Remember “Going Postal?”

Does anyone out there remember the phrase “going postal?” It started in 1986, when a disgruntled postal worker opened fire on his co-workers and killed 13 of them. Over the next 7 years there were 9 more incidents, killing 34. Do you remember how shocking that was? It was so upsetting that the phrase “going postal” was used for decades to describe someone so off his rocker with anger that he was prepared to kill.

For decades, mass shootings were shocking and awful. People didn’t routinely go postal, it was unusual and worthy of comment.

Now, schools offer lock-down drills, where the principal knocks on doors begging to be let in, and the kids have to sit in silence and not move in case it’s the shooter trying to get in and kill them. At least in the 80’s the chances of nuclear war and being killed by a bomb seemed somewhat remote. Now there are stories every day of schools, malls, movie theaters, ordinary every-day places being shot up, dozens of people being killed every day. There isn’t a catch phrase for it any more. There’s no more “going postal.” Now it’s everyday life.

I wish the horror of all these deaths was still as strong as it was in 1986. I have a hard time wrapping my head around not just the mass shootings, but the complacency we seem to feel about them. Oh, more people were shot, we will pray for them (and pray we won’t be next) but we won’t take any actions that might take guns out of people’s hands.

I’ve been struggling to understand how anyone could be on the side of wanting more people to have guns. Guns are made to kill people, and more and more people are being killed by them – how is this ok? Who would wish their children and grandchildren to sit in their classrooms practicing not getting shot, and all the fears and anxieties that these kids will have because of these drills?

And then I realized – it’s the fears they already have that make them think gun deaths are ok. Now, everywhere I look, I hear the same message.

*Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO, said people can’t think creatively if they are afraid.

*Don Maruska, in his book How Great Decisions Get Made, says that a perception of scarcity leads to fear of not getting enough. Instead of being a positive, joyful environment, the world becomes a fear-filled place.

*Not only does the world seem scary, the perception of scarcity leads to battles over resources and then to actual scarcity.

When people are scared, they can’t think clearly. They are afraid, WE are afraid, that we will lose out. If we are not first, we will be dead. This isn’t logical or likely, but logic doesn’t thrive when fear is driving.We act impulsively, even go postal, trying to get what we think we deserve, enough to live on and feel safe.

There really is enough for everyone to be safe, but it requires trust and hope and a willingness to let go of certainty. It requires us to believe that if I let go of this resource, no one else will grab it and run away with it. The safety we will experience will not be static and eternal. The world flows, and we have to flow with it. There may be constant negotiation, there may be people who disagree with me, there may be discomfort and anxiety. But there won’t be children getting killed at school and lovers getting killed on a date at the movies and worshipers getting killed praying to their God. Because we can all have enough, and be enough, and love enough, and hope enough, and connect enough, that we can live together in peace.