It happened again.
Young people – kids, really – were at the place of their dreams: a concert by a favorite singer. Kids dancing, singing, having a great time. Just free, enjoying music, enjoying company, enjoying life of a young person. And then a monster came and stomped all over that beautiful scene. Instead of a place of music, the concert became a place for these young people to die. What makes a person do that? What series of events must happen in order for a person to take an arsenal to a place he had no business being, and start killing people? Start killing children? The awfulness of this deliberate slaying in a place that is supposed to be a place of joy and celebration … I just can’t wrap my head around it.
When I first heard about it, I wanted to gather my kids, run and hide. How do we live with this inevitable invisible threat? How do we keep our kids safe? How do we not run, Croods-style, at every twig snap?
We live in a day and age where terrorism is indeed inevitable. Again and again, we wake to the news of more senseless death and destruction. It is a part of what is now, as much as democracy is. It is just what is right now. Sadly. You know what terrorists are? Bullies. Bullies win by getting others to fear them. How do you get a bully to back down? Stand up to him. Show him you do not fear what he is doing, saying, standing for; rather, stand up for what you know to be a better way of choice: the choice of allowing others to dream and live and be. Random killing of innocent people? That’s not being brave and standing up for what is right; that’s just mean, careless and thoughtless. When you attack those who are unaware, you are not winning.
This is not about us versus them. This is not about religion, skin color or partner preference. This is not about sides. This is about cowardice. This is about senseless, hurtful, blind hatred. This is about lack of compassion and ability to see. This is inhumanity; we are all humans so this is against all of us.
I dare say there is no God out there that would say that what these terrorists stand for and what philosophies they expound are the one and only right one. I am not especially religious but I do believe myself to be kind, generous, and accepting. I am understanding of others, and listen to what is important to others, giving them the right to continue to believe as they so choose. I have my own opinions, sure, but I do not believe mine are the right ones for every one. I do my best to teach my boys that they have the right to the beliefs they settle upon, so long as their beliefs do not infringe on the rights or beliefs of others. They have the right to dream as they want, the right to aim for their goals, and the right to work hard to achieve them.
Terrorists aren’t like that. Terrorists want people to only believe as they do. They believe that only they are right. In their eyes, those that don’t believe as they do deserve to die. Some kill indiscriminately, some pick and choose, giving women and children pardon. Some aim for tourist destinations, some aim for places and/or countries/people they feel have done them wrong. Terrorists want to set limits and undermine established structure. They want to bring doubt and uncertainty. They want you to fear. And when you fear, they win.
… "limits are for those who lack imagination and determination." …. Terrorists want to crush peoples' dreams; the very essence of what a dream represents (a better future) is what terrorists are fighting against.
Imagination and dreams look beyond what is and aim toward what could be. They embody growth and childhood and creativity. They get you out of the box. They lead to ambition and aspiration and positive change.
In our house, guns are not allowed. Of course, if there lives a little boy, then his imagination alone can create a gun out of pretty much anything from a two-block Lego creation to a stick to a finger. While I do not buy them any sort of toy gun, they nevertheless exist in our home. But in the same sense, they also get a lesson about why I am so anti-gun. You know what? Guns don’t kill people alone, though. People kill people. But all too often, their choice of method – especially in these seemingly increasingly occurring mass-slaying events – is a gun. Or three guns.
Yesterday, my eldest asked me if something had happened at another event. He is 12, just starting to really understand what evil really is. Too young, I think, but … I can’t not talk to him about it. We’ve talked about September 11, and what happened. We’ve talked about school shootings. We’ve talked about incidents at hotels and at celebrations. I told him what I could without dwelling too much on it. This time, though, all I could think to say was that a once-safe place, a youthful gathering full of revelry, was turned into a place where young people died because a man no longer understood what it was to care about humanity. Because a man was so upset and confused and who knows what, that he chose to kill innocent people instead of seeking help for his misplaced anger. His misplaced allegiance to a group who applauds violence.
Did I explain this right? I don’t know. I have no inkling what would bring a person to commit this sort of crime. I have no idea what mindset could have beset this man to bring him to the conclusion that he apparently came to. At the end of our short conversation, after tightly hugging my son, he said, ‘This is why you don’t like guns and bombs, isn’t it?’ And I could only agree.
Apropos guns, I am not and never will be a hunter. I understand the sporting aspect of it, and can appreciate that families use the sport as a true source of food acquisition. Beyond this, though, I see no reason that a person should own a gun. Bombs? I can’t see how an arsenal can bring the positive effects words can. That diplomacy can. A very smart friend of mine said ‘This is how we will stand against evil in the world today: loving our neighbors.’
You know what I was thinking as I hugged my son? I was so grateful. All three of my kids got long, tight hugs when I saw them after I saw them after work where I heard the news. I was so grateful that I could do that; I can’t imagine how those parents are feeling, those that lost their children this week. They took them to the stadium to enjoy the music. To celebrate youth and music and all that is beautiful in a young person’s world. And then their worlds were shattered. This breaks my heart that another would have such audacity and disrespect for others that they would bring such pain and horror to others. Where do we go from here? I feel as though we are slowly circling around a horrible abyss, but we still have the ability to claw our way back to where we can be standing on firm – and safe – ground. I’m an optimist; I like to think we can get back there. I pray, for the sake of my children and for those just like them, that we can fix what has become broken.
You know what I have to say? Back off, bullies. You are not accomplishing anything. Oh sure, we’re watching now, and you’re getting your time in the news. But that is not a win. Yes, right now, we are afraid. But that’s not a win, either. Being known as notorious is not the same thing as being revered. You bullies, you want to know why you will not win? Because we all dream, and we all work for a better day. We know what grief looks like, thanks to you. But we also know what beauty can come if you work hard and take care with others. You bullies, you will not win, because as every parent on this planet knows and has told their children (probably countless times): bullies never win. So back off.
Taking a gun into a school – or a theatre, or a mall, or street corner – and killing others is not a solution. Taking a vest of explosives into a full stadium is cowardice. You want to deliver a message? Get off your coward ass, and open your mouth and speak. Use your words. Or, better yet, lead by example, and take a hand, especially one offered in kindness and in hope is. Offer your hand, friends. For the sake of our children, offer your hand.
I don’t want to hide any more. Now I want to use my words to show what we can do against evil by showing how much we love our neighbors, no matter what color they may be, or what God they believe in.
How to discuss terrorist attacks with kids