Monday, November 16, 2015

Raising children in a violent world

“What most of us must be involved in--whether we teach or write, make films, write films, direct films, play music, act, whatever we do--has to not only make people feel good and inspired and at one with other people around them, but also has to educate a new generation to do this very modest thing: change the world.”
― Howard Zinn, Artists in Times of War and Other Essays 

When I was in college, a friend's parents told me and my closest friends that idealism belonged to the young. They applauded our desire to better understand the war in Iraq and rail against it, but they seemed unwavering in their belief that we would abandon our idealism the older we got. In the wake of the attacks in Paris last Friday, I've been trying to channel my emotions into something good. My mom's response to Friday's attacks was prayer. She believes that's the only response possible in the face of such atrocity. I don't disagree. Another friend told me that her initial response was fear and anxiety because the attacks in Paris made it feel more likely something like this could happen here. I have felt those same feelings, too. Strangely what also bubbles up inside me is a slow burning rage. How does this continue to happen? These attacks are not happening on my physical doorstep, but they threaten to drown out my idealism that this world could be something more than a series of violent acts from one human being to another.

Sometimes I feel a pang of wonderment as to why we brought children into this world. As I entered young adulthood in 1999, I have become increasingly aware of how big our world is, how diverse the perceptions, how different the balance of the economic scales from one country to the next. We are a privileged society, and yet, we struggle with poverty, violence, racism, hatred, and fear. No one is immune from this world's suffering. Why did we decide to have children?

I have snuggled my kids tighter the past couple days, shuddered at the idea that I can't fully protect them from what this world will show them in the future. Unlike the advice I was given in college, though, I don't believe I've lost my sense of idealism. Rather, I'm more fully aware that idealism is in short supply. We must continue to fan the flames of idealism, rather than bow down to despair.

My friend, Muriel, lives in Paris. She has for many years. Her response to these attacks was "we need to continue to live and fight against the fear." How can I do that as a mom of three young children, living in Minnesota? The only thing I can think of is to continue to create. Continue to create peace between fighting siblings, continue to teach them to push past their own fears and accomplish things they didn't think were possible. Continue to be a person who creates: writing, singing, teaching, living through the fear so they have a road map to forge their own sense of joy amidst sadness. Continue to pray: with them, for them, teaching them to pray for others in need. And when that day comes when I can't protect them from the ugliness this world has to offer, I will continue to live and fight against the fear that they will abandon their idealism. Because without a foolish sense of necessary idealism, we will never change the world.