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Editorial 619

Missy Layfield - Editor

We Can Do Better

It’s been a week and the shock and horror of the Sandy Hook school deaths remains fresh for many people who have no personal connection other than being fellow human beings.The violent death of so many innocents is an assault on all we hold sacred - a violation of something so elemental - it takes our breath, our sleep, our peace.

And the horrific news just kept coming this week.

About the time we grasp that 20 kids were murdered, we learn that they were 6 and 7 year olds. As we catch our breath from that, we learn that the gunman shot them all multiple times. Then we learn that some of the kids were special needs students. And teachers sacrificed their lives to save kids.

Is there no end to the horror?

As the community gathered in prayer at the Catholic church last weekend, a phone call to the church threatened to finish the job started Friday. The church was emptied while parishioners watched SWAT teams clear the area.

Wouldn’t you be thinking you’d gone to sleep in Mayberry and woken up in hell if you lived in Newtown?

Meanwhile the reaction was predictable from some quarters.

The battle began immediately between those who would ban all guns and those who would arm kindergarten teachers. I don’t much care about that this week. There’s more than a little craziness to go around on both sides of that battle. And it seems obscene to be fighting that battle over the graves of 6 year olds right now. Sure, it’s an important issue, but for heaven’s sake, can we bury these children first?

Gun sales are up. We’re told that buyers are worried that new gun control laws will be passed after Sandy Hook. If that is a valid concern, how quickly do people think such changes come about? For heaven’s sake, can we bury these children first?

New gun laws were introduced in several states this week. Most state legislative bodies are on break so nothing will be done on any bill anytime soon. Why push this now? I suspect mostly, it’s for political gain. The need to be seen as doing something. For heaven’s sake, can we bury these children first?

There will be ample time to debate gun laws and mental health concerns. But first, let’s take time to reflect on the loss of these children and our own innocence and the value we place on children.

What is children’s place in our society? Children are innocents to be protected. The human baby is born totally dependent on others. That dependency places an ethical responsibility on others to care for that baby.

It really comes down to this. If we don’t protect our children, we have no future.

Most families see babies as blessings. Children are precious. It is the entire family’s job to love, care, protect and guide them gently to adulthood.

But there are some children who are not treasured or protected or loved. What is our responsibility then? If there is no loving family, whose job is it to protect children and how should we protect them?

We fail as a society to protect our children in many ways, many of them difficult and uncomfortable to contemplate and easier to ignore.

Kiddie porn-children are victimized in the making and selling of kiddie porn, yet it is a huge market and people make millions on it. That’s wrong.

Child abuse- it is remarkably easy to abuse or neglect children without anyone knowing about it.When people do see abuse, they treat it like it’s a private family matter. If an adult knocked another adult to the ground, it would be assault. If an adult does it to a child, it’s parenting.That’s wrong.

Gun violence-children die on street corners and in their own beds every week from gun violence in our streets. This week, 20 died in their classrooms. That’s wrong.

Murder-if you strike another adult and he dies, you stand a good chance of being charged with murder.If you strike a child and he dies, you may not be charged at all. If you are, you won’t serve nearly as much time as you would if your victim had been an adult. Why is that? Our system seems to say a child’s life is less important than an adult’s. That’s wrong.

If children are to be protected and treasured, we are doing a terrible job of it.

And now, there are 20 children dead in Newtown.

Will this be a wake up call?Or will it be just another passing disaster?

In this week when Christians celebrate the coming of their Savior as a tiny, helpless infant, we would do well to contemplate how we might better treasure our nation’s children.

For how we treat our children speaks volumes about who we are as a country and as a people.

We can do better.

Missy Layfield