“This guy went in there and was able to kill nine people and injure about a dozen others,” said C.J. Grisham, an open carry activist who is running for state Senate. “We won’t have to worry about such a shooter going completely unchecked until law enforcement can get there 20 minutes later. At least we’ll have a chance.” (Houston Chronicle, October 4, 2015)
I decided to practice what I preach after I read the front page article containing the above quote. The first step is to pinpoint the culture bump – in other words something specific that is different from what I would do or, in this case say, in reaction to the shooting in Oregon. Grisham’s quote fit the bill.
Step two is to describe the behavior. The writer quoted him exactly. Step three is to describe my behavior. I read the quote. Step four is to list my emotions. Upon reading the quote, I felt angry, fearful, sad, hopeless and despairing. I was shocked at my emotions. Before actually, going through the culture bump steps, I had only been aware of being angry and frustrated about the issue of guns and campus carry. Step five was to define the universal situation. After thinking a bit, I realized that the universal situation was responding to a horrific situation (Oregon shooting) and correspondingly “How a society ensures a safe environment in a public place such as a university campus.” Again, I was surprised that the universal was not about arms but about societal safety. Step six was to describe my behavior in the universal situation. Once again, I was stumped. I realized that I really had no other response other than anger and frustration. But by acknowledging the depth of my emotions, I was able to begin to develop another response to the real situation – not to guns. I recalled incidents teaching at the University of Houston when students were considered dangerous. Administration responded by having individuals sitting in classrooms or undercover campus police present at particular events. This triggered the insight that university could develop programs modeled on RA Programs (dormitory leaders). University police departments could assume responsibility for vetting and training student leaders in each department (perhaps utilizing ROTC units). In addition, university undercover officers could assume responsibility for specific buildings on campus. Alarm buttons on podiums as well as certain desks in classrooms could alert the entire system – all under the auspices of campus police.
If I came up with these ideas within a few minutes of dealing with my culture bump, I have no doubt that those of us who are interested in providing safe learning environments can work together – regardless of our views about guns.
Step seven is to define the meaning for my response. As I think about my ideas listed above, they mean hope and creativity in problem solving for me. Step eight is to have a conversation with the Other about that meaning. How might C.J. Grisham demonstrate hope and creativity in problem solving? I don’t know but I would be interested in hearing his ideas about hope and creativity in problem solving.
Perhaps if those of us (the majority of the American people) have these types of conversations, we would find our common ground again. Culture Bump is simply an approach for beginning the conversation, providing a way to find our own blind spots rather than pointing them out to one another.
I contacted C. J. Grisham, and we had a conversation that lasted for several days. While we never agreed about carrying guns on campus, I had a number of “ah ha” moments. I clarified my own ideas and moved beyond my emotional reaction to guns on campus. In the process, I came to see Mr. Grisham in a very human light. And while I will continue to work as hard as possible to eliminate guns on campus, I would also walk across the street to introduce myself to him – should I have the opportunity. I’m pretty sure I would not have done so without the culture bump work I did above. And while he did not change his position, he ended the conversation with these words, “Thank you for reaching out. I’m always open to respectful conversation.”