the glorification of these mass shootings and the lack of empathy from all sides of the news spectrum, it’s no wonder our Nation has become desensitized to these tragedies and therein lies the problem. With an increased reliance on social media as our primary source of news, media errors may easily exacerbate the problem of “sensationalizing tragedies (Berkowitz and Liu 2014).”

Concluding Statements

All things considered, we see that the way to minimize mass shootings is not a simple, one solution fix. It will take a multi-faceted approach to tackle the complexities of driving forces that cause someone to carry out such an attack. Several propositions have been brought to the forefront in light of recent events. In concluding my research, I feel as though several preventative measures could combat these outbursts from happening in the future.

One proposal would be to focus policies and law on individuals who we have deemed at risk for gun violence. All of the signs are there, we just have to hold ourselves more accountable. That means, if you find yourself near an individual who has expressed some sort of narration of violence, killing, etc. you should immediately report said conversation to the local authorities. This sort of preventative measure could save so many lives. As we discussed, most perpetrators disclose or leak their plans with others.

Another suggestion would be to create a unit that specializes in these particular calls and complaints. With the most recent incident, we actually witnessed numerous individuals report the perpetrators odd behaviors to local authorities who never relayed the message to the proper channels. It’s safe to say the sheer call volume could have a lot to do with this sort of slipping through the cracks. For these reasons I think campaigning for a special unit would be deemed beneficial.

Lastly, we should integrate a discussion of mental health issues within our school systems, as well as the dangers of bullying. As we’ve seen in recent years, and as the FBI pointed out in their analysis, the second most likely place for an incident to occur is within an educational environment. If we can incorporate some discussion from an early age, we may better combat the symptoms of mental illness in a constructive and educational way.

It goes without saying that kids can often times be mean, and we’ve all been on the bad end of bullying at one point or another. I would strongly encourage parents and school staff to cultivate a society of exercising kindness, especially when seeing an individual who appears to be isolated from the social norms. That also means you Teachers! While we’d love to find a quick fix, the problem really is a societal one.  Our youth have continued distancing themselves from anyone who goes against the status quo for fear that they, themselves, will be ostracized by peers. And with social media on the rise, cyber bullying is as real of a threat as any.

Starting on a micro level, we all must hold ourselves accountable. Keep an eye on those in your circle and challenge your children to do the same. It’s time we come together as a Nation instead of using such a divisive rhetoric. Don’t let the media control the conversation.  If you want social change, start looking to the person next to you and be the change you want to see! It is my hope, for the sake of preserving the fundamental core beliefs that our Nation was built on, that we can rise up and come together now more than ever.

Finding Purpose

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As I spent this past week driving half way across the country, I took up listening to some motivational podcasts! One that really caught my attention was titled, “The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast.” Within this series he goes into great detail over creating a culture of collaboration, embracing your strengths, and the ever so complex question, “What is MY purpose?”  The particular podcast that I wanted to hone in on was his episode titled, “The Complexity of Purpose.”

Within this Andy defines the meaning of purpose as, “a means to an end.” In other words purpose isn’t about getting hung up on ourselves, because to find purpose is to ultimately find a means to an end that is not “you.” What I loved about his rationale was that he sheds light on the fact that we often ask ourselves all the wrong questions. “What am I here for?” “What is MY purpose?” With hopes of trying to make our lives count and make a difference, there is a flaw in this approach. It isn’t so much that the questions we’re asking are bad, but that we’re merely looking through the wrong lens.

For us to truly begin the search for our purpose, we must start seeing everything that we’re currently doing through the lens of means. He suggests that, any time we make an end a means, you find purpose. By looking at situations as a means to an end, you quickly reveal the purpose behind it. While this doesn’t exactly make sense yet, let’s put this thought to action. So you’re currently in a job you hate? Your job is not an end, your job is a means to an end. It has a purpose.  Every job that results in a paycheck, job stability, a roof over your head, etc., holds a purpose. It’s not so much a matter of your situation, but a tweak in perspective that reveals the bigger picture.

I took this notion and applied it to my current situation. While I so desperately crave finding my purpose in this world, I can’t look past the season of change I’m in right now. Even though this change is by no means an end, it does serve the purpose of being a means to an end. I’ve experienced growth while dealing with so much uncertainty. Growth that can be seen spiritually, relationally, mentally. It’s not ideal, it’s not my desired destination, but it does serve a purpose. By using this rationale I can not only come to terms with this season of change, but also slowly begin to focus on the question, “Who am I here for?”

By reframing the question from “Why am I here?,” to “Who am I here for?,” I have changed it to find a means to an end that isn’t simply ME.

Andy sheds light on the fact that purpose is, as he defines it, the pathway to meaning. He exclaims that you can’t have meaning in life if you’re not willing to be a means to an end. Further, those who devote themselves to themselves will only have themselves when it’s all said and done. Looking through a biblical context, we were designed with more in mind! This declaration is something I strive to call over my life daily. By standing on the precipice of sacrificing myself for the sake of saying yes to others, we can start making sense of why we’re here and who we’re here for.

I’ve really struggled with this as of lately. Feeling like I have to find a job that holds meaning.. one where I wake up and know that I’m making a difference. Belonging to a cause that renders greater things than just myself. It’s good to pay attention to what stirs your heart, but it takes more than just a stirred heart to find and execute your purpose. Alongside that, Andy calls on two additional components that must be present. He states that “purpose is often found at the intersection of a broken or stirred heart, opportunity, and skill.”

Upon hearing this, I started really giving thought to what my skillets are, what opportunities I have at my disposal, and who or what stirs my heart. I came to the realization that I’m simply not living a time in my life where the opportunities are there for me to act on something that takes me beyond, well, myself. And that’s okay!

Now that isn’t to say that I can’t make my passions a hobby of mine! Perhaps it takes shape in the form of volunteering, joining a life group, giving up my weekends to coach little league, etc. The bottom line is I came to the harsh realization that, while living a life of purpose as a full time job is commendable, I’m not in the season of life to make the sacrifice just yet. The financial sacrifice, the career sacrifice, etc.

So, what now?

Well, now more than ever is the time to build myself up! Save money, focus on who I’m here for, sharpen my skills, give more, serve any way I can, etc. I’ll start by finding a local church and surrounding myself with on purpose people. Maybe get more involved in my volunteering effforts, who knows!

One final thought that I felt worth mentioning. There was a study done that shed light on the notion that we become like the people we associate with, not just behaviorally but neurologically as well. It’s safe to say then that if we wish to maximize happiness, lead a positive life, and move in a giving direction we must strategically surround ourselves by those who embody these traits. I was fortunate enough to have such a phenomenal support group back in Arkansas, but now I must rebuild.

It’s exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time, and all the while it serves a purpose.