“All the little ones of our time are collectively the children of us adults of the time, and entitled to our general care.”
I read that more than 40 years ago in Thomas Hardy’s novel “Jude the Obscure” and have thought about it over and over since.
I think of it every time I hear of children starving to death in Third World countries. One child every 10 seconds some reports estimate.
I think of it whenever I look at that famous photo of the firefighter holding that dead, ash-covered baby following the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995.
I thought of it after Columbine in 1999.
And Newtown in 2012.
And when 132 children were slaughtered by terrorists in their school in Pakistan in 2014.
I thought about it when we saw the photo of little Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old whose lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015, his family trying to flee atrocities in their homeland for potential safety in Greece.
And again when I saw the video of that poor child we’ve come to call “Aleppo Boy” staring aimlessly into space as he sat in an ambulance in war-turn Syria two years ago.
And now I am thinking about it the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting on Valentine’s Day.
The lesson is clear. And bitter. We adults of this time have failed the children of our time. We failed at providing the general care to which they are entitled. And we should be ashamed.
Especially now that the children of Parkland have called us on it. And have had to take matters into their own hands. “Where have you been?” they keep asking us, sometimes right to our faces. Our answers have been lame. Evasive. Pitiful.
That’s because we have no answers. No good ones, any way.
But we’d better come up with some. And fast. Because the #NeverAgain movement started by the young people of America has a second layer to it. Never again, they demand, should there be another school shooting. But never again, they also demand, should we adults of this time shirk our responsibilities to our children.
It should not have come to this. But it has come to this. And the only question we adults, all adults, should be asking is, “What are we going to do?”
Here’s the answer: everything. We should do everything we can imagine to ensure this never happens again.
To do so, of course, we’ll have to put politics aside. Is that too much to ask?
Gun control? Please. At this point is this even debatable? No one wants to repeal the Second Amendment (as if that were even remotely possible), but does any reasonable person really believe an 18-year-old should have the Constitutional right to buy a weapon of war and all the ammo he wants?
Arm teachers? Maybe. But let’s hope not. I’ve had college students who have served in war zones in the Middle East and know what it is to be shot at and shoot back and they all say this: it is one thing to hit a target at a firing range and a completely other thing to fire a gun in the heat of action. Do we really want to put teachers in this position?
Still, there’s no doubt more security at school is a must. And while I hate to see schools resembling fortresses, if this means several well-trained armed guards patrolling school grounds, so be it. Besides, a 7th grade English teacher with a license to carry might not be much of a deterrent to a would-be killer, but the thought of facing a former Green Beret might be.
And what about technology? My wife drives a car that will apply the brakes even if she doesn’t. Driverless cars are around the corner. So you can’t tell me there isn’t a way to wrap every school in a web of technology that can render a weapon inoperable. How? Let’s put the greatest technological minds in the country on it and let them tell us how.
Then there’s the question of mental illness. If we are not providing proper care for those with mental illness, then it’s time we did. And this brings us to another tragedy of our time, teen suicide, reportedly the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds. This, too, during our time as adults.
All of this is going to cost money, of course. But God help us if we allow this to get in the way. Can we ever say we don’t have the money to keep our children safe?
Not when estimates on a border wall with Mexico are as high as $25 billion. Don’t know about you, but I am far more concerned about another kid with a semi-automatic rifle walking into a school than I am an illegal Mexican picking strawberries on a farm in Southern California.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online duringt the week at pittstonprogress.com.