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Nicolaas Rubens, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1625-26

Nicolaas Rubens, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1625-26

There was a time in history when parents lost many children. Well-to-do individuals  often protected themselves by having their children sent to a wet-nurse and having them raised in homes where they were sometimes loved, but often neglected. Yet, if their child died, these parents nevertheless grieved.

Times have changed. A child may develop a disease that threatens his or her life, but we now expect our children to survive illnesses and when they leave for school in the morning, we also expect them to return home and tell about the day’s activities.

Losing a child is the worst of pain.  I saw my father break down when one of my brothers died. He was sitting between two of his medical doctor friends who took him to another room.  But as of that moment, he never again allowed himself to love a child. My sister also lost a child: a five-year old. The death of her daughter broke not only her heart, but also her fragile health.

Nicolaas Rubens, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1621

Nicolaas Rubens, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1621

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at the hospital being treated for an infected foot.  So I did not learn about the tragedy until supper time when I turned on the television to watch the news.  I heard myself say: not again!  There are details I do not know, but when I turned off the television, twenty children and seven adults, including Mrs Lanza, were dead.  The last thing I saw were people standing vigil in front of the White House.

I heard President Obama’s speech at least three times, and I believe he set the tone.  He was visibly saddened by the tragedy, saddened to the point of wiping off a few tears.  He is a father and he is also a sensitive and compassionate person.  Flags were at half-mast and Americans were keeping vigil, as was the world.

* * *

For the time being we are grieving, but afterwards, we must protest or call ourselves cowards.  These massacres must end and it is within our power to make changes that would reduce the death toll significantly.  It should, for one thing, be illegal to own and carry firearms.  There are many Republicans in Congress, but whether a member of Congress is a Republican or a Democrat is irrelevant when children die.  Many if not most are parents or grandparents.  They know that what happened to twenty children in Newtown yesterday could happen to their children or grandchildren.  So every one must act and act now.

It seems to me that the oft-amended American Constitution could be revised yet again so that it cannot be used to allow civilians access to firearms.  I am not saying that we can prevent all murders, but I am saying that if people cannot own and carry firearms they cannot shoot innocent children or anyone else.

I do not like pointing a guilty finger, but it would be my opinion that the National Rifle Association was complicit, albeit passively, in yesterday’s tragedy as well as earlier tragedies.  If yesterday’s shooter had not had access to a firearm, the people of Newtown, Connecticut would have been spared the worst imaginable loss, the loss of a child, and their children could have grown into adults and enjoyed life.  That right was taken away from them.

* * *

We have gone back to Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), John Locke (29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778), but their ideology is also that of millions of individuals who live in the United States of America and want this madness to end. Carrying firearms constitutes the “freedom we surrender” to live in safety.  In other words, safety dictates that we not own and carry firearms.      

I feel immense sorrow for the bereaved mothers and fathers of Newtown, but I also feel very angry because ultimately the system failed these families. Before I close, allow me to praise the courageous teachers and other individuals who put their lives at risk to save little ones. They acted selflessly and some paid the ultimate price.

Yesterday, children died and they died needlessly. Take away those horrible guns.

composer: J. S. Bach (31 March 1685 – 28 July 1750)
piece: “Ich ruf’ zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ,” BWV 639
“Ich ruf’ zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ,” BWV 639

© Micheline Walker
15 December 2012