Guest column: The time to act is now

Leadership is required in determining how Idaho will improve school safety before a Sandy Hook incident takes place here, writes Guy Bliesner and Brian C. Armes.

By Guy Bliesner and Brian C. Armes

How do people cope with the unfathomable? We are more than a year and a half past the horrors of Sandy Hook. Two school years have come and gone and two sessions of the Idaho legislature have adjourned since one of the most profound acts of violence was visited upon the most vulnerable among us.

The old quote suggests that “time heals all wounds,” and for our nation that might well be true, though for the families of Sandy Hook, the horror and loss will echo forward generationally.

Found between the sorrow of families who have lost those most precious and a society that continues to grow and progress exists a truth which rarely goes acknowledged, or even identified. Tragedy creates an immediate, devastating and pervasive emotional energy. People across the nation, without any personal connection, will identify, sympathize and mourn for the mind-numbing loss of children in an event such as Sandy Hook.

As fellow humans, we mourn together as we identify with a parent, a spouse or a child. Together we share an emotional energy that demands answers and actions.

At the peak of our emotional energy, the shocking incident consumes our thinking and motivates our actions. For many at that moment, no action is too extreme, no process too onerous, no law too restrictive compared to the thought of allowing a repeat event. Our emotional energy creates emotional inertia that can drive societal change. However, over time, our emotional energy wanes. As humans we are not capable of flourishing when overcome by unrelenting terror, sorrow, anxiety or stress. Naturally, as our emotional energy fades and so does the inertia to act.

How can we map a sustainable path forward? As terrible as Sandy Hook was, we as a nation, have been here before. Just as Columbine, Bailey, Nickel Mines and too many other incidents recall past horrors, Murrysville and Troutdale echo through Idaho communities today.

And, each time we felt the emotional energy as the events came to light. Following each event, people, communities, states and the nation resolved to take action, commissioning another study, often generating a new series of ineffective, disjointed procedures, policies and laws along the way.

Equally ineffective are the calls for extreme procedures, policies or laws that serve only to divide communities and doom any real chance of implementation.

For many communities, the immediacy of school violence is lost in a malaise of policy, procedure and the necessities of daily school operations. Adding to the general frustration is the reality of remodeling existing school facilities with safety and security upgrades requiring financial resources that are not available.

And so we wait, mentally blocking out the worst possibility, hoping the odds favor us, or that it simply would not happen in our community, yet all the while knowing terrible things have happened in communities just like ours.

Time passes, little changes.

Where is the path forward? Perhaps more importantly, who will lead the effort in determining our path forward?

The time to act is now.