Texas church shooting: One dad with wet eyes reacts

Fair warning: I’ve got a lot to say. You might want to warm your coffee. (Thanks, in advance, for reading any of this.)

Social media is failing. The news media is failing.

We are failing. Desperately.

Dads, I’m talking to us.

There are families in Texas mourning the loss of their loved ones–their children, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers–and I can’t escape the comments section bullies who continue to “confuse liberty for weaponry.” (Thanks to Ani Difranco for that articulation.) Many of these typewriter toughguys are dads.

According to the Washington Post, the San Antonio-area shooting brings the number of children murdered in these events of domestic terrorism to 15 percent (145 of 974 victims). Read that shit again. That means that one in every five victims in these attacks could be getting out of your car and kissing you goodbye at the mall this Friday. Or, even more terrifying, reading the note you wrote them in cafeteria at lunch.

I’m not saying that to frighten you. But it should damn well frighten you.

In this Post Compassion America, solutions seem so elusive. Impossible, at times. But, lookit, we’re dads. And that means something.

So here’s what I propose we do:

Let’s commit to knowing our kids. Know them. Know our sons. Know our daughters. Know them more intimately than you know anything or anyone else in the world. Know how they like their sandwiches, their pillows fluffed and toothbrushes pasted. Know their schedules, their favorite jokes and their friends. And, for heaven’s sake, know them better than you know the roster of your favorite football team.

It sounds exhausting, I know. Trust me, from those of us who are currently doing it, it is effing exhausting.

Why is this so important?

In April of 1999, the rules of terrorism were rewritten at Columbine High School, when two students entered the Littleton, Colo., high school and murdered scores of classmates and teachers. More than that, though, they did so essentially on live television. It was the sloppiest and most egregious example of a 24-hour news cycle that didn’t know what to do with itself. Tape ran live. Tape re-ran. You couldn’t escape it.

Suddenly, the words “school” and “shooting” became linked. A new terrorist movement was born. Hell, Gus Van Sant even made a film about it. (Note: “Elephant” is not for everyone. I’ve seen it. I’m not sure it was for me.)

In 1999, the terrorists responsible for Newtown, Conn., Charleston, SC, and Sutherland Springs, Texas, were all 7 years old or younger. They have grown up in a world in which the innocence and safety of children was never seen as universally sacred.

The darkness is profound.

I am not implying that all of us committing to coloring with our children will solve the evil we’ve hatched with our negligence. But I am implying that re-committing to our children will begin to turn the tide.

Compassion is real. But we must create it, mold it and tend it.

We can’t change the mistakes we’ve made. But we can help our children not to make them when it’s their turn. And we sure as hell can recognize when they need our help. We are dads. Let’s act like it.

Kyle Belanger

Written by: Kyle Belanger

Proud father to three children (in order: one deceased, one adopted and one biological), Kyle is constantly navigating the worlds between actively grieving and openly gloating. Learn more about Kyle here.

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