By Father Jeff Bayhi
Once again, we watch in horror as we listen to the heartbreaking details of another school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas (May 19). Long before the victims of this tragedy will be laid to rest, the theories of what the solution will be emerge, and the blame game will surface. The first will obviously be the legality of guns, the second will be ideas of providing school safety and the problem of mental illness will also be in the mix.
Unfortunately, the reality that the lack of a safe environment exists long before our children leave home for school will not be part of the solution. Unfortunately, many children come to school seeking the only stability they will have that day. I am not wise enough to present a definitive solution, but we can not ignore the home life that prevents so many children from living healthy lives that enable them to live in a world which contains both good and evil as it has existed from the beginning of time.
We wonder why our children are so disturbed and violent. How many of our children live in homes in which parental abuse is part of their daily lives and violence and anger are daily occurrences? How many of our children live with parental symptoms that accompany drug and alcohol abuse? How many children live in homes in which multiple partners of one or both parents are a regular occurrence? We wonder why our kids lack stability. How many of our children live in the midst of domestic violence and come to believe that this is normal behavior?
Even amid so-called intact families do we find well meaning, but misdirected parents who try to rescue, and prevent children from the ways of the world. Protecting your children is an admirable virtue; allowing your children to believe everyone else is wrong and they are always right is a handicap, not a virtue. Every time there is a situation and the parents blame the school, the teacher, the coach or the police, the child suffers and never comes to realize that acts have consequences. In that protected world a newly elected candidate can cause an eruption in their sense of security, and an opposing view will need to be shouted down and not allowed to speak.
Having worked in prisons I have experienced an inmate who wanted me to meet his two brothers as well as his stepfather, all of whom were incarcerated. There was a problem there long before someone got hold of a gun. Has anyone stopped to ask why these people are so angry? Has anyone sought to find out why so many are so disconnected and disenfranchised children?
Also having worked with juvenile victims of human trafficking, and with mentally disordered sex offenders, the tragedy has always begun in the home, and they were at risk before they ever left their homes. Eighty percent of the pedophiles who are incarcerated had had sex forced on them before the age of 12 by a legal adult. In our state 40 percent of our juveniles were trafficked by their primary care giver mother, father, uncle, aunt or mother’s boyfriend. Of those children trafficked, the average age that they began to experience sexual violence was five years of age.
These sad realities are not the ones that will be examined in light of this most recent tragedy. The symptoms that are afflicting our society seek a simple answer or long for a corrective law. There is none to be had, even our strictest cities with gun control have not been able to protect the innocent. The violence among our youth is a cry for help, someone to protect them, teach them and let them have something to believe in.
Children need to have a sense of security. They need to know they are safe and loved within their homes. Not that they are perfect, but they are loved and protected. Working to ensure that children are born to parents who love them and want them and want to care for them. To destroy the unborn is not an answer, that simply teaches another form of violence and disregard for human life. Not creating unwanted children in the first place is the answer. Which means grownups have to begin with their own self control before we try to pass it on to the next generation. When adults feel their needs are not met, and they seek their own fulfillment, the ones who pay the price for their pleasure seeking are the children. Children have to have the opportunity to believe in something other and greater than themselves. When I am the only one who I have to answer to, many people will fall in the wake of my inborn and selfish human nature. Please expose your child to the God that you have come to know. As adults they will make their own decision but give them the awareness to make an informed decision.
I hope and pray that the leaders among us will not resort to simplistic solutions and allow us to lull ourselves into a false sense of security. Unfortunately, many of our children are in need, not just the victims of this senseless violence. When we address the needs of ALL of our children at risk, and provide the security and guidance that they need, then and only then can we start the path to a brighter, safer future.
Father Bayhi is pastor at St. John the Baptist in Zachary.