Yesterday in Tallahassee several young adults voiced their opinions over the recent mass shootings in the US. I listened in live on the BBC World service. What surprised me most was the breadth and depth of their arguments. Emotionally charged, as one would expect from people who have just seen several of their classmates gunned down, but eloquent; concise and challenging all the arguments that their opponents might fire at them. It was a masterclass in anticipation of contrary arguments and winning them, not just emotionally but on the interpretation of the law and scientifically too
However, as any experienced adult knows, when a person wins an argument using only reasoning and debate, bad things tend to happen. Less articulate losers can become aggressive and decide to win the argument their own way, silencing their opponents using force or any other means. We are witnessing this kind of reaction to the youngsters with ugly harassment, trolling and violent rhetoric. They can withstand it for now but for how long?
As a professional Change Manager of many years, I know that although impassioned argumentation can make a powerful impact it is seldom enough to change entrenched dogma. Proud gun owners have deeply held beliefs that go back generations. In their opinion, these beliefs are backed up by the second amendment and no amount of rational argumentation will change it. The process of opening a blocked mindset requires the resistor to realise for themselves that their beliefs are misguided, that the arguments they inherited from their forefathers are not their own and are no longer relevant for the times they live in. The unlocking of these deep-seated beliefs can be very painful, not only for the person going through the mindset change but for everyone concerned.
Statistically, there must be several students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School whose parents are supporters (or were supporters) of the right to own weapons, even semi-automatic rifles. These people believe, or believed, that it is not their guns that kill people but humans. To bring about real change it will be crucial to give the ‘resistors’ the microphone. One former ‘believer’ standing up and admitting that they have ‘seen the light’ and that the law now needs to be changed, will be an extremely powerful element to the cause. When one stands up, others will follow.
To come back to the title of this week’s blog – these young adult’s articulation is unbelievable, if there was one, they would have smashed the Olympic record in argument and reasoning. They have set a new standard and shared it across the world. They have empowered young people everywhere to stand up and challenge the things that they do not believe in, so get ready to hear similar testimony from other youngsters in your domain. Who knows, the next topic they raise might be one that you will find difficult to accept?
Something changed yesterday, I just hope it was enough to win over just a few of the second amendment supporters, because it is they who will eventually convince their fellow believers to open their minds and hand in their weapons.
Have a good week