I just happened to be reading Dr. King’s writing (something I do every January) after having been confronted with the fact that among the world’s wealthiest countries, the United States accounts for 87% of all gun deaths of children under 15. His words back in 1963 rang out clear as a bell: “These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity. And yet they died nobly.”
Likewise, the children of Sandy Hook Elementary were virtuous when their lives were so brutally taken. They were doing what they were supposed to be doing, being engaged in their school day, learning, interacting, and engaging with their teachers and peers with the anticipation that they would be returning to their homes and parents when their work was done; however, they were never able to leave their classrooms alive.
Dr. King said, “In a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with undemocratic practices. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.”
To do so, a new level of dialogue needs to take place and it will not begin in the U.S. Congress where self-interest, posturing, and adversarial positioning have become the norm. This dialogue needs to be forged from collaboration, common interest, and filled with a spirit of cooperation, reconciliation, teamwork and good will. This kind of dialogue and appeal has to start with each of us in our daily exchanges with our neighbors and local representatives as well as state and national officials. It is time for each of us to answer a call to action in some way for the deaths of so many innocent children to be honored and their deaths not to have been in vain.
In his eulogy for the slain children Dr. King addressed this idea eloquently: “And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive force that will bring new light to this dark city. The holy Scripture says, ‘A little child shall lead them.’ The death of these little children may lead our whole Southland from the low road of man’s inhumanity to man to the high road of peace and brotherhood. These tragic deaths may lead our nation … The spilled blood may cause the whole citizenry…to transform the negative extremes of a dark past into the positive extremes of a bright future.”
Holding the words of Dr. Martin Luther King in our hearts and minds, as well as his commitment to action, let us each resolve to end the violence in our own way. Whether it be by talking to our friends and neighbors, calling a legislator, limiting the amount of violence children are exposed to on television, video games, and the Internet, or simply being more peaceful and kind. We can all do something to help our world return to the awareness that life and all children are a precious gift.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Editor’s note: Dario Lussardi is a licensed psychologist-master, providing consultation and therapeutic services at the Community Counseling Center in Wilmington.