While putting my first thought into words, I envision Adrienne Rich having approved my relying only on the title of her poem, What Kind of Times Are These in my search for the language of my need today. I picture her joining me in my outburst and deep state of sadness for and disbelief in the massacre of innocence last week on Friday, December 14, 2012.
I don’t live in Newtown, CT . Never have. I didn’t have any personal acquaintance with Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli , Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, or Allison N. Wyatt. I didn’t need to.
Knowing that our society has not done far better by its most precious and vulnerable members hurts regardless. “Is it not so that the failure to protect little children from harm is the most shameful weakness an adult human can present?” James Howard Kunstler conceives this question on his blog site, Clusterfuck Nation in his post of December 17, 2012, America The Horror Show. Kunstler’s podcast presentation, “It’s Too Late for Solutions,” published by Chris Martenson on July 14, 2012 seems eerie in its preemptive warnings: “[W]e are past the state where solutions are possible – instead, we need a response plan to help us best brace for the impact of the coming consequences. And we need it fast.”
Only “the failure to protect little children from harm” happened fast, as the entire country has taken part in “the most shameful weakness an adult human can present [.] (Kunstler)” I am no exception. In fact, worse. Friday, December 14 was the date of my birth. The sense of guilt for having lived this long and well compounded the sorrow I felt for the massacre of all those children whose names I reminisced above.
The semester was also ending on that day – with me still not knowing that childrens’ lives were taken away from them and in such brutal way. I had just left my literature students with a reminder to take pride in their own poetic creations, a special assignment they completed after our examination of German poetry. A project I asked them to conceive as their contribution to the next generations. Next to Adrienne Rich’s poem, we had spent significant time analysing and reflecting on An die nachkommenden Freunde (“To Our Successor Friends”) by Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and An die Nachgeborenen (“To Those Who Follow in Our Wake”) by Bertolt Brecht– poems transferring knowledge and wisdom about the poets’ lifetimes to the reader of generations to come.
Imagine the morning of Friday, December 14, 2012 as a time when we were not “past the state where solutions are possible” (Kunstler) for all those slaughtered children – whose names I recall here one more time. Imagine one, some or all of them leaving another “What Kind of Times Are These” or “An die nachkommenden Freunde” or “An die Nachgeborenen” for the human race to seek wisdom in and from for centuries to come. Imagine each of them having had the chance to live a full life, the way they were supposed to. Before their life ties were severed by a psychotic who happened to have all that he needed for his monstrous murder act right at his finger tips since he himself was a child for reasons I have no understanding, tolerance or sympathy for.
In the words of Rich but with the emotional outburst solely of my own, I ask in despair in the aftermath of this unforgettable butchering of innocence: What kind of times are these?