Sunday, October 8, 2017

Has the World Always Been This Bad?

I’ve been asked some questions since I undertook raising a young human twelve and a half years ago. I’ve explained where babies come from (with diagrams), weather phenomena, and mathematical concepts. I’ve googled things I don’t know. I’ve looked up what I can’t remember. I’ve participated in grand theological musings and entertained silly hypothetical scenarios. I’ve walked alongside a young girl as she develops her own world view.

I have to say it’s my favorite part of parenting.

I found out about the shooting in Las Vegas after she’d already gone to school. Among my first thoughts was the realization that she was going to hear this very horrific news in her first period World Geography class. History teachers are always quite smitten with current events in my experience and this seventh grade instructor is no exception. Though I know she can handle it, there’s something that’s always rubbed me the wrong way about bad news being doled out in school.

By the time she got home that afternoon, I’d checked the headlines a dozen times. I’d been on and off Twitter. I’d consumed my share of second hand tragedy. She sat next to me on our front porch stoop for our regular after school debriefing. There was homework that night and she told me about how she showed someone pictures of our dogs on her phone.

“So you heard about Las Vegas I guess?” I asked.
“Yeah. Mr. K— told us about it,” she said. “He put CNN 10 on because he thought they’d be talking about it but they weren’t. Then he put on some other news channel and his Internet stopped working.”

She went on to tell me that he’d ranked the shootings in our country by casualties.

“Yeah. They’re saying this is the worst in modern American history,” I said.
“I don’t think the number of deaths makes one worse than another,” she said. "He didn't even have Kent State on the list."
"That was different," I said. "Worse maybe because it was the government."
"Has the world always been this bad?" she asked.

She's been asking me that for a while now. Were there mass shootings when I was a kid? Did everyone seem angry and ready to kill each other over political disagreements? Was life better in the '90s?

It's a line of unanswerable and wholly sickening questions.

"Well, there's always been evil in the world," I tell her.

My husband got me this front license plate so I can "put
love in the world wherever I go."
We reassure ourselves by talking through the horror regular people must have felt walking roads lined with people being crucified by the Roman empire. We think about what it must have been like to eat breakfast while Dad and Brother were down the road fighting in the Civil War. Two great-grandfathers fought in World War II. Nana and PapPap had to learn to duck and cover because they lived in constant fear of the Soviet Union. My middle and high school history teachers had us talking about Waco, the Unabomber, and Oklahoma City.

The world has always been full of bad stuff. There's nothing new under the sun. Essentially, there's no reason to hope for us ever getting it right in this life.

Except we do. We hope. And we're continually disappointed by these tragedies that continually erode our ability to believe in the basic goodness of the people around us. We're tired.

"We need to keep putting love in the world," is my final answer. "No matter what."

And so we do knowing that one of these days, it's going to make a difference.