I have a 5 year old little boy and it has been a hard few weeks to be his mother.
It was hard to turn on the news. Hard to listen to the names and see the faces of those murdered. Hard to hear about a child being taken at gunpoint and held underground for a week. Hard to contain maternal hatred for men who would perpetrate such horrors. Hard to contain tears of gratitude and grief for those who stood between a gunman and children to die more valiantly than most of us could ever hope to live, much less die.
It was hard to process the mixed feelings of relief and shame at that relief because the only thing that was different about me and someone else was their unimaginable loss and grief and my luck and chance not to have lived where they did.
Then a murder/kidnapping on a school bus 20 minutes from my parents’ house where I grew up – 10 miles from the bus route my daughter rode for years – reminded me that proximity was a risky defense on which to base my relief.
And, to be perfectly honest, in an attempt to shield myself I pulled away from these stories to a certain degree. I read about them daily, I offered my prayers and held out hope, but I stayed away from commenting, watching and participating in the hourly drama of it, because the more I watched, the more certain I became of one fact.
There is no real safety for my children. And that haunts me.
I grew up in a world where mothers don’t die in childbirth and, except in the direst of cases, babies live. Polio, smallpox, dysentery and other child killers have all but been eradicated due to the advances of medicine. I walked through an old graveyard months ago looking at all the tiny gravestones from 150 years ago (one family I remember had more than 5) and gave thanks that I live in an age where my children will most likely all live to adulthood – something that didn’t happen for either of my grandmothers, nor any of my great-grandmothers. In that I am so very blessed. Even with the health risks of Downs, Sawyer has every expectation through science, education and the advancement of compassion to live a high quality life where 100 years ago doctors would have recommended I never see him and that he be thrown into an asylum to rot –something completely unfathomable to me, as his smiling face is my greatest joy every day.
But I have other things to fear – not viruses and disease – something worse: my fellow human beings.
The things I used to lay awake worrying about in the night – that Ezra may one day put himself danger because he doesn’t listen when he should and do something dangerous like run out in front of a car, that Sawyer will one day be taken advantage of and mistreated because of perceived disabilities – have been replaced by more violent actions from the insane adults around them.
When my daughter was growing up my big boogeyman fear was that she may be lured into a van with candy or a puppy and raped and murdered. I taught her about strangers, was vigilant and kept my fingers crossed, relying a good deal on the knowledge that – statistically speaking – she was probably safe and doing my best to keep the odds of such dangers as low as possible. I tried to raise her to be aware of her surroundings and stay out of high danger situations. She is 20 years old now; so far, so good.
I still have that boogeyman to worry about with my young sons to some extent (I cannot forget about the Sanduskys of the world), but now I have a new one to hate and fear. One whose insanity cannot be explained away so simply and straightforwardly as a child predator taking one child at a time for their own sick gratification.
Now we have these mass child murdering motherfuckers to worry about. Ones whose insanity is sneaky and devious and seemingly has no recognizable profile as of yet. Ones that you cannot warn your children about because if your child is in the presence of this kind of madman, it is probably too late.
How am I supposed to teach my little boy to be vigilant and protect himself when his entire world view is based on the knowledge that he is precious, loved and cherished and that adults are his protectors? Do I shatter that innocence? Would that be more dangerous?
These crazies operate so far outside of our society’s moral contract that the rest of us cannot fathom their levels of insanity. And quite frankly, I don’t care to. As compassionate as I can be, these monsters engender no compassion or forgiveness from me – no matter their circumstances, problems or mental diseases. May they rot in the bowels of Hell for all eternity.
The mindset of one who would intentionally target children is so horrifying and terrible that it is impossible to protect against it. I listen to the arguments from banning all weapons to putting armed guards in schools and know that neither would work. Neither would stop someone who wants to kill children. There is no sure safety against that.
There is one thing that we all agree on, no matter where your political, religious, racial, ethical, sexual or any other dividing line in society may be; whether you have children or suffer from a phobia of them; we ALL operate under then indisputable knowledge that children are precious.
We recognize and believe that children who are the least among us in years are in fact the future of the entire world. Just the amount of energy and imagination embodied in one child is so precious to us as adults who have grown up and lost their wonder that, without children, we would be utterly lost in a cynical world unsavable and unredeemable.
Our children are that redemption.
They are our lights, our beacons, our reasons, our future.
I am terrified for all of them – quite selfishly, mine in particular – and thus the future of humanity.