Like most parents, this week I am low on criticism when it comes to my children. The devastating horror we watched unfold Friday in Newtown, Conn. filled me with unspeakable grief and disgust. The school massacre that happened there just weeks from Christmas at Sandy Hook Elementary School was indescribable on so many levels; shattering the notion that our kids are off limits.
As parents, we consider the safety of our children at every turn. From crossing the street to eating a choke-able piece of candy and making sure we have the best car seats, we strive to make choices that keep our kids safe from harm. We ponder play dates and birthdays parties, staying up too late to watch a movie. We consider the safety ramifications of playing out front alone and waver about the first time we allow our child to ride a bike around the corner without a chaperone.
But school … that's a safe zone. Apart from earthquakes or fires, I have never once feared my kids' safety at school. School should be a protected haven much like the home.
But last week that notion was shattered, leaving us all in speechless, gut wrenching wonder. How could the innocence of an elementary school be destroyed? I am stupefied at the thought that a school massacre now sits above natural disasters on my list of fears that cross my mind when I am kissing my kids goodbye in the morning.
I am without words – for once. But the sentiments of others have given me some perspective, some inspiration and a little bit of comfort.
Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Children’s Defense Fun, was quick to highlight the need for gun control in her essay titled, “Dear God! When Will it Stop?”
She writes, “Each and all of us must do more to stop this intolerable and wanton epidemic of gun violence and demand that our political leaders do more. We can’t just talk about it after every mass shooting and then do nothing until the next mass shooting when we profess shock and talk about it again.”
Edelman added that the most recent statistics reveal that 2,694 children and teens were killed by gunfire in 2010; 1,773 of them were victims of homicide and 67 of these were elementary school-age children.
“If those children and teens were still alive they would fill 108 classrooms of 25 each,” she wrote.
When addressing Newtown residents at a vigil Sunday night, President Barack Obama spoke not only as our president but also as a parent, questioning the responsibility we bear as a nation when it comes to keeping our children safe.
“Can we honestly say we are doing enough to keep our children – all of them – safe from harm,” he asked.
Continuing, Obama queried, “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage -- that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence on our children year after year after year is some how the price of our freedom?”
This devastating tragedy is, for me, the tipping point.
As Malcolm Gladwell describes, “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.
Burn, baby, burn!