I am once again sitting in my living room crying. Another child is dead. Two teenagers are under arrest, and the world just keeps spinning. It seems unreal, unfair and unimaginable, and yet, we have been here before, too many times.
And I am done with excuses, done with accepting that this type of violence has no cure. It isn’t and it does.
What drove these two boys to beat and strangle a 12 year old girl to death? Evidently, they are known in the town of Claymont, NJ as thugs and thieves. What kind of world do we live in that breeds this kind of child?
For years I have been quietly talking with people about introducing self-defense and martial arts training into our schools. I don’t like it, but that is what we have come to. I want to see us awarding black belts along with awards for academics and have sparring events as well as musicals. Our children need us to speak up and speak out.
No, this won’t stop every act of violence, but I bet after a few thugs get beat up by a girl, they’ll think twice before trying that next time.
I had my own scare a few months ago. My daughter walked out after an argument. At first, I was not concerned. I myself have done this to give us a chance to cool off during an argument. I go for a walk around the block, or go for a ride. On this night, she was gone for two hours and I started to worry, just a month or so before, a young man was murdered only a mile or so from our house during an attempted mugging.
I got in my car and started to drive to all the local parks, calling her friends, asking if they had heard from her. As it got darker, I became more frantic. She had left her cell phone at home and I had no idea where she was. By the time I called the police I was in a full-blown panic. The two officers who came to our house recognized me, and were doing their best to reassure me, kids walk out all the time after an argument, she was going to be fine.
Thankfully, one officer went to look for her and found her walking toward home. He let her walk home but paced her in the car. When she got to our driveway, the police officer told her that I had called them, very worried about her safety. I’ll never forget what my daughter said, “She doesn’t care about me, she is so mean to me.” She went on to explain that she had just done what I had done, walked out, left her alone. The officer said to her, “But she always came back right?” He went on to explain to her how lucky she was. That instead of losing my temper, I would give us a break, cool down and allow the argument to be defused. He told her he responded to numerous calls and could tell her stories about kids who weren’t so lucky, kids who he had to help when their parents didn’t take a break, go for walk, or take a drive.
So I am sitting here, remembering my panic, that only lasted a few hours, and I am heart-broken for Autumn Pasquale’s family. I cannot imagine the unbearable pain they are in. The news is reporting that it was the mother of the two boys who called the police. So I cannot imagine her pain either.
But my sadness has an edge to it. I am angry. Really, really angry. This is not acceptable. Children being killed by children. What kind of society do we live in that we have children beating and strangling other children?
And don’t bother to tell me this is not the time to politicize a tragedy. This is exactly the time. When you have huge disparities in income. When you have abject poverty of some and absolute wealth and power of others. When you have workers who can barely pay for food and have no health insurance and others who have elevators for their cars and fly their horse first class to play dress-up, there is something very wrong with society.
We have some schools with pools and planetariums and others without books or heat. We have parents unable to pay for after-school care, and others who are chauffeured to private schools with private chefs. It is way past time to politicize this. Our country is losing its moral center. And this isn’t about religion in schools, this is about fairness in our society.
And it is up to us, the adults, to insist on a change. No more talk about how we can’t afford education. How we can’t afford entitlements and programs to help the poor. What we can’t afford is another child dying. What we can’t afford is another child killing. What we can’t afford is another day where this is ignored.
It is time we insist our children are protected. No matter what the cost.