*This is dedicated to all those in Connecticut who in their hour of darkness remind us that we are the light*
In media reports about killings, the word “innocent” is used primarily in reference to women and children, implying subliminally that the death of men is somehow more fathomable because they are not inherently as innocent as women and children.
In mass killings, “innocent children” get top billing over all others, implying subliminally that the death of any adult is more fathomable because any adult is not inherently as innocent as a child.
Fair enough. If we feel compelled to decide worthiness of life, history tells us there have not been a lot of women, and certainly not a lot of children, causing problems in the world.
But ‘death of innocence’ sparks our emotional outrage and upheaval from a much deeper place than just identifying who is more or less deserving of life or death. It comes from the fierce helplessness we feel in seeing the world reflecting back our own loss of innocence.
The African philosophy of Ubuntu says that we become who we are through each other; one reflects what another sees in, or makes of, them. This philosophy tells us we have a sacred responsibility for each other and that protecting the innocence of one is everyone’s work if innocence is to thrive anywhere.
In our frenetic, pressure-bombarded world, as adults we understandably become so overwhelmed that we forget that WE are the keepers of innocence. Having had own child-like spirit taken away, we forget then that every child learns to hold on to or let go of their innocence based on what we show them. They learn from every expression we offer, every word we speak, every motive we evidence, every visual we create, every lyric we sing, every stance we take, every blame or forgiveness we extend.
When tragedy such as a school shooting strikes, we don’t stop to think about all the ways the perpetrator learned to forget his innocence. We are quick to try to identify a single cause to blame, then we get on our bandwagons and demand change. Gun control. Mental health services. Bullying. Parental involvement.
In our search for answers and comfort we look everywhere but at the possibility that the single cause of any manmade tragedy is that on our forgotten innocence WE raised a perpetrator in a world riddled with fear instead of love.
When war, killing, bullying, competition, separation, performance, greed and revenge are glorified in every manner of entertainment, education, media, marketing, religion and history telling – and we support these glorifications with our time, attention and money – blaming gun control and lack of mental health services is a like saying the fork caused the holiday weight gain and we lack therapy to cope with our flatware problem.
The best thing any of us can do in the face of a tragedy like what happened in Connecticut is to take a good honest look at where we as individuals further any measure of fear or violence or suppression of kindness, compassion and individual spirit in our world. ANY MEASURE. And commit then to transform it to love.
This is how we restore our own innocence as well as ensure that our children’s remain blessedly intact.
In the new world I envision, we have all learned the lessons of those who sacrificed their life to show us that darkness calls for our light. And we all remember, as last, that we are the keepers of innocence.