In times like these, the media is filled with hyperbolic statements by well meaning, well spoken commentators, politicians and their ilk – many of which contradict the reality of day to day life as experienced by their fellow citizens. This is understandable – we seek to make sense of the evil that we inflict upon each other by encircling ourselves with cultural insulation as we ride out the storm of emotions caused by tragedy, especially one involving matricide, infanticide and suicide on one cold crisp winter’s day so close to the Season of Peace and Love and Light.
We want to believe that “Every Child is Precious.” The state of the average American inner city, with its legion of homeless families proves this to be a lie, as homelessness is rampant in the greatest, most abundantly endowed country of the world. 1.37 million or 39% of the those homeless in the USA are children under the age of 18 – some with their homeless parent(s) and up to 5% of homeless kids are under 18 with no supervisory adult.
We want to believe that “Our Children are Safe.” According to the Children’s Defense Fund, in 2008 and 2009, 5740 children died due to the discharge of a fire-arm. That’s one every 8 hours – 3 per day – 55 per week. Think of a playground. The crowds in the shopping mall. Imagine 55 children you know. Imagine them gathered together. More than twice the number of the fallen in Sandy Hook. Every week. The mind cannot comprehend, but because these losses are scattered across a populous nation, they become statistics, blips on the national radar, and somehow less than worthy of the nation’s attention. It is time to pay attention.
And now, in one day, 20 children, their six education providers, a loving mother and one mentally ill assailant are dead. 28 lives lost. 27 families forever changed. A community for whom Christmas will not come this year, but instead, the eyes of the world are upon them as they grieve, offering comfort without joy. These families provide space in their personal grief for the vicarious sympathy of their fellow global citizens, who have been moved by their loss, and who are silently thankful that it did not happen to their family, their community, their state, their country.
Except for those who remember or live in Camden (1949), Austin TX (1966), Wilkes-Barre PA (1982), San Ysidro CA (1984), Kileen TX (1991), Columbine CO (1999), Atlanta GA (1999), Fort Worth TX (1999), Washington DC (2002), Chicago (2003), Birchwood WI (2004), Brookfield WI (2005), Nickel Mines PA (2006), Virginia Tech VA (2007), Delaware State University (2007), Omaha NB (2007), Carnation WA (2007), Chicago IL (2008), NIU Dekalb IL (2008), Alger WA (2008), Covina CA (2008), North Carolina (2009), Santa Clara CA (2009), Kinston AL (2009), Binghampton NY (2009), STU Houston (2009), Fort Hood TX (2009), U of A Huntsville AL (2010), Tucson AZ (2011), Oakland CA (2012), Oak Creek WI (2012), The Empire State Bulding NYNY (2012), Minneapolis MN (2012), Milwaukee WI (2012), Aurora CO (2012). There were mass killings in all of these cities. Their residents remember, even if their own local tragedy didn’t merit a Presidential visit, or more than a passing mention on the evening news.
All these families in all these communities and many more must endure their pain being perpetually re-opened through the re-energized and vigorous debate about controlling weaponry in a nation that has enshrined the right of the average citizen to be armed to the teeth, to stand their ground against all real and imagined intruders, and that has devoted an immense amount of their national budget to the industrial-military complex.
And back in Newtown CT (2012)- 27 Families changed. 28 Lives lost. 28 names forever consigned to history, together, bound by blood spilled and mingled on a classroom floor by a son who started this sad day by killing his mother in her bed. She is the forgotten one in this story, too close to the cause of pain to be a true victim in the eyes of many. The fictional omniscience – omnipotence – omnipresence of motherhood should somehow have prevented this day from happening. If she cannot be faulted as a parent, then perhaps she should not have had guns in her home. Legal guns – for personal use and personal or home defense within her 2nd Amendment rights as a citizen of the NRA Nation. The pundits and politicos cannot have it both ways. Hypocrisy, Contradiction, Self-righteousness and Pandering – these are the Four Horsemen, and I hear hoofbeats.
Each of these 28 lives lost had a name. I believe that to name a thing is to know it, somewhat. Parents select names for their newborns with great care – to embody the characteristics they hope that their child will manifest in life, to imbue them with a magic charm, a family legacy, a spiritual blessing.
There are many places where those lost in Newtown are listed, with birth dates, with details of their families, where they were born, their favourite color. I would like to list them differently – and ask for us to dwell on the promises that were made to us through their naming – and that in time, their blessings be what we receive when we look back at a far distant time in our cultural history when guns were legal and gay marriage was not, and wonder how or why we ever allowed firearms to be such a pervasive part of our culture.
In memory of Freedom (Charlotte) – May God be my judge (Daniel) – Nurturing Abundance – the Ewe (Rachel) – The Olive Branch (Olivia) – May God increase his blessings (Josehphine) – Gracious & merciful (Ana) – A Son of the Sea (Dylan) – Sunrise (Dawn) – Tower of Refuge and Strength (Madeleine) – Purity (Catherine) – The Hunter (Chase) – The Gift (Jesse) – The Conqueror (James) – Charm (Grace) – Gracious & Merciful (Anne) – To Strive & Excel (Emilie) – God is gracious (Jack) – Rest & Peace (Noah) – Beautiful (Catherine) – God beholds (Jessica) – Breath (Avielle) – The Laurel (Lauren ) – Of the Sea (Mary) – Conqueror (Victoria) – Of My Right Hand (Benjamin) – Of the Noble Ones (Allison) – Grace (Nancy) – Made of the Earth (Adam).
May the coming Winter Solstice help each family find healing in the renewal of the Light.
May the first 27 names be remembered for their Light, and may the world come to understand the man Made of the Earth who took them into darkness.
And so it is.