Are We Proud?
Last week, on the drive to school one morning, my four-year-old son who typically chats the entire way and loves to sing along to his favorite songs from the playlist I made for him on my iPhone, was unusually quiet. It was the start of the week, it had been a very busy weekend and I assumed he was just a little tired, so I didn’t push him for conversation.
As we pulled into the parking lot at his school, I heard his little voice from the back say, “Mommy. Am I safe here?”
There are very few things in this life that truly unravel me. I’m not a super emotional person and I tend to be rather matter-of-fact in most situations, but in that moment, I could literally feel my heart-breaking.
My son is an incredible free spirit. He’s quirky and willful, funny, sweet, smart, creative and very perceptive. If I make a face, he wants to know what it means and what I’m feeling in that moment. He wants to understand common expressions and how to apply them and he is forever grilling me about words and their meanings.
His willful side is one that is always up for a challenge. Whether it be attempting to negotiate the amount of food he has to eat before being excused, or tackling playground equipment he’s not old enough for, he will give anyone and anything a run for its money. In the midst of a discussion one afternoon about why he couldn’t climb onto the money bars and walk across the rungs like an older boy was doing at the park, he looked at me, with his big brown eyes and said, “Ya know, you’re ruining my spirit.”
How could he not melt my heart?
Of course, regardless of how endearing and stubborn he can be, I am the mom and my response in situations where he’s not going to get his way, is always the same….“My most important job is making sure you are healthy and safe and that’s what I’m doing.”
So, it was with this statement ringing in my ears and with my heart in my throat, that I looked him straight in the eyes and lied.
“Of course, honey,” I answered gently. “School is a safe place.”
Maybe it’s harsh to say I lied. Maybe it’s more appropriate to say I answered a question I don’t really know the answer to anymore.
It took a bit of patience and time to understand what brought about my son’s inquiry, as he tends to clam up when bombarded with questions in response to something he senses is a difficult topic. But it seems to have stemmed from a combination of having heard something about the playground shooting in South Carolina that ultimately killed six-year-old Jacob Hall, and his classroom practicing the school’s lockdown procedure in recent weeks.
I hate that we live in a world where a four-year-old carries the weight of that worry.
I hate that throughout so much of this world, there are thousands of other kids carrying the weight of their own tremendous fears and worries, because the world the adults around them have created is failing them.
Are we proud of this?
When does it end?
Whose child will be the last to be buried before we take a step back and say, “There’s a resolution here that preserves your rights, but protects our children?”
How many more ten, eleven and twelve year old’s have to commit suicide or turn to awful acts of violence, before we stop comparing our upbringing and the world we knew as kids to the one they know?
We’ve given them too much too soon. They have the world, quite literally, at their fingertips….but they are also within the grasp of the whole world….and it’s our job to help them navigate these waters.
It’s also our job to set the example for what it means to be a decent human being.
How many more women have to be sexually assaulted before it stops being the punchline of a joke?
How can we rally around the Second Amendment with so much passion, while simultaneously trying to squash the First, which in part says, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, by supporting ideas that call for the deportation and the tagging of people in certain religious groups.
How can we support the building of a wall around a country that was settled by immigrants? And let’s be honest, this isn’t a country that was free for the taking. Or, have we conveniently forgotten the bloody origins of our settlement?
Indian Removal Act of 1830
Trail of Tears
To quote President Barack Obama from a speech he gave on immigration, “unless you’re one of the first Americans, Native Americans, you came from somewhere else – somebody brought you.”
One of my favorite books is “The Greatest Generation” written by Tom Brokaw about the people who grew up in the United States during the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II.
In his book he argued that the men and women of this generation fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the “right thing to do.”
Where did those ideals go?
In the United States, we’re in the midst of a Presidential election where a frightening number of people seem to be getting their facts and making voting choices based on conspiracy theories, celebrity endorsements, internet memes and trending hashtags.
I’ve never used my blog as a place to discuss politics before and I’m not going to attempt to endorse any particular candidate here, but regardless of who you choose, we can’t just look to a government official to “Make America Great Again.” We have to be willing to look at ourselves and each other and ask, “What can we do to make America great again?”
I’m not among those who romanticize the presidency of JFK, but I’ve always been fascinated by US History. When I was a kid, I read the inaugural address JFK gave in 1961 and it’s timelessness has resonated with me ever since. In particular when he said:
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.