The funerals started this week. There will be 21—21 lives lost in a Texas massacre not long after a mass murder in Buffalo took ten. The numbers mount incessantly: over 1500 people have been killed in more than 270 mass shootings since 2009. As we witness the grief in Uvalde today, it is hard not to nod in recognition to a headline in Tuesday’s New York Times that asked: “What’s the Limit on How Much We Can Cry?”
Last week at commencement, I told our graduates that words matter. And so they do. But today, I confess that I grapple with finding words that encompass the enormity of this national tragedy…words that even in their smallest way can help to heal or illuminate. All I know is that we cannot let our pain and feelings of frustration—powerful though they may be—lead to helplessness and inaction. We cannot continue to fail, as a society, to protect our children in their schools, our neighbors in their supermarkets, our fellow congregants in their churches, synagogues and mosques—or on their streets. Friday, June 3rd—tomorrow—happens to be National Gun Violence Awareness Day, a perfect time to join together to call for comprehensive gun control measures that will take weapons of war off of our streets and out of the hands of angry, disturbed or deluded individuals. And as we saw in Uvalde, too many of these individuals are still teenagers—often driven by emotions they are far too immature to control.
I am comforted in knowing that the FIT community is made up of caring and compassionate people, rich in idealism—people who value life. And as educators, I believe we have an additional role to play—one I have spoken of frequently over the years—and one that parallels the urgency of gun control laws. In this extraordinarily uncivilized time, and in the face of this unfathomable tragedy, we cannot lose our compass. More than extolling the virtues of civility, we must live and teach the values of brotherhood, tolerance and cross-cultural respect, and demonstrate for ourselves—and our students—the many ways in which every life can and must be valued. We might be limited in the ways that we can have an immediate impact, but if we believe in democracy, we can vote for those with the courage to fix the parts of our society that are broken.