Children Dying

President Obama today:

As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago —these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

The children killed ranged in age from 3 weeks old to 17 years.

Aliyah Shell was six.

She wasn’t in the school in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday. She was sitting on her porch in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood in March. A pickup truck pulled up, spraying shots.

Heaven Sutton
was at her mother’s candy stand, on Luna Avenue in North Austin, less than a mile from my house. She died from what police called a “stray bullet” during a drive-by. She was seven years old.

Roberto Luna
was 13, in seventh grade. He died in his brother’s arms after a gunshot.

We are unspeakably violent to our children in this country. The stories above? Those are the children shot to death. They number more than 200 in the last two years, in Chicago. That number does not include those stabbed, beaten, suffocated, strangled. It does not include those run down by cars, poisoned, left out in the cold to die. It does not include those who starved, or died of preventable illnesses, or were simply lost altogether.

We do things to our children that would appall us if we made ourselves look at them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We do things to our children that are savage, and merciless. We do things to our children that we look away from, that we tell ourselves we have to look away from. We tell ourselves that most of these things are not outrages. We tell ourselves this often.

Do the parents of the children killed by slow decay grieve any less, because we can rationalize away their loss by pointing to geography or poverty or purported gang affiliations of the kids or the families or the neighbors or the street? Are those children any less innocent, that we do not need to mourn their deaths as well?

Are those children any less gone?

This is the world we’ve made for our children. It’s a world with guns. It’s a world with knives. It’s a world with economics. It’s a world with paranoia and fear and poisonous apathy, with contempt for the fury of compassion, its backbone the terrified preservation of our right to be indifferent. This is what the world is like under its skin.

Once in a while enough children are killed at once, that we devote our undivided attention. We’re always horrified. How do we talk to our children about this, people ask. Could it happen here? Hug your kids, people say. An acquaintance wrote on Facebook, it feels like the whole world is ending.

How dare we?

Every day, the world is ending. And we are all in this together or we are nothing at all.


7 thoughts on “Children Dying

  1. Children die, almost every day, inside and outside the U.S., because of that inviolate god we call “policy.”
    And yet, if we suggest that “policy” is another name for institutional insanity, we’re derided as the real extremists. If we rail against the notion that protecting fetuses only to abandon them after they’re born is completely crazy, we’re godless commies. If we point out that the right wing and the NRA, in pursuit of profits for its benefactors, have perverted the value of guns in society and shredded the meaning of the Second Amendment, we’re attacked by the black helicopter crowd as NWO pawns. When any sympathy is shown for the children administratively described as “collateral damage,” it is immediately attacked as treason, as giving aid and comfort to terrorists.
    It’s no wonder that sane people feel isolated and alone in this country. They’re ostracized, as a matter of policy.

  2. Beautifully put A.
    My words (ie not trying to restate a premise you may not have) to add to this and the other comments:
    THE issue is not gun control, neither is THE issue the fetishizing the 2nd amendment, central though both those issues are to this tragedy.
    I believe THE issue is what you close with, or to extend it, there is, functionally, no we, the people. We haven’t been in anything together anytime in recent modern history, not even 9/12/11, not in a publicly coalesced, publicly unified, ‘let’s do this” response. It doesn’t seem to be in us anymore to be together, not as a people. Not all of us, not you me, and your NRA-quoting uncle, and your sister that talks to baby Jesus, and his trustafarian nephew, and her aging hippy father, and their Tea Party parents, and their lesbian daughter in law, etc etc etc.
    We don’t know how to do that. We don’t want to do that. The only WE we know or want is the one that seems safe, that seems understandable, the one with the goals in which we are in total agreement with, or at least can “live with.”
    Not to say we don’t have the potential, or couldn’t be convinced, to do it. But it’s not our first impulse, and there’s not a single public institution we trust we can turn to for help with this.
    You know the WE I want to work with on this, the WE I trust to start to figure this (and by extension all our other most intractable issues? It’s the WE that happens when the US sits down, scared shitless, without a clue, across the table from the THEM, and says, “I don’t have a fucking clue where we go now but we can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing. What do you think? How do we do this?”
    In other words, the “what do we have on the spacecraft that’s good?” approach. Which seems crazy to some of you, I know, but tell me, what’s sane, and likely and productive and pragmatic, about your idea?

  3. It is time to talk about not expecting the world to be perfect.
    It is time to talk about realizing evil walks among us.
    It is time to talk about the nature of humanity — a venal, greedy, thoughtless, beastly species.
    It is time to talk about enforcing the laws we have — really enforcing them, and that means funding enough inspectors for the EPA as well as enough cops to not just chase EVERY crook but CATCH every criminal.
    It is time to talk about the sorry state of our national attitude toward and response in aid for the mentally ill. It is time to revisit the Reagan budget miracle that sent our mentally ill who could not care for themselves out into communities that were not able to take care of them, and started the trend that now sees insurance companies refusing mental health care or limiting it — just like followup care for heart attacks, baby births, and surgeries — to the minimal amount possible “to save money”.
    It’s time to talk about the futility of demonizing inanimate objects and lionizing criminals, the screwed-up values that make the shooters in these tragedies household names while the victims are nameless innocents, the culture that says we ought to locku up potsmokers and jail kids who write on the desks, suspend children from school over asthma inhalers and epi-pens and, for God’s sake, STRIP SEARCH A TEENAGE GIRL because she might have had a Tylenol pill in her underwear.
    It’s time to talk about it all, Athenae. It’s time we all stopped screaming in fear and outrage and shutting down thought or common sense in favor of “zero tolerance” and security theatre.

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