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I wrote the original version of this article in 1996 shortly after receiving a phone call from my son, the only thing added since then is the reference to Jordan, Montanta. Since the orignal writing, we have had children kill children in schools in Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and now Colorado. Some where we, as a country, lost touch with them.

Our Future

J. D. Pendry

"The future ain't what it used to be." -Yogi Berra

My phone rang at 5:30 one Sunday morning. Telephones only ring at that time on Sunday mornings for one of two reasons. It's a wrong number or something is seriously wrong. The wrong number thought never entered my mind. I immediately thought about my son. This was the last day of spring break. He went on a trip to some border town in Texas with fraternity brothers. Sigma Phi something or other. I dredged up a crackly hello out of my dry throat. My hello was immediately answered with a distant, muffled question. "Dad"? Instantly I had thoughts of Mexican jails, stranded on the highway with no money, injuries of all sorts and many other thoughts that come to parents at 5:30 on Sunday morning. "I just called to let you know I got back okay from my trip, I'm going to sleep now."

I slowly exhaled while feeling my heart pound in my chest. I thanked him for the call and hung up the phone. Being awake already, I made coffee and went outside to pick up the Sunday paper off the sidewalk. After getting some coffee, I flipped on the TV to the cable news channel. There was a report on about a student from Canada. He was killed while on spring break in Florida. Yes, our Florida in the good old USA. Another teenager shot him in the head while he was on the pay phone with his mother. I thought of my phone call and the absolute horror his mother must have gone through with that phone call. I took a moment to give thanks that my son was home safe.

I found myself wondering what has happened to the greatest country on earth. When and how did we lose our children? When did giving thanks that my son lived through another week get to be a routine inclusion in my Sunday meditations? I don't believe my parents had these concerns. They were concerned I'm sure. But, I don't think they were worried that I might be murdered - and by another child.

Another day, while watching the evening news I saw where a 16 year old child was murdered by a 15 year old child. It happened while both were on their way home from school. Then I thought about the number of times I'd heard about promising young people being murdered recently - in or around their school. An institution always accepted by parents and children as a safe haven. It seemed like a daily occurrence. The thought occurred again, when did we lose our children?

Again, while watching the news I was really interested in why the Republican controlled House of Representatives thought we didn't need any ban on assault weapons. Two congressmen, one democrat and one republican, were debating the issue. Both their arguments were quite emotional.

The democrat spoke with compassion from the perspective of one who had lost relatives to the violence of guns. These weren't just any relatives. They were very prominent leaders of our country. One was a president. We can only wonder what their future would have meant to our country. I thought about the lyrics of a song that goes something like, Where have they gone, Abraham, Martin and John?

The republican congressman, thumping the podium and expressing anger, said his wife spent the whole week alone on the farm and needed to be able to defend herself. That was his justification for wanting to lift the assault weapons ban.

With all due respect to the congressman I felt that was a moment of brilliance he'd be remembered for. The assault weapons ban was not the issue that concerned me. The issue was the mentality that educated people such as the congressman were passing on to our children, the future leaders of our society. Guns are okay. Violence is okay. Everybody needs to have a gun to defend themselves. Who knows when the farm is going to be invaded or when there's going to be another Waco, Ruby Ridge or Jordan, Montana? I began wondering whose representative the congressman was.

Not too long ago, a madman in Scotland entered a school and killed some kindergarten children. A priest, conducting the televised memorial service, said, "when we bury a parent, we bury our past. When we bury a child, we bury our future." When I heard those words and saw the expressions on the faces of those parents it caused me some pain. It wasn't our country I know. But we have had our episodes too. We've had them in schools, fast food restaurants and other places.

I recently heard another news report that astounded me. The report said that every 92 minutes a gun kills a child. A child was identified as being between the ages of one and nineteen. The majority of those deaths were homicides, followed by suicides and then accidents.

All of us, especially the leaders of our country, must seriously look at the question. Where and how did we lose our children? When we seriously address that question then we can begin to rebuild. The future of our country is being raised in a culture that places less and less value on human life. It's become a culture where acts of extreme violence are commonplace. If the greatest society on earth is to have a future we need to find those children again.


Copyright© 1996 J.D. Pendry, All Rights Reserved