Since noon Friday, I have sat by my computer, the television and the radio, fresh tears always on my cheeks, awaiting the most recent updates from that little Connecticut community of Newtown. I have grandchildren, one a kindergartener, and I remember each of my own four children in kindergarten, first grade, second grade. I texted my oldest son Friday afternoon, warning him of the event before he picked up his five-year-old at the bus stop, hoping the children would not have been told, but then understanding that they might have heard something. That night, we all thought about the twenty empty beds, missing their children.
I have lots of opinions about gun control. I have just as many opinions about giving more attention to mental health in our healthcare policies. But, as is the case for us regular citizens, all of this seems completely outside my hands, a battle for the president, for Congress, for state legislators, for judges. And, feeling powerless, I watched the news as it came in. I prayed for the families, for the children, for the first responders. I prayed for our country, our world. Evil entered a young man’s heart and worked havoc in our consciousness.
And I felt helpless. This morning, I watched my youngest daughter, a high school senior, board her school bus, suddenly aware that I never know what the coming day will bring, not today, not ever. But what can I do? My family and I live in a violent world, somewhat innocent in our own country, while in Syria, children have sat in school and died from fire-power launched by their own government. But here in the U.S., the biggest danger we face to violence is from fellow citizens, people filled with evil and seeking an outlet for their rage. They may be strangers, a random someone who simply crosses our path at the wrong moment. Or they may live in our very household. Who expects to be shot down dead today or tomorrow?
I can and do sign petitions and vote for people who appear to want the same stricter laws and better mental healthcare accessibility that I want. But it occurs to me that there is a more powerful way to change the world. It is with my personal purchases and with what I allow in my own household. And I want to spread the word: that we can help change our violent world and culture, one family at a time.
I know that violence in this world preceded video games and violent movies and television shows. I’m not entirely naive. But I also know that their existence now has not made anything better. Violent video games are fun — somebody made them that way or they would not sell. Violence in movies and television also brings high profits. Entertainment is crafted in such a way as to entice us with violence. It gives us some kind of sick rush. Brain chemicals are stimulated in a pleasurable way. It is commerce, pure and simple.
We can honor those twenty children and the educators who died trying to save them by taking a stand.
Parents: Stop buying your children toys with guns in them. Stop buying your minor children video games with shooting in them, and don’t allow them to play such video games in other homes with their friends.
Warn them that if they buy such a game with their own money and you find it, you will take it away from them until they are 18. Let them know why. Point to these incidents.
Don’t take your minor children to movies that have shooting in them, and don’t allow them to go to such movies with others. Don’t watch such shows and movies in your own household. Tell them that when they are 18 they will be able to buy what they want, but that your house, which has your name on the title or lease, is a violence-free zone. Tell them, this is how we are honoring the children of Sandy Hook.
If you are truly serious, don’t purchase or financially support movies and games that promote violence for your own consumption. I am not talking about censorship. I am talking about consumer choices. Do this for Sandy Hook.
Admit to your children that you have made your own mistakes, as a consumer of violence. But, because of Sandy Hook, you understand that things have to be different, and that we can only change the world by first changing ourselves. Ask them to help you change the world and honor the children of Sandy Hook.
We, the people of this country, can take our own stand. We can decide how we want our own children to grow up. Our children may object, but now we have some very solid, real incidents to point to. Tell them we don’t want to promote violence in our society and this is the one small thing that we can do.
In this holiday season, return to the store any games, videos or toys that you already have purchased and tell them why, that you are honoring the Sandy Hook children and rejecting violence in your household.
Yes, this is hard to enforce, especially with teenagers. But have this serious discussion with them. Tell them, in honor of Sandy Hook, no more. Ask them to honor your wishes. Ask them, if they too want to honor the Sandy Hook children and take this stand, to let you put away their offending games until they are out of the house, living on their own. Then they can decide, do they want to continue to take this stand or not? When they are no longer in your household, it will be their turn to decide. Do they want to continue to honor the children of Sandy Hook?
Let’s choose for ourselves, What kind of culture do we want to live in? What kind of world do we want to leave our children? What kind of children do we want to rear? What kind of people do we want to be?
Can you do this for the children of Sandy Hook?