Seventy-four (74) is the number of school shootings since the country was brought to our knees by the senseless killing of 20 young students and six adults in Newtown in December 2012. Eric Cantor is the, now former, House Majority Leader widely regarded as the most conservative of the House Leadership brought down by a little-known economics professor running to his right. And inauthentic leadership is a term that describes leaders “lacking full reality or sincerity.”
So what do these three seemingly disparate things have in common? They are linked because they have been allowed to harm, succeed, and run rampant by a public that has increasingly refused to look at their part in the drama, let alone take action to create change in our communities. Let’s start with gun violence.
Newtown wasn’t the first mass shooting America experienced but it was the first time that the vast majority of victims were the truly innocent—5 and 6-year-old children too young to even begin to comprehend the paralysis of a coherent (an incoherent) gun policy and what it would mean for their lives and the lives of their family members left behind. While the horror filled our homes for weeks, other pressing issues quickly subsumed the wave of grief. Sadly, it also created a callus that has allowed us to witness the same tragedy more that six dozen times—without it having created a groundswell of citizens committed to changing the environment. On the contrary, in Texas, the state government has allowed open carry permits that legalizes one’s ability to carry semi-automatic rifles into local restaurants and shops! Clearly a step in the wrong direction.
Eric Cantor has been an articulate Republican leader. While often talking about the need for finding common ground, he has repeatedly been the mastermind behind crafting legislation that did little to move our country forward and could have been accomplished by working toward the middle; instead he favored capitulating to the far right demands such as advocating for unfettered access and use of military-style weapons, just to appease the National Rifle Association. Ironically, it was his perceived lack of “true conservatism” that led to his defeat in a low turnout primary election. What will eventually come out of the political analysis is that his defeat wasn’t because he was not conservative enough, it was, in fact, the result of his being ineffectual — he neither walked his “middle ground” talk nor was a true far right conservative, leaving his real base unenthused and the Tea Partiers angry and resentful.
Which brings us finally to inauthentic leadership. Lacking full reality and sincerity sums up many in Washington these days. With three school shootings in the past two weeks alone, does Obama’s or any other elected officials outrage touch reality when they have ignored it 73 times before? Does Eric Cantor truly believe that sensible gun laws (or immigration that was the lynch-pin issue of the campaign) can’t be addressed by backing off the conservative radio talk show host vitriol and working across the aisle to actually pass meaningful legislation? And perhaps the real break from reality comes from all those in DC who think they are actually doing good when the truth is no serious issue facing our country has been effectively addressed in this century. (No, not even the ACA, which failed to use the opportunity to significantly address health care delivery and instead simply rearranged the chairs . . .)
I continue to devote my life to working with individuals to develop their leadership and walk it in the world. I know people care about these issues and want to see them addressed. My best advice and plea is to begin addressing these issues community by community. What can be done in your school system to deal with the concerns about gun violence? How can we bring greater support and understanding to those who need a hand? And in what ways can voices be brought together to demonstrate to state capitols and Washington that inaction is no longer an option.
If the Tea Party can knock off one of Washington’s most powerful elected officials, why can’t the millions and millions of people who understand that sensible gun laws are important do the same? It all comes down to clarity and action. Do we want authentic leadership or do we just talk about it? Will 74 be last number of school gun shootings or will it continue to climb unfettered while the few terrorize the many?
Leadership starts with you – right here – right now. I ask everyone who is tired of gun violence in America to post, tweet, E-mail, text and, yes, even talk to others to ensure that no one is elected this November who isn’t committed to making this a priority for our country and our future. Let’s solve this problem before it is your family ripped apart by bullets from a gun that didn’t need to be in the hands of someone who is hurting—and is capable of doing harm to himself and others.