“There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, Son. I wish I could keep ‘em all away from you.” Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
Many moons ago, a few weeks after my move to Phoenix, September 11th happened. My then-young children and I joined our new neighbors in a candlelight vigil. It gave us a chance to get to know and grieve with them. After awhile one of my kids asked if it was time to blow out the candles. I said they could but only after they sent out a wish to those affected by the violence.
My son in the second grade said “I hope they catch the bad guys who did this.”
My daughter in the seventh grade said “I hope there will be no war over this.”
My youngest, a kindergartner, thought about this for a bit and said “I wish that the mommies and daddies who died can come back for one more night to tuck in their kids and kiss them Good Night.” And then blew out his candle, spreading his profound request into the universe.
Decades later, and I am still moved by those words because, at the end of the day, that’s all any of us want is to be loved and protected and tucked safely into our sleep.
While I am so incredibly proud of my adult children, and I am grateful that they are continuing to find love and awe in this world, I am also fully aware that there’s an edge of cynicism and fatalism to them. Maybe it’s simply in our DNA and the way mankind has always had to be, but, in part, I think it’s because we have failed them. There is what we teach our young: play nice, do the right thing, be honest, be kind, respect others, resolve your issues. And then there’s what we model: point fingers, play dirty to win, resort to violence, refuse to compromise, fuck ‘their’ feelings or ideals or rights, etc. etc.
We cannot expect our children to grow into the problem solvers we need them to be if we do not practice what we preach.
I woke to the news that yet another mass school shooting took the lives of too many. I dread the thread of debates and platitudes that will once again ensue — more arguing, more finger pointing, more blaming.
While acts of violence and hate happen all over the word, the shooting up of children (by children) at school has become as American as our red stripes. How did we get to this point? Why are we at this point? Why can’t we get beyond this point?
This will again become political when our issues are not politics. Politics are theories of governance that influence our decision making connected to what rules us. We need to take a long, hard look at what we’ve let rule us because it aint working. Oh, I have so much more to say, but I need to focus on doing the teacherly thing at work, which sadly is also political, but that’s a whole other conversation.
Tonight, when I go home, I will once again light a candle and make my youngest son’s wish — in reverse. And, while I know we cannot bring the dead back to life, nor change the horror of the last minutes of those young souls, I do hope the positive of what we have to offer will one day blow out the flame of this nasty reality in our communities.