Children need a place to belong
“And a little child shall lead them” is more poignant and searing in light of the horrific event in Newtown, Conn. Our children are our national treasure, and it truly is a national tragedy to allow the most innocent among us to be sacrificed in order to “wake us” as a nation to how far this pervasive culture of violence has taken us.
Many factors are involved here. But as a retired public schoolteacher, I have seen how competitiveness and ostracism can take their toll on young people in seventh through 10th grades.
All of us need a place to belong, a place to feel welcome and to be accepted among others with like interests and attitudes. Some children, for whatever reason, never find that place. Schools, sports clubs, community organizations and churches do offer activities in which all young people can participate, but parents must support that involvement by being involved themselves.
It seems to me that this young man in Newtown had no place but his computer games. Perhaps his emotional and mental state was such that he did not seek human contact. But it seems very sad that as our culture has advanced via technology and educational achievements, we have lost a certain amount of human-caring kindness to reach out with compassion to one of us who “just didn’t fit the mold.” Maybe there is something wrong with the mold.
Out of reach
The events at Sandy Hook Elementary School have stirred national dialogue. As a cry goes up for action and new legislation, the debate over solutions rages on. Let us turn our attention to the people who perpetrate violence, and ask ourselves why.
Could the answer lie in the lack of provisions we make for troubled members of society? Isolated, marginalized, overlooked and sometimes bullied, they walk among us desperate to fit in and perpetually finding themselves outside the circle. Those who fight, steal, provoke violence and commit murder are often imprisoned by mental illness, addiction, all manner of disorders and disabilities.
I suggest that it is the responsibility of a civilized society to take care of those who simply cannot take care of themselves. As evidenced by Sandy Hook and countless other mass shootings, it is in our best interest to make provisions for those deemed unable to assimilate.
I place a high value on self-reliance and personal accountability, but these values are simply out of reach for a segment of the population.
For those who suffer mental, psychological and cognitive challenges, we as a society owe it to ourselves to make provisions that will maximize their quality of life, offer training and job opportunities, protect lives, and eventually enable some to assimilate.
Political ideologies have no place in this dialogue. I urge our lawmakers to examine how we may provide therapy, socialization, medical help and, if necessary, living arrangements for the most troubled among us.
While in Paris earlier this month, my wife and I went to a wonderful exposition of the works of American artist Edward Hopper at the Grand Palais. We were unaware until after our arrival that the show was in Paris.
The attendance was overwhelming. The wait in line just to buy a ticket and enter was more than an hour. While slowly moving forward, we made the acquaintance of a young French couple who told me that they were enthusiastic to be able to see so many of his works, and that Hopper was one of their favorite American artists.
I told them that I was from Wichita and we had four of his paintings in the Wichita Art Museum, including “Conference at Night,” which is considered to be one of his very best. As we walked together, I described it.
Not knowing it was there, in the last salon with his most famous works, such as “Nighthawks,” “Lighthouse Hill,” etc., they delightedly pointed it out to me, displayed prominently by itself on one wall, with full credit and acknowledgment to the Wichita Art Museum. Naturally, I was surprised and very happy to see it and to watch the attendees stand and admire it and to hear their comments. Had I just looked at my ticket, I would have seen its reproduction on one side.
Thanks to the Wichita Art Museum and staff, its board of trustees, and the trustees of the Roland P. Murdock Collection, Elizabeth Koch and Roger Turner, our Hopper has been made available to the world at large. I hope we continue to make available to others some more of the treasures we have at the museum.