The stories are similar: a teenage boy kills a child through violent force, a teenage girl murders a nine year old neighbor, and now this story–http://news.yahoo.com/indy-police-girl-14-charged-cousins-killing-163821811.html,a fourteen year old girl is accused of killing her four year old cousin. Like most people, I hate these headlines and must force myself to read them.
I read them because I want to pray for a family going through an unbearable loss. The loss of a child through natural causes is devastating, but when the death of a little one comes about because of violence, the grief is so much more vicious. I do not want any family to have to go through that kind of irrevocable agony, so I pray. It is a small thing I must do.
I read them because this is my community, my culture. When a child dies we should mourn, and when a child dies because they have been murdered we should examine how and why? I do not want to live in a culture where Angelina Jolie’s leg or Rihanna’s clothes are more important than the death of a child. I I do not want to live in that culture, but I do.
I read them because the reportage matters. I imagine that just as I do not want to read these stories, the reporter covering the tragedy does not want to write about it. Sometimes the language of the article is clipped and minimalistic, but other times the reporter seems to add details. Sometimes those details either hint at or confirm a verdict of social dysfunction. There is a subtext of difference–sad that this happened, but look, this family was…different than you and me? Maybe you, but not me. I am writing because my family was victimized by crime. We must do our best to empathize with anyone hurt by crime and violence because only then will we ask the hard questions about safety and justice and prevention. Most of all prevention.
How do we protect the young and the vulnerable?
We start by seeing all children as valuable. We have to break down prejudices of race, gender, or class and affirm that every child in this country deserves to live in safety.
We need to protect our children from the depictions of sex and violence. We allow our children to watch movies and television shows and experience “entertainment” that is disfiguringly violent, disturbing, or pornographic. This matter. We need to insist that our children be allowed to live in a country where it is not dangerous to turn on a television set. No child should be exposed to violence or explicit sexual material.
Over the last few years we have seen an explicit rise in material aimed at teenagers that contains graphic violence and sexual content, but now we have gone a step further–our culture has accepted the portrayal of child murder, abduction, torture, and rape, as a growing narrative in police dramas and popular movies. This is a dangerous thing. If even one child dies because a teenager equates real violence with entertainment violence. the cost is too high. Dangerously high.