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Of Compassion and Violence
By Nick Shekeryk
May 23, 2018

I visited Austin, Texas for the first time last May. I went for the world-famous BBQ and the legendary local music scene. Though I had an agenda, the first thing I noticed was the intense heat and the humidity. Having lived most of my life in the Seattle area, it was weather I had rarely experienced. It was the kind of weather that called for little more than shorts, a t-shirt, and slow, intentional movements so as to avoid my clothes sticking to my body. It's now been a full calendar year since my first tour of the Live Music Capital of the World. The weather is still hot and humid. The BBQ still tastes fantastic. The music still sounds great. But something else is different about the Lone Star State. 200 miles southeast in the small Houston-area city of Santa Fe--where the weather is similar to that of Austin--a 17-year-old male showed up at his high school during the first period of classes last Friday morning wearing a black trench coat. What he carried under his trench coat would shake the foundation of that community and add a sad, but familiar note to the narrative of our nation's gun violence issues.

The horrific events of last Friday morning at Santa Fe High School left 10 dead--8 of which were students, and 2 teachers--and 13 others injured. According to reports, it was our nation's 3rd school shooting in 8 days and the 22nd of 2018. In addition to the 17 lives that were lost during the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the tragedy in Santa Fe has brought the U.S. school shooting death toll to a staggering 27 people, which is currently more than twice that of our deployed military service members. Based exclusively on these results, it can be deduced that attempting to get an education has produced far more casualties than attempting to defend our country so far this year. (I want to make a clarification: this is not to say that going to school is more dangerous than being in the military, but it's an alarming statistic that brings to light the severity of the issues faced with violence in schools).

When tragedies such as these happen, people try to make sense of things by looking for causes and solutions. A recurring hot topic is the debate over gun control laws, which generally sparks lots of conversation, but very little action. When it comes to the safety of our youth, people go to extreme lengths to find ways to provide protection, such as suggesting that schools arm their teachers, hire armed guards, and install metal detectors. No matter which side of the debate you subscribe to, the one thing that seems to be constantly overlooked is that hypothetical preventative measures such as these are only surface solutions that distract from the heart of the matter, which is teaching young people how to show genuine compassion and respect towards others.

You might be thinking it's ridiculous to suggest that compassion and respect will prevent bullets from flying. Physically, they won't. In a world of instant access to virtually everything all the time, people who want to harm others can always find a way to do so, unfortunately. But if you take a look at the people who commit such heinous acts of violence--especially in schools--you will typically see a pattern. Bullied. Anti-social. Isolated. Ostracized for being different. Though it was said the shooter in Santa Fe wore a trench coat to school on a regular basis, he also fit the profile of the typical person who commits these kinds of crimes. (Note: the suspect's name is public in the media, but he will remain nameless here so as to not give him any of the attention he sought with his horrible actions). He was described as quiet, anti-social, and possibly a victim of bullying. These characteristics by no means provide justification for his cruel actions. What they do is provide some possible insight as to why situations like the one that claimed the lives of 10 innocent people last weekend happens at such a high rate in this country.

The digital age has spawned the rise of cyberbullying, which not only allows people to torment others, but it also provides a platform for them to launch a full-on assault of psychological warfare. This subjects people's most humiliating moments to become a permanent fixture on the Internet where they're broadcast for the world to see. The constant threat of privacy invasion or public ridicule is unnerving, and one can only imagine the type of damage it can inflict on the young and impressionable. This alone makes it easy to see why so many young people are filled with white-hot rage and blind hate that pushes them over the edge. Out of respect for the victims and families of the latest school shooting and those before it, we will not bring up any what-if scenarios on how things could've been different. That being said, I think we can use the information from these nightmarish events to learn that perhaps showing compassion and respect towards others--especially to those who are different from us--has the potential of preventing future senseless acts of violence towards innocent people.

In other words, let's make compassion cool for our youth.

Kindness isn't glamorous, but in a world where negativity, chaos, and drama rule the mainstream media, the constant toxicity has a way of infiltrating our thoughts and actions. When exposure to negativity reaches a critical mass, it's amazing how quickly simple but kind gestures such as words of encouragement, a sincere smile, or even a head nod in acknowledgement of your existence can change your outlook. Imagine if the sensation you get from these thankless interactions is not only the baseline for your daily interactions with others, but also acts as the blueprint for how everyone should treat each other all the time. It might give us an idea of how compassion and respect can in fact prevent bullets from flying.

As a society, it's on us all to erase hate and invite compassion and respect for others into our homes, work, schools, and communities. We still have a lot of work to do. Until that day comes, the Argosy Shadow Company plans to help you take reasonable, nonviolent preventative measures to protect your family with the use of resources and tools that will help parents and children instantly get in touch with one another in the event of a school or different public emergency. This won't solve the problems of violence we currently face, but we hope it'll help families preserve their safety and provide peace of mind to parents as they send their children out into the unknowns of the modern world.

If you would like to connect with us to learn more about the Argosy Shadow Company, email us at info@argosyshadowcompany.com. We also encourage you to interact with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Please stay tuned for more updates and information in the near future.

Our past newsletters are archived. You can see them here.
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