My heart has pulled into its shell for protection, just like a turtle. In the wake of all the usual voices after a school shooting tragedy, it cannot handle the quagmire of clogged minds. It cannot handle the thoughts of children stopped from fulfilling their life dreams, or the images of teachers-turned-decoys with targets on their backs. The sounds of parents crying out in the night for their kids, is too much to bear. All the injuries, both physical and emotional, are a heavy load which brings sorrow to the surface, and locks my heart up tight. The idea that in a few minutes, so many lives could be changed forever, for no apparent reason, is just incomprehensible.
The trauma of so many lives lost is devastating. Debilitating fear becomes a companion for parents, students, and teachers. The need for counselors to be available for months to come is a testament to the deep pain experienced and the great need for healing. I cannot endure the endless arguments and blame placing, so I turn off all media, and I pray for the families, because I still think prayers matter. In conjunction with whatever else we come up with, prayers at least acknowledge the spiritual battle in which we find ourselves. The enemy laughs at our arguments and our outrage as well as the fact, we don’t even recognize him as the source of the problem. He rejoices in the disunity he is causing. His plan has always been to take out the children, history shows us that clearly. I grieve for the victims, for all the rest of us, and for our country. Ultimately, it is our country’s future which suffers with each shot, and loss of a student filled with potential.
Maybe because my trip to the South Sudanese refugee camp is so fresh in my mind, I can’t help but think of what I would do, if I didn’t have a break to process unprovoked violence. What if my turtle shell withdrawal, couldn’t happen? What if the violence was this bad every single day? What if instead of 17 killed, there were thousands killed, in every direction? What if there was the equivalent body count of a school shooting or higher, and what if it happened daily? The people run for their lives, through the bush, at night; most of them women and children. The children have no advocates there. The innocent ones always suffer the most in the battle.
Trauma equivalent to a thousand school shootings remains behind their eyes. There are no counselors, or outraged citizens to argue on their behalf. There is no place for these children to speak out to be heard. They carry their pain with them on their faces and in their hearts. Trust is hard to come by, because they have only known war. War where long-time beliefs about the “other tribe” undermine civil discourse. War where rape and pillaging is carrying out by both sides, while trying to make their point. War where opposing factions believe killing each other is the answer.
Civilians are caught up in the crossfire, and used as victims of torture. Tanks crush them. Soldiers and rebels rape them. Parents are killed so their children can become child soldiers…and the body count grows, over 300,000 dead with another 3.5 million displaced. In a country of 12 million people, a quarter of the population are homeless and 1.5 million have fled to neighboring countries. It is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.
The children, whether it is 17 or 300,000, are the targets. They are the victims, used to provoke. So many stories. So many tears. So little being done to protect them. They fend for themselves, hiding in classrooms, or running through the night. They witness bloodshed, and are expected to move on with life, as if it is a normal day. Here the outrage lasts a few weeks, until the next time. Across the sea there is no outrage, only silence…and weeping in the night. The enemy’s plan is the same in both places, take out the children, and you take out the future. Where are the advocates for the children? I see advocates for guns. I see advocates for mental health care. I see advocates for government parties. In the war across the globe, I see advocates for the tribes. I see advocates for peace. I see advocates for refugees.
I don’t see many advocates for the children themselves, in either place. The grown-ups have all the ideas, while the children continue to die. There are no easy answers, if there were, someone would have tried them already. The spiritual battle rages on, and the evil one appears to be unopposed, gleefully wreaking havoc in every place disunity rules. We hold to our viewpoints like stone statues, refusing to compromise. Stone statues, which are as immovable as the headstones of our children.