Like most of you, my heartache from the horrific news of Sandy Hook lingers unabated. When the unthinkable happens, your emotions run the gamut, and aside from praying powerful prayers, you feel so helpless…especially when you live clear across the country. Connecticut holds a special place in my heart, having lived in Rowayton for two wonderful years in the 80s. And, as someone whose first career desire was to be Santa Claus, and who lost a three-year old nephew to a tragic car accident, you can understand why anything that takes away the innocence of childhood just rips me apart.
Now that my emotions have swung from anger to profound sorrow, I’m asking whether it’s possible for something good to come out of this tragedy. I’m wondering if, to honor the victims, families, friends, and caregivers, we can band together and heal our nation and our culture. Let’s not simply say, “enough is enough.” For once, can we actually do something about it?
What exactly is “it,” you ask? “It” is reclaiming the childhood innocence that has been gnawed at and chipped away with each passing year—a loss that is devastating our families and our nation.
What does that involve?
First, it means we demand better from those who influence the lives of children through their messages, their lyrics, their images, their advertisements, their products, their movies, their TV shows, their video games, and their laws and regulations. I grew up during a time and place when most entertainment was family friendly and parents didn’t need to have their finger poised to the off switch of the TV, radio, and turntable. Back then, mature adults seemed in charge of the cultural messages and content sent to our children, and we all survived just fine! In fact, the statistics on divorce rates, children born to unmarried parents, dropout rates, teen suicide, gang violence, unplanned pregnancies, abortions, STDs—you name it—were a whole lot better.
Can’t we just acknowledge that today’s sexualized and violence-obsessed culture isn’t working? And stop the denial?
Second, it means our culture drivers and schools promote honorable and universal values that are celebrated for their virtue. Values like modesty, kindness, generosity, respect, and dignity are the “new cool.” That what’s on the inside is emphasized more that what’s on the outside. That the voices demonstrating the courage to stand up to immorality are honored and respected. That those defending irresponsible messages to children as “simply reflecting culture” are rebuked for the lie they are perpetrating. That those who want to voluntarily pray are not discriminated against. And, that those influencing our children start putting their content and messages through a “child innocence filter.”
This is not meant to take away from the national conversations we need about our policies and regulations regarding mental illness and weapons. They, too, are deserving. But, on this day, I can’t seem to get out of my mind the image of a child from the great place of Newtown asking of us, “Can’t we be kids for just a little while longer?”
They deserve better. And, I pray we have the courage to deliver it.
With Love and Blessings to the People of Newtown,