Someone’s child died this morning while you and I were making coffee and getting ready for our day.
They didn’t die tragically in an event that made the national news. They died quietly in their sleep of a disease that had ravaged their little body for months. They didn’t die at the hands of a stranger. They died in the arms of a loving parent.
There won’t be reporters at the hospital asking their parents how they feel.
There won’t be hundreds mourning for them.
There won’t be scholarships dedicated to their name.
There won’t be politicians advocating to abolish the disease that killed them.
There won’t be laws enacted to protect other children from a similar fate.
Let’s face it. In our country HOW you die matters.
I was made painfully aware of that nearly thirty years ago. There was a front-page article in our local paper (CA) about the tragic drowning death of three young children. There were flowers left at the site where they died. There was outrage about the canal system that took their lives. People were quite vocal, and generous, in their support of the grieving parents. However, in the same issue of the paper there was a tiny obituary for a child who had died by strangling on a window blind cord in his own home. Media attention? None. Mourners? Family and friends.
We rally round the latest tragedy in a predictable model of concern and support, offering condolences and support, expressing outrage and demanding changes in our society. The bigger the tragedy the greater the reaction. The higher the victim count, the stronger our resolve to make sure it never happens again. And we are even somewhat selective about the victims. Harm our children and we will hunt you down to the ends of the earth. I think our reaction might even be similar if the victims were elderly. General population? maybe not so much. But my son is fond of reminding me that everyone who dies “tragically” qualifies for sainthood.
The truth is that one of the children killed last week might have been mentally ill and might have grown up to be a danger to himself and others. We want to think otherwise. We want to remember each and every child as that sweet, smiling, innocent image flashed on the screen by the news media. But don’t you think the family of Adam Lanza could produce just such a sweet, smiling, innocent image of him at the same age?
While we argue about safety and security at school, while we debate whether or not teachers should arm themselves, while we prostrate ourselves in prayer and supplication over this horrific event…
someone’s child will die unnoticed by the public because of how they died,
someone’s grief will be ignored because it isn’t televised,
and a future mass murderer will be educated in a classroom in your own community.
A five year old walked up to me yesterday and proudly told me about one of the guns used in the game, Call to Duty. How will that impact his future? I suppose that depends on his personality. But you can bet that by the time he is twenty he will know a variety of ways to kill someone.
We need to get to the root of this problem and solve it. We need to recognize and treat these children while they are young enough to respond positively to change. We need to stop worrying about what weapon they are going to use and work on the mind that chooses any weapon as a way to solve problems.
The qualification for sainthood shouldn’t be a tragic death. It should be an honorable life. We need to make sure more of these children live one.