Monday, July 15, 2013

Reflections on the death of a child

It hurts my heart when even the death of a child can't stop us all for a moment, just a single moment, to say "How tragic. How unfair. How avoidable." And, most important of all, "I'm sorry."

There but for the grace of (whichever Deity you believe in) could go any child. I'm not naive enough to think I will ever live in a world where these tragedies don't happen. Tragedies like this will always happen. And we will always struggle to prevent them from happening, and to achieve equality, because that's what we're on this Earth for. It's what motivates us to go to school and college, to find jobs and go to work each day, to fall in love, to start families, to buy and care for our homes, to adopt pets, to make friends, to laugh and swim and pray and cry and even argue. We are wired to strive and succeed. Yet we are united in our desire for the very same thing: we all want happiness. Even though we live in a world where we all, each one of us, defines that term so differently, based on where we come from, where we are, and where we are going, we are all working toward some form of that seemingly elusive ideal.

But when our hearts and souls tell us that the best thing we can do in response to the death of a child is to lash out, to attack and offend and take pleasure in just how witty and flippant and verbally manipulative we can possibly be, then our hearts and souls become dark and empty places incapable of feeling for a grieving mother and father, or a terrified community, or a hurting world. I'm not suggesting we all go mute, or take a vow of silence, or fail to express our opinions, I'm just saying the tone and the timing of the ways in which we do this, to ourselves and to one another, are precisely how we live in a world where lives can be so casually taken every day without reflection or remorse.

I decided to go silent on all things "Zimmerman" because I don't think this national conversation is about him anymore. It is about the aftermath, about the ways in which we continue to divide like metastatic cells, attacking one another, attacking ourselves in the process, willing to endure the pain of division if it just might get our single voice heard among the masses. I don't want to be a loud voice anymore. I don't want to convince people to believe what I believe about this trial, or this child, or this child's parents. I know what I believe, even as I know I can never be completely "right" about any of this, because, like the rest of the world, I know only one-tenth of what happened in this particular case on that particular night. But still, my beliefs are un-swayable, and there is more power in that knowledge than in attacking and mocking others for refusing to let me control their way of thinking, too.

I wish for all of us a world that will someday come together over tragedies like this, instead of creating deeper chasms. I wish for all of us a world that will mourn together over the losses we share, instead of separating over our differences of opinion. I really wish for all of us a world that can respond to the death of a child, any child, under any circumstances, with a simple "How tragic. How unfair. How avoidable." And, most important of all, "I'm sorry." And finally, I wish for all of us a world where healing together becomes more important than suffering alone.

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