Brothers Arm in Arm

If there’s one thing that will bring me to the point of tears, it’s the future of our children. My heart still goes out to the Sandy Hook victims. It’s been over a week and it’s as fresh as yesterday. I remember staring at the television and thinking, “These are kids, man. Kids!” I know that a man isn’t supposed to cry, but I wept.

Not too long ago, I dreamed I was the father of a child who attended a school that the city sought to shutdown. I awoke from that dream with tears welling in my eyes. I thought to myself, “As adults, we can’t make decisions that only hurt the children — the defenseless children.” Almost a week later; tragedy struck bringing me back to that same dream and feeling.

There have been thoughts from everyone on the Sandy Hook tragedy. Many of which  on what to do to prevent this from happening again. I can’t lie. Some of it I agree with, but most of it I don’t. I’m going to focus on children for today, because my thoughts on violence, gun control and the 2nd Amendment at a higher level aren’t important right now. What’s important is what’s in the best interest of our children, and what we can do to ensure a promising future for them. To really understand, you have to think about the profile of a child.

Children are defenseless, impressionable and innocent. That makes the decisions that we make much more difficult than the ones we make for ourselves. At this point in our lives, we can defend ourselves and navigate around (most) danger. We developed ideologies about society and lost our innocence long ago. Children obviously aren’t at this level. Someone has to defend them.

In the face of this tragedy, I struggle with what’s the best way to do that. How do we keep guns out of the hands of crazed individuals, keep those individuals and guns out of our schools, and defend our children? While many people look to the physical security of our schools, I’d like to defend children’s minds. What do I mean by that? I mean that many of these kids will not fully grasp what happened that day until they are much older. What will they think about it? Should we allow them to bury it in the past, or do we try and teach them lessons that they will not understand now, but will in their future? I don’t know. On one hand, I think that you should leave a child in their innocence and keep the microphones and reporters from asking questions that only make them relive the tragedy. On the other hand, it’s an excellent opportunity to aide our children in learning to deal with distress and understanding the value of life, liberty and justice for all. Both hands have great points, but neither is an absolute right answer.

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I know that children are also very impressionable and therefore finding an answer for preventing tragedies like Sandy Hook is complex. I don’t want children walking through metal detectors to go to what we consider a safe haven, but I don’t want the perceived notion that school is also a place where a misguided soul can be sure there’s no defense to his or her attack. I think back to photographs from the Civil Rights Movement of children being escorted to school by members of the National Guard and how that must have impacted their psyche:

Why is there a need to have a gun present when all I want to do is go to school today? That’s a tough question to answer to a child.

As much as we think that children don’t understand what’s going on around them, they do. I think about children of divorce and how they blame themselves for their parents’ marital problems, therefore we must be very careful of how we exchange discourse to find a sound solution to events like Sandy Hook.

Along those same lines, we must maintain the innocence of our children. We can’t turn them into defenders of themselves. The suggestion that you teach a child how to react in the face of eminent danger is crazy. Why would you put that on a child to grow up like that? Although, there are many children worldwide growing up in war zones, one of the greatest civil liberties of America is that we are not in a war zone. Parents should be having conversations with their children about the same things we had conversations with our parents about: Don’t talk to strangers; Don’t accept food or candy from people you do not know; Listen to your teachers and elders, and obey the rules set forth.

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However, a parent who spends the next few weeks teaching their children what to do in the face of danger, whether that be self-defense strategies or how to escape and notify the police of violence, is preparing them for war and that’s not fair. They’ll lose out on the very thing that we all are jealous of our children for: innocence.

Above all else, this is a time for us as adults and those who are fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, or just mere individuals of society to think. Our thoughts and how we think are the tools that drive change in our society. In As a Man Thinketh, James Allen wrote “A particular train of thought persisted in, be it good or bad, cannot fail to produce its results on the character and circumstances. A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances.” That’s a very deep and inspiring quote..

My great fraternity teaches us to pray, “O Lord may the true spirit of the fraternity rule our hearts, guide our thoughts and control our lives so that we may become through thee servants of all.” If you replace the word “fraternity” with “love,” we are on to something powerful beyond measure. We’re going to have to change the way we think and then our actions will follow.

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I told my followers on Twitter that racism in our country did not end because we made it illegal to be racist It continued to prosper and intensify even after the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts were signed into law. Racism began to decrease when our nation decided that we would change the way we thought about each other. Martin had a dream that was a thought, and let his dream and thoughts drive his actions. As a result, change happened.

Before we are quick to rush to quick fixes and easy answers on the Sandy Hook tragedy, let us not forget to spend time in deep thought. Thinking about what changes we can selflessly make today that will inevitably change tomorrow and the future for generations to come. The children are counting on us for it.

Dr. J