My husband, Dana, and I were on a bus, headed home from New York City, last weekend when we crossed into Maine and saw an American flag lowered to half-staff. “What is it this time?” I asked.
Only after we arrived home did we learn of the school shooting that morning in Sante Fe, Texas, in which two teachers and eight students were killed. It seems that our flag is often flying lower these days. We are a country perpetually in mourning. And why not? According to CNN, in the first 20 weeks of this year, we have had 22 school shootings in which at least one person was wounded or killed. Every single week, armed evil walks through the doors of one of our schools to slay our children.
The Washington Post called the shootings a “national epidemic.” We vaccinate our children against measles and mumps, whooping cough and chicken pox. But we are facing a pox unlike any our country has ever seen. Children growing up without purpose, parents or hope. Children raising themselves on the extreme violence and self-gratification so often perpetuated by our media, entertainment industry and video games. Children who have been educated into believing that faith, God and prayer have no place in public life.
Meantime, we look for who to blame. On CNN, an NRA leader blamed the most recent school shooting on Ritalin. The father of the shooter blamed bullies. Some blame guns while others march in defense of their right to carry them.
Regrettably, many of the same people who advocate a return of public prayer to our schools are also the most public to protest any restrictions of gun ownership rights, to which Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said, “Please do not post anything about guns aren’t the problem and there’s little we can do… I will continue to speak up and will stand up for what my heart and my God commands me to do, and I assure you he hasn’t instructed me to believe that gun-rights are bestowed by him.”
Nowhere in the written words of Jesus do I find anything about the right to bear arms. But I do find a lot about love, self-sacrifice, protecting the innocent and honoring God. Meanwhile, our governors and school administrators hold round tables, wondering what to do, while our country goes round and round, spiraling into despair.
We are about to celebrate Memorial Day, a day of remembrance to honor those soldiers who died in service to our country. But I would call on us to a deeper remembrance: A day to reflect on where we have come from, what we have become and where we are going. Let us remember the soldiers who fought in battle but also our children who died in schools that were turned into battlegrounds. Most of all let us remember that a day is coming when we lawmakers and lawbreakers, leaders and followers, people of faith and people without will be called to answer for how we responded.
Award-winning author Meadow Rue Merrill writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Her memoir, Redeeming Ruth, received a 2018 Christopher Award and is a finalist for a Maine Literary Award, available here or wherever books are sold.