Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Risk

“You can get killed walking your doggie.” -- Heat

A day like any other in a tiny town in Georgia. Early spring morning, brisk and damp from an evening rain, but beautiful. The sun was just beginning to reveal itself on the horizon. The town elementary school was bustling and hectic as usual, busses and cars funneling in and out to drop off children for another routine day.

In an instant, the day was anything but routine, everything but normal.

A bus driver edges closes the bus door and edges forward to depart but does not see, below the line of sight, a 6-year-old boy standing, or walking slowly, in front of the bus. The child was killed instantly. Or we at least pray he was.

The nightmare has been reported all over our local news. Bloodthirsty idiots rushed to offer their opinions of the bus driver and everyone else remotely connected to the tragedy almost before the boy's body has been covered up, because why feel sad when you can have your own personal Jules "And you'll know my name is The Lord when I lay down my vengeance upon you!" moment thanks to social media and commenteratzi.

As quick as a lightning strike, a school, a community is struck. The hearts of two parents are torn like tissue. Adults hundreds of miles away feel a surge of panic over the uncontrollable fragility of life.

"Accident."

The word is verboten in the 21st century. We, being irrational control freaks, spoiled into believing all accidents can be prevented, cannot accept that a beloved boy could be killed in such a way without finding someone or someone's to blame. We'll seek to enact laws requiring front mirrors or front cameras on all buses. Because no one deserves this, and no amount of money should be spared to prevent it from happening again, as if we can litigate and legislate ourselves beyond our own mortality, beyond the mortality of those we love.

Experts are desperate to swing back the parenting pendulum, which has - we can only pray - reached its peak when it comes to children being micromanaged, controlled, manipulated, and scheduled. Today's children are delicate fragile flowers, except that flowers need dirt, and children can't even touch a doorknob without being doused in anti-bacterial wash.

"You're right. You're right. I know you're right." -- When Harry Met Sally

This is the line repeated time and again by Carrie Fisher's neurotic singleton. It can be loosely translated into "I do not have the strength of will or conviction stop myself from doing the moronic things I know I shouldn't do." That's what we are, as a modern parenting culture.

I know this because, even as we are deluged with articles in The Atlantic and other news outlets about grit, resilience, the perils of overprotection, the benefits of a (sometimes) unstructured and unsupervised childhood, we read about families who are raising their children on boats on the ocean and throw stones at them for placing their children's lives at risk for such folly. How dare they, right?

At 7 a.m. on a regular Monday, a boy was killed in front of his school during a routine start to the day. The parents, the driver, the school? None of them did anything wrong. It was an accident.

Perhaps, instead of taking this moment as an opportunity to judge anyone who could be complicit, who could have failed in this moment, we should embrace how much we take for granted all those regular boring routines performed hundreds or thousands of times every year that result in absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. We should be grateful for how often everything goes just the way we expect.

We've fooled ourselves into believing bad things only happen to stupid or careless people. Bad things happen, period. ("You're right. You're right. I know you're right.")

And maybe we should go easy on the families that choose to raise their children on the "treacherous" "dangerous" "deadly" open water, or other parents who choose many roads less traveled but chosen in the loving and committed interests of their children.

You can get killed walking your doggie.

1 comment:

Daisy said...

Rereading this post today is almost eerie after yesterday's events.
"Bad things happen, period." You're right. I know you're right, but that doesnt make it any easier to comprehend.