My eyes filled with tears as I heard the news of the mass shooting in Connecticut, where most of those killed were elementary school children. As a parent with children of similar ages, I can only imagine the grief of those who suddenly lost the most precious thing in their lives. And as a person concerned about the well-being of all peoples and the tenuous future of our species, I keep hearing myself think: What will it take to end the madness.
I am loath to use yet another tragedy to point out (again) the inherent violence and brutality of our society, from the exploitation of individuals to the decimation of nations. I am not eager to connect it back (again) to the human-initiated violence toward the balance of life on the planet, that vast interconnected web on which our very existence depends. I take no solace in preparing to rant (again) about the culpability of the media, the profligacy of corporate profiteers who put their wealth above everyone else’s health, or about the profound alienation and emptiness of modern life.
No, this is beyond all of that. This is about our children. ALL of our children, everywhere. If we do not appreciate the basic fact that we are all responsible for all of the world’s children, then there is precious little hope for any viable human future on this world. We simply cannot continue to steal the future from our children, to wantonly consume the habitat and undermine its inherent resiliency, to seed the world with weapons of mass insanity and the implements of violence that are all too readily available for acts of grave cowardice such as the one we are seeing today — and every day.
On a daily basis, the news queue is like a litany of horror stories, while those nominally charged with promoting our security do little more than posture before cameras and open new fronts in a war without end. The “mass shooting” has become a dominant motif in the production of social relations, the last refuge of the disaffected and unloved, the final epitaph for a culture that has paid far too little attention to its children and the responsibility to ensure for them a positive future.
As a parent, my heart breaks; as a human being, my soul aches. What will it take? In a just world, this episode alone would be enough to jolt us out of our torpor and get us to put down all of the weapons of war in our midst. We would reexamine the deep-seated societal roots of despair and violence, and take an honest accounting of the ways in which we are all culpable in its perpetuation. We would rededicate ourselves to establishing a societal foundation based on empathy and compassion, and build our economies and politics around these values. And above all, we would use every peaceful means at our disposal to ensure that our children can play and grow in this world.
My fervent hope is that out of tragedy comes revelation. What will it take? Nothing less than the unwavering commitment of all people of good conscience to step back from the abyss of hopelessness, and to reclaim the virtues of being caretakers rather than consumers of ourselves, one another, and the world around us. For the sake of all that makes life worth living, let us from today forward build a society whose highest ideal is to save our children and preserve our future.