Monday, January 17, 2011

Living up to ALL children's expectations

Upon hearing the news that Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords had been shot, Speaker of the House John Boehner commented that “an attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place on our society.” By extension, the shooting rampage in Tucson was an attack on all of our grandmothers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children. Replace "public officials" with "people" in Boehner's statement, and imagine the implications for how we respond to gun policy, domestic violence or war.

The killing of 9 year old Christina Taylor Green was particularly tragic and heartbreaking. As a father of a 4 year old daughter, I can conceive of the depth of sorrow felt by Christina's parents and all who knew and loved her. Another father of daughters, President Barack Obama, was visibly moved by Christina's memory during his Tucson memorial service address. He spoke for the hearts of mothers, fathers, and grandparents when he said,

" In Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic, so full of magic. So deserving of our love. And so deserving of our good example......I want America to be as good as she imagined it. We should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."

So what do our children expect and deserve? They certainly don't expect to be shot on Saturday morning at the mall, or to be a victim of violence in any other form. When we reflect on President Obama's statement on children's expectations, which children do we envision as "our children"? Our own, those in our extended families, our communities, our state, our country? What if we included in our considerations and circle of concern every child on the planet as equally deserving of love, care and protection?

On the same day that Christina was killed in Tucson, a child in Afghanistan was killed in a bombing raid. In the last decade, thousands upon thousands of children have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan by bombs and bullets paid for by you and me. Each of these children was also deserving of our love, and our good example. All of their parents and grandparents grieved as deeply as did Christina Taylor Greene's parents are grieving, as deeply as we would grieve if our own child were killed in an act of violence.

Imagine for a moment attending the memorial service for any one of the children killed in war, and hearing of that child's interests, hopes and dreams. Imagine trying to explain to the grieving family and friends that the child's death, while unfortunate, is in a way justified by the larger war effort. Unless we could accept the killing of our own children as "collateral damage" -- whether at the hands of a deranged gunman, terrorist or act of war -- then we couldn't possibly justify killing anyone else's child in the pursuit of other objectives. Yet this is exactly what we do when we turn a blind eye to the violence perpetrated in our names against children in war day after day, week after week. Dropping bombs that kill innocent people sends a very strong message that violence is an officially accepted -- often glorified -- means of resolving conflicts

In his Tucson speech, President Obama spoke of the process of reflection following the tragedy, of "making sure we align our values with our actions –- that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires"

What would be required of actions taken in our names if we chose to value the lives of all children as much as we do our own? Speaking against the Vietnam War one year to the day before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. said:

"A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men.....We can no longer afford to worship the God of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals who pursued this self-defeating path of hate.....We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

The day after Christina Taylor Green was killed in Tucson, her mother was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "I think there is a lot of hatred going on, and it has to stop." Hate pulled the trigger in Tucson, and hate is felt by children and their families caught in the crossfire of war. Let one lesson of Tucson be that it is absolutely unacceptable for any child anywhere to be "collateral damage" caused by private or official, democratically sanctioned acts of hatred and violence.

The day we truly commit to creating a future worthy of ALL children on Earth, is the day that our actions will truly be aligned with our deepest values, the day everything changes.

1 comment:

James N said...

Thank you for this expression of compassion. May we live up to our children's expectations.