It has been a tragic week in Orlando – fifty-two lives lost between Christina Grimmie, the two-year old at Disney World and of course the horrible night club massacre – another reminder of just how much hatred there is in our world today, and how narrow-minded people can be; and that includes people in both the conservative and liberal camp.
As a parent, I confess that events like these – terror attacks, mass shootings in the name of bigotry and hate, are terrifying to me. The idea that some day my loved ones, my friends, or my children could be innocent victims of another person’s hate, fills me with fear, as I’m sure it does all parents. Hearing of horrific events like this can leave us feeling helpless – they’re a reminder that when it comes right down to it, we seem to have very little control what happens to ourselves or our children.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about the night club attack over the past few days, as have many others I’m sure. We are bringing our children up in an increasingly intolerant and hostile world; a world where “freedom of speech” only exists if you agree with the other person’s viewpoint, where disagreeing is no longer allowed, and instead you’re labelled as intolerant, prejudiced, judgmental and bigoted. I’m left wondering, how do I prepare my children for the world they’re going to grow up in?
This isn’t the world I wanted for my children. I want a world where people can disagree with respect, not belittlement for their beliefs. I want a world where my children don’t have to live in fear of walking into a church, a nightclub, a school or a movie theatre, wondering if they will be a victim of an extremist with a gun. I want a world where everyone is treated with respect, regardless of social status, gender, skin color, religious or political beliefs, mental abilities, and sexual orientation.
Sometimes, I think that what I want doesn’t exist, but that is a defeatist attitude, and ultimately, it’s what “they” want. Instead, what I’ve realized is that the power to achieve the world I dream of, rests in the job that I do as a parent. If I want better for my children, then it is my duty as a parent to teach my children how to be an example to the world.
I must teach them respect for all people. I must teach them how to stand firm in their beliefs and convictions, while being understanding of other people’s differing beliefs, and not to judge the choices and actions of others by their own values. I must teach them compassion, and a heart that will not just try to see the other person’s point of view, but feel it. I must teach them that simply agreeing to disagree is okay, not everything has to be a debate to prove who is right or wrong. I must teach them to forgive, and how to seek forgiveness. I need to teach them to be humble and to focus on their own shortcomings, instead of those of others. I need to teach them the “Golden Rule” – do unto others, as you would have others do unto you. Treat other people, how you want to be treated.
And how is it that we want to be treated? With love. If we treat others with love, out of that love will flow respect, compassion, understanding and forgiveness. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” If I want my children to live in the world I envision, then above all, my greatest task as a parent, is to teach them to love.
In memory and honour of the victims of the June 12, 2016 Orlando shooting.