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
child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours;
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
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
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
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