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.
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.