It seems there are no words today are there? It is when tragedy or horror strikes that sometimes I wish I wasn’t a writer because while everyone else can just accept there are no words, I will spend days trying to find them. I wish at times like this that my gift was painting, so that I could fill a canvas with the dark colors I see in my head, or sculpting, so I could capture the young, innocent, alive faces of the children, forever. I wish that I could compose music so I could give life to the angry sounds in my head. But those aren’t the things I was given. I was given words. Yet today, I simply can’t write about the usual things. They all seem rather ridiculous now don’t they?
Tragedy has a way of doing that. It not only reminds us of what is really important but it reminds us of the one thing we choose to forget most of the time. It reminds us that we are all vulnerable. Each one of us could be just moments away from tragedy ourselves, our own deaths or god forbid the deaths of our children. It will turn out that December 21, 2012 was not the end of the world at all. Who knew that it would be December 14, 2012. Who knew that this would be the end of the world for so many innocent people and for the parents and family they’ve left behind.
We never know. That’s the thing we keep trying to forget. We never know and it could happen to any of us, any time.
We have a false sense of security in this country. There are families and children in other countries that take their lives in their very hands every single day, to go to school or to go to the marketplace. There are families all over the world that lose children to horrific violence, every day, but we try not to think about them, we try to believe that we are different than them. We try to believe that some manifest destiny baloney will keep us safe, keep the gods on our side. Or we try to believe that the violence that happens in this country only happens to “other people,” that it won’t ever touch us. Then we find out that’s not true at all. It could happen to any of us.
I’m having a hard time reconciling personal rights in this situation. Don’t children have the right to be safe, to be young and innocent and to not have to worry about being shot at school? Didn’t my son go to Iraq to protect other children so they could go to school and be safe?
Even as a writer, I cannot dig deep enough to find the words to articulate the gut wrenching horror a parent must feel, in the moment when you learn the world has ended for you. Or maybe it’s being a mother that is keeping me from touching that pain. I think back to years ago when I brought my own children to school each day, how we used to rush out the door at the last minute. I remember how someone always forgot a lunch or a piece of homework we’d have to run back for. I remember my youngest daughter insisting I braid her hair just right before she’d go. I remember how impatient I would be some days, how important all those other things I had to do seemed at the time.
Remember what we used to tell our children when they were little about using their words. When they were first old enough to show their own versions of anger and violence we tried to convince them there was a better way to resolve their conflict than hauling off and smacking a younger sibling with a toy they both wanted. We’d say it’s okay to feel angry but “use your words.”
It’s what I wish the young man responsible for this tragedy had done. I wonder if he had someone he could go to, someone that would have listened if he shared his story, shared his own fears and his own pain. I wonder if there was someone who could have changed everything by taking the time to listen to his words.
It saddened me even more to come home this evening and find friends and family arguing online in light of this tragedy. I felt sad that angry words were exchanged. Yet, after spending time reading the exchanges, the angry words written by people I respect and admire, I came to see it as a good thing. Thinking, caring, loving people sharing their thoughts and words is a good thing! We are angry! We are all fucking pissed off and you know what, we need to say it! We need to shout it! We need to jump up and down and scream it at the top of our lungs until somebody hears it! While we may not agree on what needs to be done, or how it needs to be done, we all know that SOMETHING needs to be done. Something needs to change. Change doesn’t happen when we all sit back and say nice things to each other quietly so as not to offend anyone. Change happens when we get angry.
So get angry! Keep talking about it. Scream and shout at each other! Argue and debate until we come up with a solution. Show our children that we weren’t lying when we told them they didn’t need violence to solve their problems. Show them we can solve this with our words. Let’s keep talking until we find the right words, keep talking until those words bring about change. Keep talking until those with the power to change things start listening! Keep talking until our words become ideas and ideas become actions and actions become solutions.
Keep talking so that the children who died today are never, ever forgotten. Use your words, they need to be said . . . it’s the least we can do.