I am a pretty compassionate person and when I see injustice or tragedy strike anywhere I feel pain. Both of my children have made it apparent that they have a similar compassion for injustice. That’s why I was unsure what to say to either of them as I sat, stunned, watching the horrific events unfold in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was among 20 people injured in a shooting where six people, including a 9 year old girl, were killed.
Should I have explained that senseless violence exists in the world? Or about how the democratic and political process I speak so highly of to them, can also be a petri dish of hate, bigotry, and ignorance that can run so rampant it causes someone to pick up a gun and shoot at a crowd killing a girl who is not even two years older then my kids are now?
Do I explain that sometimes — not usually, but sometimes — a place as safe and normal as the grocery store can be the scene of a massacre? And that they should always be watchful for crazy people with guns?
Or do I simply tell them that hate kills? With enough time hate can grow like a cancer until it sucks the life and goodness from not only its target but also everything around it?
Maybe I should’ve said one or all of those things. Maybe I should have somehow tried to find the words to explain it. But I couldn’t, because there are no words. No words that would do anything but place fear into the hearts of my kids.
As my kids sat playing, I watched in horror and I waited for one of my kids to ask me what had happened. But they didn’t.
And maybe it’s not the best choice I’ve ever made as a mom, but I didn’t volunteer any information about the shooting to my kids. In fact, I never even brought it up. Instead I turned off the TV and followed news updates on my phone.
My kids understand hurricanes and earthquakes. They understand car accidents and illness. Well, they understand as well as anyone can understand those things, because we talk about those things. They even talk about those things in school.
But madmen with guns? I don’t know how to start that one, not in a modern day context anyway.
In a week we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and next month we’ll celebrate the life of Abraham Lincoln. Two amazing men who dedicated their lives to making the world a better place — two men whose lives were violently taken by sick madmen with guns.
How, in 2011, do we explain to our kids that in all the years since those horrific murders, good people still have to fear madmen with guns?
I wish I had advice to offer in this post, but I don’t. I only ask you, the reader, how do you explain the events that happened in Tucson to your children? Or do you simply turn off the TV and hope that you can prolong that reality just a little bit longer from them?