We can at least prepare our children for the future

I’ve now maintained a Facebook account for over six years. In that time, I’ve seen important events unfold in my news feed- the Virginia Tech massacre, the campaign and election of Barack Obama, revolutions in Iran, Egypt, and Syria. Many events have had scattered interest. Others bring out those primordial emotions that we mostly keep well-hidden.

At no point in those six years did Facebook become unbearable to visit; however, yesterday went far beyond my tolerance. The recent past yields misery, both in the United States and in relative isolation thousands of miles away. Yet as the early afternoon brought the events out of Newton, the anger was both fierce and widely spread. Normally apolitical people began posting their strong reactions. Clashes between friends mixed with communal mourning.

What precisely constitutes appropriate behavior in the aftermath of tragedy is a topic of debate. An arbitrary embargo exists on certain topics- usually guns and the politics thereof. But when is prayer no longer a viable substitute for action? When should anger give way to progress?

Petty politics will always surround human tragedies, as parties and groups attempt to link opponents with pure malice. I remember Columbine, though I was only nine at the time. The San Jose Sharks were playing the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs, when Colorado entered a state-wide period of mourning. Games were postponed, it was jarring. Far too young to comprehend the full event, much less the months-long media and political debate that followed, where the first topic was whom to blame.

Thirteen years have passed. The questions of safety, of early detection, of the role in guns in society have been raised after far too many occasions. As someone living with a mental illness, I am acutely aware that people fall through the cracks or are forgotten of entirely. I look at all the warnings given by people close to the Virginia Tech shooter and see a system that is inadequate. We now have metal detectors, ID cards, and biometrics in many schools- but how much of that is safety, or simply the illusion of safety? Creating a safe school environment is a long process, and must in the end come together in a coherent policy.

The world that we have constructed for the next generation is imperfect and full of issues we have never solved. The title of this post is based on a quote attributed to Franklin Delano Roosevelt; I have it on a shirt from a summer program. It reads

“We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.”

It hurts my heart to say that we have not lived up to promises we have given those that came after us. But it’s not too late- though children were the victims, ultimately, they are also the solution.

Author: AJM

Writer, sociologist, Unitarian Universalist.

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