Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Keeping Our Children Safe

It is with a heavy heart that this post comes to exist.  In the wake of one of the most violent attacks on children in my lifetime, the shootings at Shady Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, I struggle with the rest of our grief-stricken country to understand something that cannot be understood in a simple moment.  I am a parent, a teacher, and someone who knows too well the grief of losing a child...yet I cannot fathom what these families are enduring. 

You may wonder why this topic would appear on a blog advocating for safer practices in midwifery.  The reason comes in understanding that whether the threats and challenges we face as parents on a given day are mental health, gun control, drunk driving, unexpected illness, issues of neglect, poverty, or unsafe birth practices, we all aim to keep our children as safe as we possibly can.  Addressing the gaping disparities on a given issue is something we must do, no matter how daunting the task. 

In moments of tragedy we find more common ground.  We search for answers.  We contemplate change.  We look for inspiration to lead us forward out of a dark and dismal reality.  It is in the midst of that search that I would like to share excerpts from President Obama's Memorial speech given this weekend for the families of Newtown, CT.  His speech addresses a context different from ours, but the message is one that holds meaning for every danger that puts children in harm's way.  It is the message of inspiration, love, and a call to action to do everything we can to protect our children, that is most relevant here. It is the urgent message to be a better, more responsible culture of people than we are today, that I hope we all can hear.

     "...this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can 
      only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and 
      the help of a nation.  And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility 
      for every child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that 
      we’re all parents; that they’re all our children.  This is our first task -- caring for our 
      children.  It’s our first job.  If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. 
     That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.
     And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our  
     obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children -- all of 
     them -- safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, 
     letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we 
     say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance 
     they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
     I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the  
     answer is no. We’re not doing enough.  And we will have to change.

     We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must 
      change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. 
      No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every 
      senseless act of violence in our society.
      But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is 
      even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent...then surely we 
      have an obligation to try.
       There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have -- for our 
      children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace -- 
      that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see 
      through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us 
      out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger -- we know that’s what matters. We 
      know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching 
      them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.
      That’s what we can be sure of.  And that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have 
      reminded us.  That’s how you’ve inspired us.  You remind us what matters.  And that’s 
      what should drive us forward in everything we do, for as long as God sees fit to keep 
     us on this Earth."

     ~ President Barack Obama

And so I ask you dear readers, are we doing enough to keep all of our children safe?  Are we giving every child the chance they deserve to live their lives?  These great responsibilities our President speaks of start with birth, and move forward with our children as they grow.  We know too many tragedies that can and should be prevented.  The issues surrounding midwifery and out of hospital birth are complex, and represent only one of the issues that pose far too many unnecessary risks to our children.  Should the daunting complexities of issues like these prevent us from healthy conversations about improving safety, from taking action to do our best to prevent he preventable?  As the President said, "Do we not have an obligation to try?"   

To the families of Newtown, Connecticut, your children represent a love and light that will lead this country forward to a better version of itself in ways we cannot yet see.  They have touched many lives already, inspiring people to do better, for and by others.   As the president accurately stated, "You remind us of what matters."  

If I can offer one hope, it is that this country begins to see the larger issues that are putting our children in harm's way.  We must find a way through the complexities to address each and every one of these issues appropriately.  We can do better, and our children deserve better.  

Video, Full Text: President Obama's Speech at Memorial for Connecticut Families

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