How Men and Women React to Tragedy and Moral Responsibility

With the tragic shooting of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, we should all look at how we react and take moral responsibility for what happened. If we did this we would find that we could create a new future by adapting to change. The question is what that change should be.

moral responsibility

Yesterday as I came out of ‘El Arbol’ supermarket in Mojacar I saw a large, well-dressed, man shouting at an old, badly-dressed beggar. The man was kicking and hitting the beggar. The beggar looked frightened and kept trying to get out of the way. The attacker was shouting that his wife was in tears because the beggar had been rude to her.

After trying to stop the attack, my first reaction was to wonder what might have happened had this been in the US not Spain. Would guns have been involved? Would there have death rather than bruised egos?

I thought about the different way the man and his wife had reacted to what happened. I remembered an exchange on Facebook I had had the previous day in relation to the tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut.

This is a unique and powerful book. It is a record of a series of conversations with Christopher Howard on masculinity, sex, addiction and relationships. In them both Chris and myself opened ourselves up in a very personal and revealing way. We held nothing back and explored what it is to be men.

In the midst of a discussion about gun control was this exchange:

Cyndy Beal: I don’t think today should be spent talking about gun control. It’s a national day of grieving.

Graham Phoenix: I understand your feelings, Cyndy, but I feel that today is the very day we should be talking about Gun Control.

Cyndy Beal: I understand your point Graham; but I disagree. It’s too emotional today, thus making intelligent discussion difficult. My thoughts are with the victims, and their loved ones at this time.

Graham Phoenix: Yes, you disagree and that’s fine. I hurt for the needless pain of the families. In my worldview we change things by standing up and being heard. I don’t grieve I just see how things can be different and I am willing to say what I think. I am sorry if it upsets you, it is not meant to.

Cyndy Beal: I’m not upset by anything you have said, just seems a very emotional issue to discuss and a very emotional time.

What was significant to me was the completely different reaction, from a man and a woman.

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Moral Responsibility

As a country we have been through this too many times. We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.
(President Obama)

In that statement by Obama was the heart of the different reaction by men and women. He took the opportunity to promote action to solve the situation. This is a typical male response.

We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.
(Mayor Bloomberg)

In Mayor Bloomberg’s determination is a desire for leadership and strength. Words are no good we need action.

The other perspective is the female perspective as seen in this post on Facebook:

I am saddened with grief over the loss of the lives of not just the 6 and 7 year old children but also the adults at the Connecticut elementary school. My heart mourns for them and their families. I’ll be taking a day of silence in honor of them. My heart aches as I look over the photos and video footage of a father speaking of his six year old daughter that lost her life. Lord wrap your loving arms around them.
(Andrea L Cox)

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Women react through care and concern. Their instinct is to grieve and feel emotional. They connect with the families and feel that everything else should be put on hold.

I challenge you not to hide away from this tragedy, not to wish it hadn’t happened. I challenge you to stand up and be counted in whatever way works for you.

Men react through anger and action. Their instinct to sort the situation out and find those responsible. They connect with why it has happened and want to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Many see events such as this as part of life’s pattern, Evil is everywhere and there is nothing we can do about it.

Others see it as indicative of the need to change, to re-evaluate what is happening.

Neither is right or wrong, they are part of the instincts that people have.

Having an agenda in a situation is seen as not acceptable by many because it is seen as taking advantage of the situation to advance your political views.

On the other hand not taking advantage of the situation to advance an agenda that you think will solve the situation can be seen as letting go of your responsibility, taking the coward’s way out.

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In all this what is the way to take responsibility for our part in creating the society in which this can happen, and then how can we do something about it without demeaning the reaction of other people?

I challenge you not to hide away from this tragedy, not to wish it hadn’t happened. I challenge you to stand up and be counted in whatever way works for you. I challenge you to say what you think should be done to prevent this happening again.

All our small actions can come together to change things.

The time to start is now.

2 comments

  1. Graham,
    Your story about the supermarket incident in Spain was a poignant one. For those of us who live in the U.S., it is indeed an event that would likely involve guns. It is way too common and inexcusable. I am angered and saddened by the shootings in Newtown. For way too long, families and children have been held hostage by politicians and the power of the gun lobby in this country. Yes, as a mother myself, I wept for those mothers and fathers who lost children. But as a change agent, I also agree that we can no longer wait. This is indeed a time for conversation on gun control. If not now, when?

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