As This Country Fails To Protect Our Children And Our Elders, It's Hard Not To Be Heartbroken

This morning, as I sat with my 2-year-old son, helping him learn how to feed himself scrambled eggs as he watched cartoons, I broke down in tears. I’ve been crying off and on ever since.

Moments before I initially released my frustration, I checked updates online about the shooting in Uvalde, Texas at Robb Elementary School, which killed 19 students. After the news initially broke, I could feel my spirit beginning to dip. I’m an empath, so these occurrences tend to take me out mentally. I tried to listen to gospel music all night to stay encouraged. But then I saw a photo collage of some of the young victims during breakfast and I couldn’t hold it in. Their smiling faces — a stark difference from the fear that likely presented itself on those same faces on Tuesday morning — broke my heart. But in reality, my heart had been breaking for some time.

Just last week I was distraught at the fact that 10 innocent people were killed while minding their business in a grocery store on a Saturday afternoon. The majority of the victims in that shooting, at Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, were elderly, the oldest victim 86 years old.

Where is the peace and protection for our most vulnerable? In the earliest years of one’s life, they shouldn’t have to worry that as they’re making plans for the summer and joyfully ending the school year, that they will be massacred in their school. And at the twilight of one’s life, you shouldn’t have to worry that going to pick up groceries to feed yourself or your family will leave you a target, your death live-streamed for further insult, meant to take away all of one’s deserved dignity.

Why are we living like this?

Sadly, we’ve been living like this. In addition to rampant gun violence from schools to supermarkets, churches, workplaces and back, our youngest and oldest have consistently been treated like an afterthought in recent years. As we’ve grappled with COVID for nearly three years, unvaccinated children under five, the immunocompromised and the elderly have been most at risk. And yet, at every opportunity, there’s a push to reduce measures meant to keep people safe. Now, we’re watching rates rise again around the country as adults crowd pre-summer block parties and restaurants while there’s still no vaccine for our youngest children, no care for people like my mom who are elderly with autoimmune issues. We’re telling people to drop their masks and live even if that means people die.

And that’s the problem. Every time we’re faced with a crucial issue, we’re trying to go back to normal so people can live the way they want to. We’re shaken up for a time, but soon enough, we’re forced or forcing ourselves to move on. To be sad for a moment but to deal with these realities as just an unfortunate part of the world we live in — as long as they don’t hit home. No changes are made because we don’t want to change our way of living. We don’t want to spend another season indoors. We don’t want to have to wear a mask again on a plane. We don’t want to part with guns, even when assault rifles are absolutely unnecessary weapons for anyone to have sitting in their home, even when they create the fastest and biggest opportunity for mass casualties. We don’t want to give up our freedom to protect one another. And that’s why these headlines continue, why there’s another “___ Shooting” saved in Wikipedia. Another useless conversation about how we all need guns to keep this from happening, even though people armed with guns couldn’t keep out the shooter in Buffalo or at Robb Elementary School. Another useless tweet while our elected officials prepare to speak at an NRA Convention in Houston this week. We want to live at the cost of others and then offer our thoughts and prayers when the preventable continues to occur. It’s gross.

And so our elderly and our youth continue to be left behind, and the rest of us are forced to work and continue like these instances aren’t crippling to the spirit. I tried this morning, until I just couldn’t anymore. I’m tired of being scared and hurt and angry all at once.

So as my son looked at me, a wailing mess, he just averted his attention back to the TV, continuing to sing his Bubble Guppies songs, completely unaware of what was going on —as he should be. Because whether two or 10, children shouldn’t have to be privy to or a victim of all this violence, all this pain. None of us should have to be.

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