Saturday, December 15, 2012

We can do better

There is intense sadness, loss and grief around the globe tonight, a grief beyond comprehension as an event so unnatural, unfair and man made it swells beyond the borders of a small community in Conneticut. As a friend commented on a Facebook page yesterday, only in the US could gun control be a right and healthcare a privilege.  When children, little children, our children, your children, cannot go to school, to feel safe receiving their human right to an education, we need to do better. We need to do so much better people.
Scientist and anthropologists; some believe we are the most intelligent species on the planet, are we, really? In a world where 95% of our health systems are burdened by preventable disease; famine takes the lives of millions, children, women, men, families; dysfunction is now a common word in families, communities are disconnected and only brought together by tragedy and grief. Someone tell me what is so intelligent about that.
War continues to perpetuate violence, using power, authority and force, as to this day we have failed to produce an alternative.  Greed, anger, hate; the most powerful motivators behind human suffering fueled and justified in the name of peace. Someone please explain to me the intelligence in that. Over thousands of years of killing, hating, using force, we still do not have an alternative solution. What is intelligent about that?
When our homes, in the very neighbourhoods we share are experiencing rising family violence, childhood abuse, mental health statistics rising, where many are more concerned about the interest rate of the mortgage rates than they have interest in making their communities safer for children.  When we cannot face the reality of what is in our own street, in our own homes; we cannot protect the very people we may ride the bus with, see in the shopping isle, buy milk from, pick up our garbage, when we cannot even reach out and do something to protect our own neighbours, what hope have we of protecting on a universal scale. What is intelligent about that?

In Australia people sit silently on a bus while a woman is being taunted and abused, the elderly die in their homes and only when the stench is concerning, does someone notice them gone; children being abucted from public highways and shopping centres and we need forensic evidence to find them; neighbours killing their partners and not one damn person steps up and says or does something to prevent it. Come on people! Pick up the phone at least.  People who think not watching the news or reading about it makes their world safer, until it happens to them and then wonder why it happened in the first place. People who have stopped questioning the very moral code and compass we use daily to path a legacy for our children. We are not evolving in some parts of the world, we are expiring.  The human race is adapting to an insular and self motivated, self preserving attitude that is allowing violence to continue in our communities.  When the majority of crime, death by violent crime is drug related and I'm not just talking illegal drugs, we need to ask ourselves what the hell is going on and what are we going to do better!

When we have a headache it is much easier to reach for a tablet and fix it in seconds than it is to change our lifestyle, question what we've been eating, not eating, stress we've been under, what we contributed to it. It is much easier to push responsibility for your child onto the school or your doctor to fix them, than to change yourself. It is much easier and convenient to turn off the tv than to step up as a human being and take responsibility for the gift of life, of breathe and presence on this planet, to be a seed of change, to do something, anything damn, just don't ignore it and please do not use the "it's not my responsibility"....tone with me.  Let's examine that, tell me then what is your responsibility? You, you are responsible for yourself, for your attitudes, your health, your motives and as parents, oh that is so big I don't have the time here this morning.  There is not a piece of research out there about childhood which can steer away from the impact parenting has on the development of the child into an adult.  Your responsibility is a member of the human race to educate, raise and encourage, love, your children.  Not to set them loose irresponsibly on a community and onto others to hurt, harm and abuse, so you can kick back and enjoy the years spending your children's inheritance.  Oh get with it people, wake up.  Advertising is there to tell you the opposite to what you should hear.  It is there to program you into wanting something beyond what you have conceived. Our responsibilities as communities is to help those who cannot help themselves, when we screw up and wow we do it so well as adults, to own it, take responsibility and the level of responsibility that comes with your role and do something about it!

I don't believe I would have been alone in being completely moved as a mother, a human being, having previously worked as a teacher, by the shattered voice of a young teacher who instinctivly knew the right thing to do in those final moments was to tell her class what a parent would say, that she loved them, they are loved, that it is going to be ok, in her heart she believed they would die. I wept and was pulled back to a time, holding my son's hand, he was cold, his breathing had slowed and telling him it was ok to let go, to stop fighting the cancer, that I loved him, I would always love him, knowing in my heart it was never going to be ok. One child suffering is never going to be ok, when we have been gifted with the intelligence to do better. When as adults we have the power, the authority and the knowledge to do better.

As those entrusted with the care of our children, we need to learn from these events and the actions, the courage, the bravery of those teachers who in absolute fear and horror knew to shield their students from the terror unfolding, told the children to close their eyes, to prevent them from absorbing the horror, from searing into their developing minds this tragedy in their school. Little ones with their eyes closed, hands on each others shoulders, one by one, connected to each other; guided by a teacher brave with courage leading them through fear and sheer strength.

The other week in the shopping centre a young Mum with a screaming new baby, absolutely screaming, the tiny one week old sound. All these ignorant people with their judgemental stares, not one offering any assistance, anyone could see or having experienced knows what it is like with a hungry new baby and a trolley full of shopping. I was keen for a cuddle and asked if it was ok I carry the baby for her, new baby and new smell, still gets me everytime; I followed her around the shop having a cuddle while she finished her shopping. We chatted and talked about how hard parenting is and I confirmed for her, it is one of the hardest and most valuable roles we ever have. 
Stepping up, costs nothing and does so much. Step up people.  Use the intelligence you are gifted with, do something to be a contributor, not a taker from this amazing planet.  You do not need fancy gifts, expensive ones or multiple presents to be present in the life of people, you don't need wrapping or a bow.  The most precious gifts you have cost nothing, a phone call, a letter, a card to let someone, even a complete stranger know they matter; to not speak when they need to talk (believe me even I struggle with that, though I guess you would know that by now!), mow a lawn, hold the shopping, take a cake to a neighbour, wash a car, babysit, put the rubbish out, heaven forbid mow your neighbours nature strip!! Extend your hand, reach out, like little children onto one another, put your hands on someones shoulders, lead them forward, give them a path, show them it is going to be Ok.
I heard the US Gun Lobby has hit back fast stating if only the teachers had been armed, if every single person was armed then this type of event might never happen. I'm sorry I don't see the intelligence in the argument that every single human being needs to live in fear they could be next and forearmed is forewarned.  Someone explain to me why this belief is not across every country on the planet are we accepting that the US Gun Lobby has the greatest intelligence representative of our species? I also don't believe we can wind back the clock, guns are the instrument, the weapon of choice, they can only hurt when a human being uses them to hurt, so do knives, so do drugs, so do cars.  Yet why any person can justify the ownership of a military weapon is beyond comprehension.  Heaven forbid, oh absolutely tragic, is the death of a young person yesterday from an umbrella in Bundaberg, QLD, Australia. I've used a gun, used several, it was a struggle at my size to manage; I haven't touched one since high school.  I was brought up in a time and environment/community where most people either owned a gun or had used on and didn't have an opinion on them.  There were no automatic weapons, no assault rifles and no amnesty forced onto law abidding people to surrender family heirlooms, yet there was always crime, there always will be.
I have lived in a country where Police do not have guns, for those of us at present, who live in countries where our 'Force' have force, this would be inconceivable, yet it's the reality.
Violence breeds violence, fear breeds fear, violence breeds fear. There is nothing more powerful or profitable than the person who taps into human fear.
When I was teaching pre-school many years ago, it was sometime after September 11 and children were still asking questions, still building towers and knocking them down, still attempting to make meaning out of something adults could not make sense from. Their questions were simple and yet we had no answers, we could only allow them a safe environment in which to voice their concerns, struggle to come to terms with a reality one begs to consider why intelligence was wasted on a species which continues to fail so spectacularly. I remember a friend who had been teaching at a diverse metropolitan school, where few children in the class spoke English, many had spent years as refugees transitioning into Australia; children as young as 6 years old confused as to why violence was not an answer to resolving disputes and why they couldn't bring a gun to school. We need to do better, so much better.  Children should be concerned about anything except adult responsibilities.

Whether you are Australian children, American, Palestinian, Israeli, any child, anywhere at any given time of the day or night; children wanting an education, to feel safe going to school, you should not have to carry the burden of our mistakes, of our ignorance and irresponsible actions. As a species we will continue to expire as we allow each other to hurt the most vulnerable, when we turn our backs and do nothing.  You have a voice, as a parent, as a family, as a friend.  You can make a difference.  When we would prefer to sit quietly, to save face, to "not get involved", to not step up and make those accountable for violence against children, we contribute to allowing it to continue.

I've lost several close people to guns, it weighs heavy on your mind and heart to know your life, our lives will be forever changed by their loss of life.  I picked up the phone for several years following, when I was missing a recipe or had a question; I'd been so use to these conversations in the past, it was sometime before I reprogrammed myself to believing no one would answer. No one should ever have to say goodbye to someone they love because of the ease of access to a weapon which takes less than a second to change their life, less than the time it takes for conscious problem solving and decision making, we need to do better, so much better.

We need to do so much better, today and tomorrow and everyday; to continue to learn and develop better ways of being human, of providing safer communities for our children to grow.

Today, only 24hrs after the most recent aftermath, around the world thousands of children will have lost their lives in violence, due to famine, disease, neglect.  As adults we are failing our children.

I read a story yesterday of a mother whose daughter was killed from domestic violence and years down the track she continues to advocate for legislative change, driven by her daughters memory and the grief of knowing, experiencing, feeling, no parent should ever have to experience what she had gone through.  This same mother made a point of speaking to those who have tried to tell her it is time to "move on" and "let go" and she raised the question, what does that mean? What is this construct of Western societies belief about grief that one just gives it a time limit and then gets on with life? Do we let go of the love we feel for our parnters when we first meet them? Do we let go of the passion or skill we have for our careers? Do we let go of the connections between our friends, our relationships, the gratitude for people who have touched our lives? Why do we tell people they need to empty a memory only they will carry? Try telling a greedy person to let go of their posessions!

Get over it people, allow people the time, the space and a way to express their grief in a way that brings them comfort, allows them to cherish, value and remember their loved ones. I can remember attending a grief and loss workshop the year my son died and an educator telling me when it was time to let go of Ben's things, his clothes, toys, bed. Over the years I've passed those toys onto children to enjoy, the bed donated to a charity fundraising for children not so long ago and the clothes to be made into a memory quilt.  What right does anyone who has not experienced this loss and believe me you cannot begin to imagine what the reality is like no matter how many times you think you 'get it' by reading about it, know a friend of a friend. 

The grief of losing a child is so great there is no word in the dictionary to describe it.  You are widowed from the death of a partner, orphaned from the death of a parent, yet there is no word to describe a pain so great, there are no words to describe it.

So in this time of mourning and reflection, for families everywhere placing their hands on their heart, looking at pictures, wiping tears, take this time to ask yourself what could you do better!

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