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One woman said after the shooting of 20 young children in Newtown, Connecticut: “I am Adam Lanza’s mother.” She is the mother of a boy who she believes is not so different from the shooter and she lives in fear.
I ponder whether America, in a metaphorical sense is, to a large degree, Adam Lanza?
Lanza, dressed in military clothing, killed 20 elementary school children. When Clinton was president, his secretary of state, Madeline Albright, a representative of the American people, was questioned by Lesley Stahl on 60 minutes about the effect of US inspired sanctions on Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Secretary of State Albright calmly responded: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”
As the representative of the American people President Obama, not unlike his immediate predecessor in office, George W. Bush, has been waging horrendous wars in which hundreds of thousands have been killed, mostly civilians, including, of course, children. Alas, many of these children were the same age as those killed in Newtown. And President Obama claims he has the right to assassinate anybody he decides anywhere in the world and he has been very busy doing just that with drones and other sophisticated methods. The killing is routine.
Our culture is one that glorifies violence. Examples making up this culture are so prominent that I need not even provide any to make the point.
I had hope when I heard Obama over the radio, in his speech at Newtown, say in part:
I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.
So, today, I read the whole speech carefully but, alas, he was only speaking about American children. So, I guess he will not use the power of his office in efforts to prevent more tragedies like the killing of 500,000 Iraqi children. I am sure the parents of those dead children continue to grieve just like we all do for the 20 killed in Connecticut. Are non-American children any less valuable than American children? Is it moral, or even possible, to have a heart so cold that we can kill children with reckless abandon overseas but at the same time protect children here?
There is a lesson, I believe, in what Martin Luther King said on April 4, 1967 when he publicly spoke out for the first time against the Vietnam War:
… we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing oriented” society to a “person oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
And I will add to King’s triplets that are incapable of being prevented without a revolution in values: alienation and dysfunction on a national scale.
The woman who said she was Adam Lanza’s mother is in fear. So should we all.
But, if we choose to come together as a people and work for a revolution of values we can defeat the violence and dissipate our fears. Many Americans have been engaged in working for this revolution. Many more are required. Let not the deaths of the 500,000 Iraqi or the 20 in Connecticut be in vain. Let’s honor those teachers and first responders who instinctively stepped into harm’s way to protect the children in their schools by acting now and not when faced with a shooter when it may be too late. Let’s engage in our schools, churches, prisons, work places and unions. If we the people lead, our elected representatives will surely follow. They always have when enough people united and demanded that they do so.
Sanford Kelson is a lawyer in Pennsylvania.