Friday, October 06, 2006

Grieving for the Amish

Like everyone else, I am horrified by school violence, a problem I never had to worry about when I was in school myself. My kids were in high school when the Columbine shootings took place, and I remember well the paradigm shift I underwent as I had to acknowledge that my kids might not be safe after I dropped them off in the morning, and that I had no control over what might happen at the school, beyond my sight and hearing. Before Columbine, school violence certainly existed -- but it was the simple scale of the Columbine violence that reordered everyone's thinking. What darkness might be lurking in the hearts and minds of my kids' classmates? What violent plans might be hatching in fecund teenaged brains?

And now it's a whole new ballgame, another paradigm shift, as I read somewhere the other day. Now we have to fear not only alienated, hate-filled teenagers, but alienated, hate-filled adults who have discovered in nearby schools an easy target for their rage. Adults who may be far better at planning and carrying out their murderous plans.

So tonight I'm grieving for the Amish, who now more than ever have become a symbol of innocence, and now of innocence lost. Growing up in northern Delaware, I was taught to admire and respect the Amish, and spent many a Sunday afternoon riding in the back of my parents' car as we drove through the "Amish country" of nearby southeastern Pennsylvania. That the Amish community, which has striven to avoid so many of the excesses of our culture, should have been the victim of such violence, seems to me unspeakably wrong. No one deserves to be the object of a murderous rampage, but that the peaceful Amish should have been the most recent victims of such an outrage is just another sad commentary on the sickness lurking just below our civilized surface, waiting for any opportunity to escape.

And tonight I'm thinking of ten little girls, shot execution-style in a place that was supposed to be safe, and I'm thinking of the five who have already died. And I wonder if I could forgive as the Amish have begun to do, and whether, if someone shot my daughter, my Christianity would be more than a Sunday veneer, or whether I would succumb to grief and loss, and, yes -- a rage of my own.

And I pray that I never have to find out the answer.

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