Monday, December 17, 2012

For Our Children

All Rights Reserved. Shwedagon Pagoda.

I've said here multiple times I will not discuss politics. Even in my comments section, I say that if you write something political, I will delete it.

Today is an exception. 

Tears streamed down my face while sitting at my computer in Yangon Saturday morning, reading the sick news about Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

My daughter and I had a lunch date planned. We kept it and went to an  American restaurant in town, Master's Cup.

While driving to Master's Cup, my urge to be around Americans grew stronger.  I became impatient as we sat in traffic near the fly-over being built.  I wanted to feel something from home, from my own culture. I wanted to feel connected to others who were mourning.

Because, let's face it: what happened to these poor little kids, their school, their families, their community is a national tragedy.

I know the scale was much smaller in Connecticut than some massive tragedies like 9/11 and Katrina, but we're talking about six and seven year olds here...

My daughter is six.

Just as this feeling to be around Americans - to find some sort of comfort in that - grew, so did thoughts like, "I'm so glad we're living in Myanmar," pop into my head, and "That would ever happen here."  Of course, I hope this to be true. But I can't know that. Tragedy can strike anywhere.

What I have become increasingly grateful for is my ability to protect F from the news of Sandy Hook. She may not know about this incident for many years. We don't have satellite TV.  She did not see me cry for the children and teachers.  She will not hear it on the news.  She won't hear about it at school.

But what about our children in the United States?  With the sensationalist media that prevails, I've heard there are YouTube videos of little third graders describing what happened. I'm sure children are frightened and schools are on edge. Parents, too.  The whole country.  Kids are smart. They pick up on these things.  In this digital age, how are we teaching them to cope?

One year after 9/11, I lived in England. My sister-in-laws were in primary school. There were drills and discussions about what to do if there was a massive attack. I remember them feeling scared. I remember many children feeling afraid and somewhat unsafe.

Living in Myanmar, there are times I feel like I can protect F's innocence a little longer. At least in some ways. At least in terms of violence.  And I can protect her from media crazes. I'm very grateful she will not know about this senseless massacre. I'm not so sure how I would talk to her about such a thing. How I could help her feel safe when such a terrible thing happened.

I could make a long list of things I don't really love about my passport country. I could write a longer list about the things I do love.

Our *gun culture is not one of them.  Our culture of violence is not one of them. Our systems for [not] providing access to proper care for those who are mentally ill, is not one of them.  The combination of the three? Deadly.

I feel angry. Our children shouldn't grow up hearing and knowing about these killings.  We shouldn't live in a society where some parents think the answer is for teachers to carry guns. People should be able to walk into a shopping center and feel safe.  We should enter movie theaters without worrying you might get mowed down by semi-automatic weapons that are used in the military for one purpose only.

Those who are sick should have access to treatment. I'm not a social worker, but last I heard, in many states, the only way to get in a psychiatric hospital is if a CSW determines someone might hurt themselves or another person.  Usually that means an attempted suicide or a threat of hurting others, resulting in criminal charges being brought against someone. That's not good enough.  It's too late then.

Things have to change. They really do. For our children's sakes.  And when I say "our children," I mean all of our children. Globally.

 All Rights Reserved. Pagoda.Bangkok.

I can't talk about this without mentioning little children needlessly die all over the world every single day.  Most of them die from preventable diseases. Those children rarely make the news.  There are children killed in war. In genocide. Generations have been annihilated from our planet. Their stories gone.

Most people in the west don't seem to notice.

It's not close enough, relate-able enough, I guess... 

But that's sad. Because just as those mentally ill in the USA need access to proper care (we're not paying enough attention to that, either), families all over the world deserve access to safe, clean water so they don't die from a diarrheal disease (the second leading cause of death for children under five, globally).  They deserve access to vaccinations, antibiotics, mosquito nets.  And education.

Can you imagine the horror that many children face daily as they walk out of their homes, not knowing when or where the next bomb will fall?

Let's not forget children and families, victims of natural disasters. A stream of storms, earthquakes, etc. have stomped all over our planet this year.

All these children and families deserve our tears.

My acknowledgment of our children suffering globally doesn't lessen the shock and despair of Friday. Not at all. It compounds it, if anything.

When you take your six year old to school in a small, quaint, safe school one morning in any non-war-torn country, you expect to see them in the afternoon. Alive.

Scratch that. Any time you take your child to school, you expect to see them that afternoon, whether you live in a war-torn country or not. And whether you live in nice, safe community or not.

Our world needs to change.

Maybe we can grasp compassion.  I think we start in our own families. With our friends. In our communities. We do our bit.  We support others who are struggling. Maybe try not to ignore those that we willingly allow to become invisible: the homeless, the mentally ill, those on the fringes...people on other continents... 

I talked here about how we need to see the stars. Find the light, the beauty, in the midst of darkness. It's hard to do when tragedy strikes.

 All Rights Reserved. Market lights. Thailand.

So, I think it helps to find the brave souls in all this, who shined their light:
  • Teacher, Victoria Soto, only 27 years old, sacrificed herself, saving some of the children in her classroom, by placing herself in front of the shooter. She is a hero.  She is to be remembered.
  • The Principal, Dawn Hochsprung, lunged at the killer, trying to disarm him.
  • The library clerk, Mary Ann Jacob, hid 18 children in a library closet, saving them.
  • The first responders who have worked tirelessly in this horrid event.

Resources and thoughtful blog posts: 

A chilling article written by a mother of a boy who is extremely mentally ill. 
The article is called "I am Adam Lanza's Mother." It is chilling.

We're not alone in this world. Not in our hope and our love. Not in our suffering and our pain.

Here's to going forward and promoting love and kindness and compassion and understanding in our lives. In the very least, it might bring a smile to someone's face.

And trust me: sometimes that can make all the difference in that one person's life.

*I mentioned American gun culture in this post. I don't want to, or intend to, have a debate about it. If it's really important for you to know my stance on civilian access to certain types of arms/weaponry - not sure why you'd care, really - you could email me.*


  1. Beautifully written Becky and a difficult post no doubt. I cannot imagine what must go through a parent's mind when their own child is the same age as those children who lost their lives. It was a truly senseless act of violence.

    Becky you are an amazing mother to be choosing to protect your daughter from the news of such a tragedy. I admire you in doing this for your daughter.

    I agree that the changes must start within ourselves, and our communities showing compassion, love, kindness and understanding. It needs to start within.

    Thank you for putting into words what I have not been able to write about. xo

  2. Hi Suzanne,
    Thank you for your kind words.

    I just keep thinking about what a shame it all is because the young man who was responsible for all of this should've had better mental help. I'm making lots of assumptions here thinking his family must've tried many ways and many times to get him appropriate help, but our system failing. I can't imagine how *that* family is feeling as well.

    Yes...the changes need to start within.

    Much love to you.

  3. Wonderful piece you have written about a heartbreaking topic. I appreciate how you included the many threats there are to our world's youth as that is very informative.

    1. Thank you, Karrlin. :)

      I wasn't sure I should even write about it at all... but...I guess I felt I couldn't *not* say anything.

  4. Thank you for articulating my thoughts so clearly. I'm can't wrap my mind around this; changes for children for their well being should be on a global level and a priority.

    1. Thank you, Indigene. It's been hard to think about all of this isn't it. Thanks for saying the writing was clear. I had a hard time trying to express what I wanted to say!

  5. So well-stated, Becky. Thank you for broadening the picture for us as you reminded us of so many other tragedies that deserve our attention. It's all a bit overwhelming, isn't it?

    1. It's super overwhelming! Thank you for leaving a message, Janice! <3


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