Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves — our child — is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm.
And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t — that we can’t always be there for them. They’ll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments. And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear.
And we know we can’t do this by ourselves. It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize, no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself. That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation. And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we’re all parents; that they’re all our children.
This is our first task — caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.
~ President Barack Obama speaking December 16, 2012 at the Sandy Hook Memorial ~
Watching Fallon as she bravely takes her very first steps and falling down and getting back up again to triumphantly take two or three more before she falls down again only to stand up again and clap for herself because she is so awesome, I am reminded of what the President spoke of last night about what we all, as parents, feel about our children
…from their first cries in the dark of night that beg for food, a diaper change, or consolation
…to those first wobbly steps coupled with lots of falling down and bruised foreheads
…to when they cross that threshold into school and shoo us away
…to their first sleep-away camp
…their first boyfriend or girlfriend
…then their first broken heart
…the first time they get behind the wheel as (OMG) a licensed driver and drive AWAY in our car
…to the day they move out to strike out on their own
…then become parents themselves
…and on and on because they are forever walking around with our heart all exposed to the world. We just want them to be safe, to not be harmed in any way.
We want to know that they can play at any playground
…go to any school
…attend any service at any place of worship they might choose
…sit in a movie theater
…go shopping anywhere
…do all of these things and more and be safe.
We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.
But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that — then surely we have an obligation to try.
In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. 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 visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?
We can not tolerate nor accept these events as the new normal for our children, not in Newtown, or Happy Valley or Aurora or Stockton or anywhere else. Perhaps Piers Morgan was correct when he said, “This is America’s Dunblane. We banned handguns in Britain after that appalling tragedy. What will the U.S. do? Inaction not an option.”
I love our Constitution not only for all it says and for what it stands for, but also because it has evolved and changed as time has gone by…as we grew and evolved in our way of thinking…
The Twenty First Amendment…ahem, Eighteenth Amendment looking at you.
I doubt the authors of our Constitution were imagining semi-automatic assault rifles with magazine clips that could shoot hundreds of rounds in mere minutes when they wrote for the need for our country to have “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” No, I do not wish to pry your handguns, shotguns, assault rifles and other weapons of murderous destruction,
erm instruments for hobbies, hunting and personal protection,
from your cold, dead fingers. But I do think we all need to suck it up, grow a pair and ask ourselves what are we going to do about easy access to such murderous weaponry and the lack of easy access to care for those souls who do become so broken, so angry, so out of touch that they do take out the masses including CHILDREN sitting in their classrooms at school? We need to ask our leaders and ask them loudly and often the same thing reminding them of the TWENTY CHILDREN who were brutally murdered shot up to eleven times that awful morning and ask them to grow a pair too and quit cowering in fear from what the NRA might do to them. We need to be bold and to talk about this now, yes even before the first three angels are buried today.
It is appropriate.
It is necessary.
As long as our children are walking around with our hearts all open and exposed it is time…now! Who dares to say that they are not deserving of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness like the rest of us? They are.