Randi Kreiss

America, where have all the flowers gone?


We ponder big themes this week. Biblical plagues, miracles, resurrection, insurrection, and the elevation of false gods. And that’s just our political world.
We also mark the days of Passover and Easter. For those who observe, this religious week reminds us that nothing in our lives is unique. Kings have risen and kings have fallen. Democracies have triumphed and then failed, in cycles that repeat themselves over the ages.
Still, last week was a remarkable one for those of us living on earth in 2023. After years of investigations and a multi-year media free-for-all, a former president of the United States was indicted by a grand jury in New York. I saved the front page for my grandchildren to preserve the moment, because it is historic and because I want them to know that everyone is equal under the law, even an American president. Almost all the headlines in all the big newspapers featured two words set in large bold type: TRUMP INDICTED.
The road ahead is unclear. The wheels of justice love a well-worn path, and this time around there is none. The presumption of innocence supersedes all other aspects of the case, but how the process unfolds, with Donald Trump exonerated or convicted, will grab headlines and social media attention for years to come.
For me, the most distressing consequence of the former president’s indictment was that it wiped off the front pages the story of the shooting of six people in Nashville earlier in the week. This is how it goes these days: Horrific shootings of children have become bloody blips on our screens. The news feeds zap our devices with details of yet another crazed shooter, bodies in classrooms, police charging the killer, statements of sympathy, first ladies off to the funerals. And the world watches as tiny caskets go into the ground, and traumatized families and friends experience the first days of what will be a lifetime of longing and grief.

At one of the funerals of one of the 9-year-olds killed in Nashville, a relative spoke of the little girl’s favorite activities in her preschool days. That is how the lives of 9-year-olds are eulogized.
Nashville, of course, is just the most recent crime scene where murdered children were laid to rest. More than 6,000 American children were hurt or killed by gunfire in 2022, according to ABC News. No single issue in our lives is more important, and more demanding of our action than this: The leading cause of death among children in the United States is gun violence.
Reflecting on the Nashville murders in The Washington Post, columnist Philip Bump quoted from a book by Ta-Nehisi Coates, remembering a child killed in a violent encounter. “Think of all the love poured into him,” Coates wrote, delineating specific ways in which parents invest in and show their love for their children: music lessons, birthday parties and kids’ books. Then, he added, “And think of how that vessel was taken, shattered on the concrete, and all its holy contents, all that had gone into him, sent flowing back to the earth.”
Bump went on to write, “Most of the deaths from firearms for those ages 1 to 18 are homicides, with about a third being suicide. In 2020 in particular and in recent years more generally, the number of firearm homicides within this age range spiked.”
Each of us has a voice and a pen and a vote. If we love our children more than we love the patronage of the NRA, we need to make those voices heard.
The people in Nashville who were murdered in cold blood with military style weapons were Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs, all 9 years old; Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of the school; Mike Hill, 61, a custodian; and Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher.
If we take away anything from the last chaotic week, let it be a commitment to stop the killing of our children. This is a uniquely American abomination, our new American exceptionalism.
During this week of political drama and religious meditation, can we not use our voices and our votes to demand change in our gun laws? In my youth, we raised our voices to protest the killing of our kids in war. Pete Seeger’s lyrics resonated in that time and place.
They still ring out: “Where have all the flowers gone?”

Copyright 2023 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.