I am overcome with deep sadness as I write this. I am overwhelmed with grief for the families of the innocent children who have been killed in schools during recent days.
As a mother and grandmother, I can imagine no worse pain than losing one of my children. The attack on children and teachers and principals in schools across this nation makes my heart sick. My prayers go out to the small communities in Colorado, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania who have faced such sorrow in these days. My prayers also go out to the children in inner city neighborhoods who face violence regularly. And as I pray for them, I cannot forget the children all over the world who experience the same violence day after day.
News reports indicate that at least two of the perpetrators of the recent school attacks were acting out of revenge. Revenge for incidents that in one case occurred the day before and, in another, is said to have occurred almost 20 years ago. What is it that causes us to be so vengeful? What is it that happens to us when we harbor such resent that it manifests in acts of tragic violence?
We can speculate and name reason after reason for such behavior. I am not in the mood to blame any one thing or person for these tragedies. I am sure each situation includes a number of complexities, some the same and some very different. We might say that these situations are isolated incidents but I doubt that. Retaliation is not confined to individual incidents; we are living in a time when retaliation is an accepted response.
Vengeance is not only being played out in our schools, but in our homes, in our neighborhoods and in our communities — be they large or small. Vengeance is being played out in our world with a poison of fear and hatred that we cannot deny. Frankly, I am very tired of hearing about "who did it first." Getting even for "who did it first" is killing our children.
Children in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City are the innocent victims of vengeance. Children in Baghdad, Bogota, Beirut, Kabul, Darfur, Hebron and Jerusalem are also the innocent victims of revenge. Neither the race nor religious tradition of the children makes a difference. As adults, we are responsible to each and every one of them to create a world fit for them. And we are not doing it. Instead, we are teaching that revenge is the way to solve problems.
Bullets and bombs do not select the parties responsible for the offense. Bullets and bombs are cast so far and wide that every person in their wake is caught in the crossfire. Not only are the children affected by seeing the actual incident, they are impacted by the attitudes of those around them.
There are plenty of violent behaviors to go around. But even worse is our attitude of revenge. I am reminded of these words from Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians in Chapter 5: "See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all."
Somebody has to stop it. Why not you and me — right now?
The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo is executive minister of the United Church of Christ's Witness and Justice Ministries.