What could I say that hasn’t already been said about the slaughter of innocent people in Paris on Friday night? Probably nothing that will shake the world or move any needle of public opinion. The stories of the dead and the stories of the maniacs who killed them haunt me. I’m simply hoping that by putting words to paper will help ease some of my own internal struggles with the idea of raising a child in a world that is bursting out of its skin with horror.
Tonight, as I scrolled through the Twitter feed “En memoire,” @ParisVictims, I couldn’t stop looking at the names, faces and descriptions of the people who were killed. This feed is summarized as “One tweet for every victim of the terror attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015.”
As I read @ParisVictims, I felt the same way I often feel as I open a Chicago newspaper and start reading about an innocent victim of a shooting that took place within blocks of my home or in a neighborhood I just drove through.
Innocent victims. How do parents know that they are not raising a future “innocent victim?” As I look into the eyes of my innocent 3-year old daughter, I hear the words of the mother of Nohemi Gonzalez, the 23 year old American woman who was studying in Paris and who was killed Friday night. The mother was interviewed on CNN and said, “I can barely bring myself to speak when I think about my only daughter, my youngest. She was only 23.”
En memoire refers to Nohemi Gonzalez as a “shining star.” Chicago newspapers recently referred to Kaylyn Pryor, a 20-year old Evanston woman who was the unintended victim of a drive-by shooting in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, as someone “who will be remembered for her kind and generous spirit. She truly was beautiful inside and out."
Two young women, both innocent, both dead. As a human being who cares about what goes on in the world, I look around and ask myself what exactly I can do about the murders that occur in my own backyard. Upon the terrorist killings in Paris this week and the terrorist killings in Paris in January, I again ask myself what I can do about it.
Unfortunately, the answers to my own questions are hard to come by. My small piece of this planet provides me with no pulpit, no public bullhorn and no audience of decision makers who seek my opinion. The eyes of my 3-year old look for answers to far simpler questions than why people raised in a country or city choose to kill those who were raised next door or down the street from them.
I can answer the “Can we go to Target after school on Friday and look for a small toy” question. I can teach her how to cross a street and how to be nice to her older siblings when they come over to visit her. I can’t explain why members of ISIS espouse a philosophy of hate and death to anyone who does not believe consistently with them. And I can’t explain why people born as European citizens strap on suicide belts to kill young concert-goers out for a Friday night of entertainment.
It has been suggested to me that to salve my soul and feel better, I could donate to a GoFundMe campaign to help with a victim’s funeral expenses. Or I could join a Chicago neighborhood organization and work to cure the generational problems that plague our neighborhoods with joblessness and poverty. Yes, I sure could. But, in my half a century on this planet, I feel that there is only so much gas in my donation and community organization tank. Hell, I spent 8 years as an elected school board member – the most thankless public service position on earth.
I probably will donate to help a victim’s family as I have done in the past, but to what end? What can I do to ensure that my daughter, a 3-year old who talks of Christmas, ponies, and rainbows, doesn’t ever become an innocent victim?
Nothing at all.
What we can do -- Live our lives the way we want, pay attention to what is going on around us, reduce risk when possible, and teach her that there are good people in the world and there are bad people in the world. More good than bad, but man when they’re bad, they can haunt your every waking minute.
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