To say the storyline is the same is not to minimize the senseless loss of life in any of those stories. Each of them is tragic. Each of them is to be mourned. And just as tragic is that around the world something like this happens every day and so many of the stories go unreported and ignored because they happen in parts of the world where there is no free press to report it, or even worse, they are reported but not given media attention because they happen in parts of the world most “first world” people habitually ignore.
The day after the Newtown shooting, there was a state trooper posted outside the door of our kid’s school. It’s a very small school in a very small town. What were the odds that the day after a major incident something like that would happen here? I know, I know: copycat shootings, all that. And, truth be told, with the number of gun nuts we have wandering around out here in the wilderness, it’s probably more likely on any given day than I like to think. But the appearance of the police at school seemed at the time more like reassurance for the parents and staff. Our kid had no idea what had happened in Connecticut the day before. The only reason we had to explain it to him was to somehow explain why the police were standing around at the entrance to his school all day.
We have not told him about Charlie Hebdo yet. We will talk about it this afternoon if he comes home from school having heard about it. But he will have heard the story before: people were going about their lives and someone (in this case a few someones) started shooting. Why? Because those someones were so hurt and so angry that they couldn’t think of any other way to stop hurting than to kill other people.
“But that doesn’t make any sense,” he will say. “Killing other people doesn’t help you stop hurting.”
“We know,” we will say. “But when you hurt that badly and are that angry, sometimes you can’t think straight any more and you do things that don’t make any sense, and you hurt other people.”
“Why were they so angry?” he will ask.
“We think that this time it was because someone made fun of their religion,” we’ll say. “But there were probably a lot more ways that they were hurt besides that. They probably have been feeling hurt over and over again for a long time and didn’t have anyone to help them get unhurt.”
I’ve heard that children laugh, on average, 500 times a day and that adults, on average, only 5 times a day.
I don’t have any studies to prove it, but if I had to guess why we stop laughing as we get older, it’s because we get hurt. And angry. And afraid. And sad. I wish I knew what the statistic was for crying: whether children cry more, too, and that is how they are able to keep laughing; or whether children (other than infants) cry 5 times a day while some adults cry 500 times.
Either way, I’m fairly certain that the only way to stop the killing is to raise children who don’t stop laughing, who know how to ask for help when they’re hurt rather than internalizing it and letting it fester until it drives them mad with violence.
As I understand it, that’s part of what the people at Charlie Hebdo were trying to do – make people laugh a little, and think a little about getting help before the hurting drives them crazy.
If we can give our children a sense of that, maybe the lives lost at Charlie Hebdo yesterday will continue to resonate when today’s headlines become yesterday’s news.