An Antidote

It is hard to feel whole these days, with more school shootings in the United States. It is impossible to fathom the level of grief and heartache, of loss and absolute despair those involved feel and those who have been witness. I wonder when enough will be enough, when enough children have died, when enough parents have had their family torn apart through acts of violence. When will children go to school and come home with their innocence intact, without needing drills to learn how to survive WHEN a school shooter filled with rage storms into a classroom. Not IF, but WHEN. What kind of rage and hopelessness is being fostered in young men that turns their despair into abhorrent action and when they deem their only remedy is to shoot to kill?

There is no recovery from this violence, from this unimaginable loss, from being witness to the horrors of hate. Permanent wounds will hold those who survive in a state of perpetual grief. What happens to children who live in constant fear, who jump at the sound of a sudden noise, who flinch in panic, now their default reaction to anything unexpected. What does their future look like? To listen to the solutions offered from politicians from the far right is incomprehensible. They talk of doors, of arming teachers, of building fortresses where children will go to learn but never once looking at the cause of such actions. I can’t listen. I can’t bear the lack of courage, the choice to put corporations’ profitability ahead of everyone’s safety.

We know life is inherently imperfect and to expect otherwise is a recipe for disappointment, but I am weary from the force of the imperfection and the unwillingness of those who have the power to create change but choose not to, who cling to their position of power granted by the financial support of those who value wealth over protecting those who need shelter, greed over integrity and honour, where corporate power exceeds all else. Society is lost, not just in the United States. We have lost our moral compass and I can’t imagine how our floundering ship will be righted. We feel separate from this kind of gun violence here in Canada, but we are foolish to think our innocence is intact, that our children don’t face similar peril. The choice to do harm, and it is indeed a choice, knows no borders. Young men engage in video games that are all about annihilation and war and violence and taking and killing … I am quite certain the brain is altered by a steady diet of such. Throw in poverty and lack of opportunity and growing up without support, feeling unseen, unheard, and the wheels come off. We choose not to recognize when someone’s sense of right is being worn down, not to see mental health being assaulted, not to see the signs and react before disaster. Mental health care hardly makes the list of essential services. Those who shout so vehemently for the protection of the unborn child have so little concern for the same child living in poverty, suffering from abuse, without fundamental care.

As an antidote, I find myself reflecting on the book written by Charlie Mackesy – The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. More than a million copies sold world-wide. I saw an interview with the author, and he seemed a humble, kind man. He said the book came from “something quiet and deep” inside of him. The characters can be thought of as the many parts of a person – the boy is inquisitive; the mole is greedy, always looking for cake; the fox is damaged, withdrawn, who finds it difficult to trust; and the horse is the wisest part of us. It is a book of questions posed from a place of innocent curiosity, the answers equally thoughtful.

Charlie was born in England, in rural Northumberland, in 1956. He spent much of his childhood with animals. He is an artist and illustrator who began his career as a cartoonist with The Spectator and was an illustrator for Oxford University Press. The favourable response to this book confirms what we all know – people need and want comfort, want to believe the best in each other and in themselves.

The book has many gems that I will hold close as my mantra to cope with the pain of the senseless deaths of innocent children. One such quote from the book is the boy asking the horse the best thing he has learned about a storm. “It ends,” says the horse.

wendistewart@live.ca