Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Terrible Legacy

There was a mass murder in San Bernardino, California, yesterday. Once more we are horrorstruck. So many shootings. So very many. Fourteen people were slain, with seventeen more injured. Unthinkable. And yet somehow unsurprising. Alas.

The perpetrators, a husband and wife, left their six-month-old baby with a relative before committing these atrocities.

The child.

Her parents have left her naught but a legacy of pain.

What happens to her now?  If her relatives try to protect her from learning too young the truth of what her parents did, there will nevertheless be some classmate who overhears the talk of the adults -- for adults often are careless about what is said in front of children -- and who will taunt the child on the playground. Children are cruel, and adults are cruel, too. There will be whispers and subtle (or not-so-subtle) shunnings for this child throughout her life. And perhaps not even whispers. There will be barbed words, or worse, for her: a lifetime of danger, not knowing who might know her parents' history and find her guilty by association.

And if people do manage to keep her history under wraps for a short (or even a longer period of) time: when do they tell her? What do they tell her? How can they possibly prepare her for such a terrible knowledge? "Your mom and dad are murderers." It would be nearly incomprehensible.

What can she do? Will she feel the obligation to atone for her parents' sins? What possible degree of abnegation would be sufficient? Will she find that people expect her to be a rigorously devout Muslim and to show herself to be very different from any radicalized Muslim who has wrought such crimes? Will she find it necessary to take the exact opposite path from her parents and throw herself into a lifetime of activism for gun control or for peace or for some other type of social justice? Will she feel she must deliberately put herself into harm's way, to demonstrate that she is Not Like Them? Or will she give in, knowing that she has been damned by people since her infancy, and follow in her parents' footsteps?

It is a terrible fate.

I am sorry, child, that your parents brought you into this world and then so mercilessly branded you with horror and abandoned you. I hope that as you walk the jagged path that is your inheritance, you will still find moments of happiness.

Good luck, baby girl.


  1. My heart sank when I read about the couple leaving their child with the grandmother as well. Of course, it was also colored by the fact that I had read that the male assailant had grown up in the shadow of domestic abuse.

    I am full of sadness and anguish and need to turn away from the news... and I am doing my best to find hopeful stories and pictures.

    As I read your piece, I also thought of this ....
    I hope someday she will meet someone who will reassure her that she is not the product of hate, that she does not carry the sins of her parents, that she was simply an innocent child caught in the vortex of hate.

    I hope her family will remind her daily how much they love her -- and that they will teach her by example and with words the importance of love -- of meeting every taunt and challenge and hateful word with love. As hard as it is, it really is the only foolproof defense we have.

    Sending you hopeful thoughts today.