I like you just the way you are.


I watched a video I shouldn’t have today, footage of the carnage of the recent school shooting (“which one?” will be the sadly relevant question months from now).

I’ve served in the military for so long partly because I don’t want those kinds of scenes playing out here, especially in our schools. Or at least it feels like security should be the result of what we do. Every one of these shootings feels like a stab in my heart…we can deploy and do these momentous things abroad, but school shootings are becoming increasingly normal.

Our kids aren’t becoming desensitized to violence, either. They’re becoming desensitized to reported instances of violence. If, G-d forbid, it should happen to them, they’ll be individually traumatized by the experience, if they survive at all.

In my early 40s, like many Generation Xers, I grew up with Mr. Rogers firmly ensconced in my youth. With the 50th anniversary of the start of his show in background, I found myself thinking, “what kind of show would Mr. Rogers make for children about this?” The presence of Daniel Tiger, the animated spin-off of Fred Rogers’ puppets, in the life of my toddler reminds me that as an adult, I still miss the clear, positive reassurance of Fred Rogers’ words.

Well, he did say something to parents about Columbine, all those years ago now.

Those children need to know that the adults in their lives will do everything they can to keep them safe. Now that doesn’t mean that we’re always going to be successful, but it does mean that we will try.

His message after 9/11 was so clear.

The most important words are so simple. We put so many pressures on our children. Our education system dehumanized them so, tells them their value is found in good grades and standardized tests.

I like you just the way you are.

I feel like we barely tell our children in intact families this enough. What positive affirmation do children from broken homes receive?  Breaking down the puerile meme effort I see in the wake of this shooting.  “White men!”   “Guns!”  “Mental health!”

Only one theme I see:  broken human being breaks other human beings.

If you think all your arguments about mental health, all your arguments about the 2nd Amendment, about distinctions between semi-automatic weapons and every other verkakte thing in this world right now are going to stop the violence, think again.

If you think that putting guns, G-d, or armed guards in your school is going to solve the problem, think again.

We can argue, we can debate, but there’s no argument that’s going to repair the gaping hole in our national soul. If anything, we’re just digging the hole deeper every time we point the finger and j’accuse, “this problem belongs to you at the exclusion of these possibilities that we will not entertain.”

Those kids, they’re thinking about being bullied. They’re thinking about the end of the marking period. They’re thinking they’re ashamed because their dad can’t find a job and they’re on the free lunch program, wearing thrift store clothes not by choice but by necessity. They’re thinking about SATS, and am I doing enough extracurriculars to pad the college resume…

…or they’re resenting those that are consumed by that, feeling like they’re on the outside looking in of a future that’s not desperate or poor.

What about just sending a national message that these kids are valued?

We’re not going to solve guns, violence, and mental health anytime soon. But we can, immediately, let our children know that they aren’t extensions of our vanity, numbers on a chart, or a burden on the state.

It seems cheesy, I’m sure, but what is wrong with I like you just the way you are?

 

Brian

Writer, soldier, programmer, father, musician, Heeb, living in the woods of Maine with three ladies and a dog.

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About Brian

Brian Kresge

Brian Kresge

Writer, soldier, programmer, father, musician, Heeb, living in the woods of Maine with three ladies and a dog.

About Leah

Leah Kresge

Leah Kresge

Director of Education for Congregation Beth Israel in Bangor, Maine, special educator and former school board member, mother to Amelia and Nezzie.

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