The African Masai tribes greet each other with the phrase “Kasserian ingera”, which means “are the children well?” Even warriors with no children of their own give the traditional answer. “All the children are well.” It means more than just that children are well. When society treats children well, society is well.
With last week’s elementary school shooting, we were reminded that in America the children are NOT well. American society is not well as a consequence. We’ve let our kids down and in the process betrayed our most sacred responsibility.
Many of us are, rightly, doing some soul searching. We’re asking big existential and social questions. Before going into that more deeply, let me acknowledge that our soul searching is tiny compared to what families and the whole Newtown community must be going through. I can’t imagine the trauma, and my heart goes out to all affected.
Their sadness is all of our sadness, because we are all part of one human family. And their tragedy is all of our tragedy because we created a culture where this sort of tragedy is possible. The rest of us were just lucky that it wasn’t our kids and our community in the crossfire.
Big Questions of Meaning
It’s natural for us to ask questions about meaning at a time like this. I’m not talking primarily about why it happened, although that is worth asking. I’m talking about how we move on with hope intact. How do we keep believing there is some good in the world? How do we learn to trust again? How do we deal with the reality that none of us is ever fully safe? How do we make tragic loss meaningful?
I keep going back to the teacher who shielded her children. She didn’t call them her students. They were her children. It was no doubt because she thought of them as her children, that her incredible protective instincts took over in a crisis. This is the meaning I am taking from this disaster. Who are my children? Who would I be willing to shield in a crisis? I want to live a life of hope. I love the words of Mister Rogers;
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
Big Social Questions
Some will say it’s too soon to talk about issues like guns and mental health. But in reality it’s too late. Too many lives are already lost because we refuse to have serious conversations about the big questions. We need to talk about mental health, bullying in schools, poverty and the education system to name a few. But guns. We need to talk about guns TODAY.
Come back to the central social question- are the children well?
The statistic that shocked me most was that of all the child gun deaths in the 23 wealthiest countries, 87% are American children. That is staggering and outrageous. The gun murder rate in America is 20 times higher than the next 22 wealthiest countries combined.
The idea that carrying a gun makes you safer has no basis in reality. With so many armed Americans, there are still no examples of civilians stopping these mass tragedies. On the contrary, there are more casualties when civilians draw their weapons on maniacs. Unfortunately, Adam Lanza’s mother is a tragic example of this point.
In China last week a crazed person attacked a classroom of kids with a knife. But there were no fatalities in that attack. Knives are not in the same league as guns. Gun control IS the issue.
There are now more guns in America than there are people. And another statistic that shocked me is that the number of households owning guns has decreased from 50% to 40% in the last ten years. This means fewer people are owning more guns, almost stock piling weapons.
The bloated power of the NRA is reaching terrorist proportions. In the past 4 years, the NRA has helped weaken gun laws in 37 states and in the same period, the number of mass shootings has increased. I came across this statement from a grandfather in Phoenix that said it well,
As a lifelong Republican and the grandfather of two children of the age murdered Friday in Connecticut, I believe it is time to reconsider the current position on the Second Amendment.
The NRA has, by default, placed our national policy in an immoral position. I firmly believe that the NRA should be designated as a terrorist organization and the leadership indicted as co-conspirators in an event like Friday’s.
– W. Boyd Rooney
This is the sort of honest, soul searching America needs to be doing.
Guns didn’t cause the tragedy, but they made it more likely and increased the number of fatalities.
Americans need to ask some very tough questions. There are Adam Lanzas in every country; highly intelligent social misfits, people capable of atrocities, people who snap for whatever reason. But these mass shootings don’t happen in other countries to the extent that they do in America.
The kids are not well in America. America is not well. If any good can come of the horrendous sadness, let it be a serious conversation about the existential and social questions. We need to stand up to the NRA. They’ve bullied America for too long.
There are at least three things I’m aware of right now that anyone can do.
1. Gun take backs.
Encourage gun take backs, maybe with cash incentives, in your local area. Consider giving your gun back. Do it so that the kids can be well again. Stop the delusion that your guns make you safer.
2. Support Gun Control
Support the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. They do amazing work in courts and in Washington.
3. Local Activism
If you live in Michigan, call on Governor Snyder to veto current legislation that would allow concealed guns in public schools, churches, and day care centers. This is madness that is taking place at this very time.