After the Santa Fe High School shooting this week, I wanted to grieve silently and wonder alone at what could be so wrong with our society that we shrug and move on again and again, as if child sacrifice were a regular ritual that we accept as shameful but unchangeable.
But then it occurred again, this time at a graduation near my home. Even if we have no easy answer to this evil among us, silence, even in grief, is tacit complicity. So I offer these thoughts.
Human sacrifice has been both scorned and accepted throughout what we know of our history. Archeologists have recently uncovered the site of 140 child sacrifices in Peru, said to date from 550 years ago. Still child sacrifice has not been simply the heathen practice depicted of savages appeasing volcanic gods. The biblical stories of Abraham and Jephtah also reference the practice.
As civilized people, we claim to have risen above such pagan acts, and yet here we are. Wikipedia has a page chronicling mass school shootings in this country. Since Columbine in 1999, when 15 died, the incidents have grown in number and victims in what should be alarming regularity.
And yet, here we are today blaming mental illness and the proliferating availability of guns, rather than ourselves for turning our backs and moving on. Certainly, madness and guns are deadly both together and alone, and a searching and respectful discourse is needed on both counts, followed by meaningful steps to abate this and the related violence that distinguishes our country among all others, even in a time when crime here is otherwise declining.
I teach young adults at an age when their personalities are largely formed, but at which their future lies largely ahead. They have survived high school and college, mostly unscathed, although one was affected by the Las Vegas hotel shooting of a year ago. In our class we teach life values to the group and meet regularly with each student to help with his or her individual issues and needs.
We often blame schools for failing to teach in these ways, but such are lessons that should first be learned at home and through the examples of family and friends. Indeed, our schools are underfunded and overburdened even in providing basic education. We must look no further than our very selves to place blame and to begin change.
A family member and her partner took in a niece who was failing as a student some years ago. She became a star student, who was able to attend college for her senior year of high school. Certainly she deserves credit, but love, attention and good examples also enabled her success.
Our many children sacrificed in mass school shootings (1000 by one estimate) are a source of immeasurable grief. The millions who attend school in fear, or worse in acceptance, of the risk of the next shooting are slowly sacrificing their innocence.
It is the 21st Century, and we must rise above all this. I know that sensible gun measures need to be a part of the answer, but tolerance of violence must end as well. We must find, as Buddha said, “A middle way.” I hope that these are a few of the first words in the discussion and not the last.