Responding to Sandy Hook: Is Our World Safe for Children?

December 23, 2012 2:07 pm 1 comment

One of the victims, Emilie Parker.

So much grief has been poured out in the last week over the six and seven year olds who were gunned down by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Their killings struck a nerve in every parent, and for that matter every person hearing the story, tearing through our psyches, realizing how close to home such horror truly is.

How can your heart not melt when you see the images of those little innocent kids marching out of the school clutching each other’s hands? They could have been our children. They could have been us — we too were once vulnerable children trudging to school every day of our young lives. When children are struck down in the most sacred of all sanctums — a school, a place where millions of us were educated, a place that is meant to be an oasis, protecting us from the cruelties of the outer world — it shakes us to the core, knowing that all of us have been in some way violated by this crime.

There are lines we all never cross. Despite our disagreements about so many matters, everyone concurs that children must be left out of the battles and bloodshed of adults. As children grow up they will inevitably, unfortunately, encounter human travesties. But we can all agree that we must protect and shelter our children from the darkness of life as long as we possibly can.

That, in effect, is the nature of a school — a place of innocence, a space where we (hopefully) pursue truth, clarity, knowledge, love and all the elements that help shape healthy children into healthier adults. An optimal school is, in other words, like a garden — a place of beauty, where seeds are sowed, and meant to blossom into beautiful shrubs and flowers. This is done with the assistance of selfless educators, who like dedicated gardeners, don’t create the plants. Rather they create the nurturing environment, watering the seeds and weeding the weeds, that allow them to bloom.

Trouble in Paradise

When that line is crossed and violence enters into the garden, when blood is spilled on freshly fallen white snow, its stark violation is keenly sensed by one and all.

“Leave them kids alone” was a powerful resonating anthem made popular by a pop group (though they were talking about teachers, referring to the corruption wrought on children by so-called educators. — But that’s a discussion for another time. Here we are focusing on the horrors crossing the boundaries from outside of school walls).

And what it does is remind us that some places should never be defiled.

But is that true? Should we be concerned only about the innocent souls in innocent places, and give up on ourselves?

Shouldn’t a tragedy like Sandy Hook — without taking away from the need to protect our children — also wake us up to the innocence within ourselves and the need to protect that as well?

Have we become so resigned about our own aspirations and ideals that we relegate the pure and the beautiful only to our children? By doing, perhaps we are actually saying, sadly, that purity is only in the domain of fantasy — the fantasy world of naive children.

But then isn’t it true that our children will inherit the earth and the attitudes that we adults create? Yes, today they may be innocent, but they will very soon — too soon — enter the corrupt, jaded, cynical world of the “mature.”

Are we expecting something better for our children when we expect of ourselves? How can we assume that our children will have a better world when we are the ones shaping that world with our sub-par standards?

Are we ready to tell our own children: “hey, I love you and will do everything to protect you. But know that one day you will grow up, and your eyes will then open as you realize that all your “innocence” and “purity,” all your dreams and exuberance, were an illusion — a childhood fantasy worthy for no one but immature babies…”

Is there an adult (I should add healthy) parent that is willing to tell this to his or her child?

Is there any adult that actually believes that? — Even writing those words brought a chill to my spine…

Is that what we are ready to tell the children murdered in Sandy Hook — as well as those that survived, along with all the millions of children going to school every day?

Try this test at home with a, say, 3 year old child (perhaps older): Ask the child, your child or any child, how would you like to have one million dollars? Just for fun, let’s make it one billion dollars.

What do you think will be the child’s reaction? Would you be surprised if the child asks you what is money, or what is a million or a billion, or perhaps ignores you altogether because the child is busy playing with some toys?

Think about it.

Who has it more right: Us adults who “appreciate” the value of money, or the child who has no clue?

Who was more aware: Adam and Eve with their “eyes opened” ashamed of their nakedness, or as they were innocent beings lacking any self-consciousness and dissonance? Who is more aware: Jaded adults, colored by their own desires, selfishness and ambitions, or children who don’t even know the meaning of money?

It always struck me as deeply troubling when adults agree on banning certain “adult” products and entertainment from children, but have no problem with indulging in it themselves (I am not obviously addressing the issue of freedom of speech). If it’s appropriate for adults why is it inappropriate for children? And what distinguishes a child from an adult — age? What age exactly does this move from the unacceptable to the acceptable? Would we say the same for unethical behavior as an example: that its not ok for children but ok for adults? After all, aren’t adults today the children of yesterday, and the children of today the adults of tomorrow? Our adult lives will be shaped by our lives as children. By creating a dichotomy of the two aren’t we undermining our adult lives, as if to say, that something is destructive for the foundation of the structure (childhood), but acceptable for the structure itself (adulthood)?

I suspect that we all have higher standards and expectations of our children — and of ourselves. Why else are we so shocked by the murders in Newtown?

We are disturbed because we all know and sense that something is very very wrong when pure children are gunned down (point blank, with multiple shots), in a school of all places — that last bastion of hope, where we hope to bring up our next generation.

But Sandy Hook reminds us something more: that we are our children. We were once children, and we still are children (only in adult bodies), who have wandered away from our purest version of ourselves.

Sandy Hook simply reminded us of a truth that many of us have conveniently forgotten, due to the distractions and seductions of our material lives.

Yes, our “busy” lives drown out the subtle voice within that tells us:

Our children are closer to reality than we are. Their simple purity and innocence is far truer than our sophisticated institutions.

The young souls of Sandy Hook remind us that the angels who are our children are far more real than the demons that are our adults.

One of the greatest tributes we can offer to the young lives that have been torn away from their families and the world is to resolve once and for all, not to gravitate back to our “adult” assumptions that we have been indoctrinated with, that we adult have it right and the children have it wrong, or are simply ignorant.

But to see our shock at this latest atrocity as a reminder that it’s the other way around: Our children are the best of us, and it is their world that is far more real than our distorted one.

The shock we experienced by the violation that has pierced the innocent walls of our schools and our children should be converted into an equally powerful resolve to build not just more secure schools with higher walls around the “garden,” but to build a world — a garden — in which we feel our children would be most comfortable.

We can and should build more protected schools. We can and should radically improve our mental health care? But is that the solution? As long as our schools are mere “oases” from the jungle surrounding them, how high must their walls be to protect from gunmen or madmen (or both)?

Instead of seeing our schools as “escape zones” and our children as immature “anomalies” that need to be protected from the “real” world, why don’t we see our shock for what it is: a wake up call that we need to turn our entire world into the garden we want for our children, and for… ourselves.

Instead of condemning our children to enter into a world of — and built by (the standards of) — adults, let us build a world defined by the far more sublime standards of our children.

Imagine a world where our children are totally comfortable. A world where they can roam freely, with concern or fear. A world that is safe like a home and beautiful like a garden. Where flowers of all colors and shapes grow and intermingle.

Do you think it is is possible? Is this the stuff if child fantasy? Can we adults dream of such a reality?

The children of Sandy Hook, whose dreams were cut short, deserve that we continue the dream for them.

If you can dream it, you can create it.

1 Comment

  • Lawrence Kulak

    Yasher koach Simon – Well said. The reason that this tragedy happened is quite simple now that it has come out. Apparently this supposedly great mom (it is admittedly hard to judge someone when they are in the grave) may have wanted more time for herself, so she sought to have her high functioning son committed. This is a big no-no but the system affords the ability to do so as long as the person is ‘diagnosible’ and acts differently from others. This brilliant kid refused to take it pure and simple.
    The entire mental health system needs to be reformed. More than fifty percent of those who are prescribed psychiatric drugs never need them and another twenty five percent could do just fine without them. The drug companies rule this country and are wealthier all together than many countries. People’s civil liberties should not be able to be taken away so easily just because some shrink says that they are different. Different but are they dangerous? The law says that they must be dangerous but few if any Judges are willing to put the psychiatrists to the test to prove it. It is just easier to lock the person up and throw away the key and this way your conscience is clean ‘just in case’ he does anything violent. But guess what? Adam Lanza beat everyone to the gun. He wanted to go out having the last laugh and he did. Now it is up to us to laugh at him and reform the system that he killed because of.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.