This was such a sad week — I was in a hotel all last week where the story of the killings at Virginia Tech dominated my room in a constant moan, continuing after I had turned off the news. Even the walls were weeping. So tragic, words fail. And the bloodiest week in Iraq. Too many lives lost without the benefit of commemorative snapshot eulogies on the Today Show.
Wednesday, USA today listed the tragic events young people had witnessed since 1986, captured in exquisite visual detail on their TV screens: Challenger Disaster, Columbine, Tsunami, Katrina, 911 — it was a formidable list. Missing on the list ENTIRELY was the Iraq War. Missing. Not mentioned. How is that? The one event that has dragged its bulging baggage of death and destruction through the news over (just say) a student’s entire middle or high school experience is not worth listing as a tragedy? How is that? Is it too political to even mention that death in a war zone is just as final and just as tragic as death by waves, winds and mad men?
Here in Mentor, the HS is dealing with a home grown crisis. Three students at the HS have committed suicide this semester. Two in the past month. Three young people so stripped of hope that they saw no future in living. 75% of the students called in sick on Friday due to threats of violence at the school promising to make Columbine look like nothing.
How do we nurture our young people and show them hope? Lectures? Counselors? Motivational Speakers and pre-packaged anti-bullying programs? Are the answers buried in statistics in math texts? On multiple choice proficiency tests? Science class is getting a little spooky all by itself what with global warming and all, too scary to look there. Like the Hookies who turned to Nikki Giovanni for consolation, it may be time to come back to poetry — a place to not only express our feelings, but actually identify them. Poems written by the students themselves, to share and to listen.
I was reminded of what Marilyn Manson said in Bowling for Columbine when asked what he would have said to the shooters if he’d had the chance: “I wouldn’t have said anything, I would have listened.” Brilliant observation.
I don’t think we can lecture kids into hopeful thinking, but maybe we might be able to, with a kind guiding hand providing gentle directional corrections, listen them into it.
Blessings to all who departed this week. The world will miss your voices.