A few months ago I went to visit my brother in San Francisco. My sister-in-law picked me up from the airport with my four-year-old nephew in the backseat. Shortly into our car ride from the airport, my nephew says out loud, “My leg hurts.”
I replied, “I’ll check it when I get home.” To which he retorted, “No, I want a doctor to check it.”
“I am a doctor,” I shouted out.
He then said, “I want a real doctor!”
Working in pediatrics my days are filled with similar moments of levity. These instances remind me of our innocent beginnings as individual human beings but at the same time make me greatly worried about the world that we are bequeathing to our children.
The tragedy in San Bernardino is another reminder of how scary the world has become. As part of my job, I refer kids to the regional center routinely. It is an amazing resource for kids with developmental delays or challenges. I spent that harrowing day glued to the news. I couldn’t fathom a mass shooting at a regional center. Unfortunately, it seems that we are no longer safe in regional centers, concert halls, or elementary schools. This makes me saddened at the prospects of the future of the kids I see every day. I wonder if we are doing enough to make the world a better place for the next generation. By “we” I mean each of us individually, myself included.
In response to the San Bernardino attack, everyone appeared to break into endless arguments over gun control, mental illness, and religious extremism. But have we really accomplished anything on these issues in the recent past? I remember when the Columbine High School shootings were shocking to our sensibilities. Today it would shock none of us. That is heartbreaking.
We each have to hold ourselves accountable for this stagnation. When tragedy happens, we are capable of change but that requires actually wanting to transform. Rather than responding to calamity with left wing or right-wing-biased opinions, we need to come together and raise our voice to say enough is enough. None of us know all the answers to such a grand problem (although we all want to give our two cents). But we can have a serious conversation and push for further research to help guide us towards the correct solutions. In medicine, before treating a disease, intelligent people do years of research to pinpoint the root cause of the ailment. The same must be regarding mass violence.
Currently, the Dickey Amendment bans any federal funding for gun violence research. This is a shame. Gun violence research is not anti-gun; in fact, research could show the problem isn’t guns at all. No matter what side of the fence you are on, we can all agree that researching violence is something we must do.
Somewhere out there is a 3-year old boy who wants to be Buzz Lightyear when he grows up. In fact, kids like that walk through my clinic doors every day. My heart is fearful for the world that they will inhabit. I do not want to inform them that the universe is violent, tragic, and divisive. Rather, I would like them to live in a world that responds to tragedy with love and solidarity. It is impossible that we all see eye to eye, but we must realize that we are all temporary inhabitants of this little sphere of ours. In fact, we are paving the road for the future tenants who also happen to be our dear children.
Just because that road is cloudy today does not mean a storm awaits our children; we can work for sunshine. We must strive for brighter days. This is our responsibility, and our response must go beyond rhetoric.
Ahmad Bailony is a pediatrician who blogs at A Bunch of Bologna: Life Lessons in Pediatrics.
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