by Henry Lowendorf
2012 December 15
There is no pain like the loss of a child.
The tragedy that overtook Newtown yesterday suddenly dropped that pain on too many to count and left heartsickness in its wake. The children and the adults who tried to protect them have become waves of memories crashing inside of us. Our thoughts and prayers go to those so closely devastated with grief, a grief even shared around the world.
As we, collectively, try to bear the unbearable, as we pick ourselves up to live on, to cope, and to look for means to prevent such future tragedies we must not be nearsighted in investigating the causes.
This is not the first case of a mass killing in our schools. It is not the sole case of mass killing of children, for in nearby New Haven and Hartford that many children are shot and killed on the streets throughout every year. Because their lives are not taken in a short span of time, public attention is limited, directed elsewhere, and the shock and sorrow do not circle very far. Because they are mostly children of color, for many in the majority white population they are someone else’s children.
Do we pause even for a moment when we read – do we even read? – stories of Afghan children, Iraqi children, Palestinian children, Congolese children, thousands of whose lives are brutally taken in lands battered by war? They are so far away. Why are these other children deserving less of our concern? Are they really unrelated to our current tragedy? What we witness at this moment are the effects of a brief war zone, one regrettably close to home.
Let us remember a similarly painful tragedy in 2001 on September 11. Inexcusably, it did not lead to introspection about the cause and thoughtful efforts aimed at addressing and removing it. Rather what ensued was a violent reaction named “shock and awe” whose erroneous goals led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mostly noncombatants, little children whose lives were totally disconnected with 9/11 and thousands of our own precious children in avoidable wars. Those lucky enough to survive have been traumatized for life.
It is not enough to question the availability of guns and gun ownership policies in the United States. For we live in an economy of violence that goes far beyond handguns. Our nation spends over a trillion dollars a year on building killing machines and actively using them, more than all other countries combined. Our nation maintains an arsenal of nuclear weapons that can instantaneously end the lives of all children and all civilization. Our nation recruits our youth, whom we parents have taught to cherish life, and teaches them to kill. Our nation buys billions of dollars of weaponry and sells millions worth of armaments at home and abroad, sales that fill the coffers of the manufacturers of killing machines, sales that bind us to the unnecessary, premature deaths of our global brothers and sisters.
We live in a culture of violence. On Independence Day 1852, Frederick Douglass called out the great “shocking and bloody” violence of our nation. Martin Luther King, Jr., 45 years ago, a year before being assassinated spoke, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
We must address the “shocking and bloody” tragedy in Newtown, and so many other tragedies like it, as the result of “spiritual death.” We must aim a keen eye to reach spiritual uplift. For only if we accept the responsibility to look beyond the heart of a grieving nation and seek out a fundamental flaw, only as we are willing to seek a higher truth and root out the culture of violence and an economy that feeds on it will we have reason to expect to see all of our children, here and there and there, live long and happy lives. As it should be. Only then.
In Sorrow, Peace and Justice
Greater New Haven Peace Council