The following are thoughts posted by Children’s Music Network members in the wake of the horrifying massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.
From Joanie Calem: I think back to the years that I lived in the Middle East, when buses blew up literally once a week. Our instruction was always to follow the children’s lead – if they brought something up, we would address it, in word or song. If they indicated that they’d had enough of sorrow and wanted to get back to the business of being kids and having fun, we (to the best of our abilities since the adults were all in tremendous pain, understanding the implications of yet another senseless death) lightened the atmosphere and sang and danced, fun things. Children so often have coping mechanisms that adults have lost, and we need to be sensitive to figure out how to help them heal. Sometimes that does involve directly dealing with the situation in a calm and reassuring manner, and sometimes it involves letting them forget the situation for the time being.
From Eve Kodiak: One message I take from this tragedy is that we need to shine our lights always, in good times and hard times. The response to tragedy creates a wave of energy – and it is up to us to find ways to maintain some current of that energy throughout the ordinary days and weeks. One thing we can do is to start weaning our young children off of video games, cell phones, and other devices . . . and keeping the babies away from them completely. The amount of violence and dissociation practiced by children in these pursuits is hard to imagine. I am only beginning to understand it myself. I, like most people I know, have been, to some degree, in denial. I just posted two articles in my blog, “Murder Games Our Children Play” and “On Compassion and Forgiveness.” Please read them and pass them on if you can. There is already a wonderful comment by CMN board member Amy Conley, and dissenting view from another party. Thanks to all who keep this dialogue alive! As long as we stay involved, there will be change. Go to www.evekodiak.com and click on JOIN BLOG. I really look forward to hearing your voices.
From Susan Salidor: Some of you already know this story, but I feel compelled to tell it again. I wrote “I’ve Got Peace in My Fingers” for my daughters’ preschool where I began my children’s music career twenty years ago. The director created a week dedicated to peaceful activities in response to an effort in Chicago at that time to make the city less violent.
Our mayor offered a “turn in your gun” program that paid cash for any weapons brought into precincts around the city. Our director thought our school should mirror that plan, so the preschoolers (along with their parents) were encouraged to turn in their “weapons” – a huge box located in the front of the school. All week long children brought in swords, guns, water pistols, and the like. In exchange, they received coupons from area stores (e.g. 7 Eleven, a local bakery). The exchange was a huge success. The box of weaponry was thrown in the garbage, toys that should never have been made in the first place finding an appropriate resting place, in my opinion. Throughout the week teachers spoke to children about all kinds of violence, about making peace, about the meaning and practice of peace, all under the guidance of our visionary preschool director, Susan Klein.
Susan asked me to sing songs of peace during the closing ceremony at the end of the week. In those days I was part of a group called VOICES in Chicago that sang both traditional and original music from the social justice canon. We sang at every protest and rally in and around Chicago for any number of causes (anti-nuke, anti-war, anti-U.S. intervention in Central America, etc.), but I couldn’t find a song that I felt spoke to young children about how powerful they could be as peacemakers. (I didn’t know about CMN at the time, obviously.) So I wrote the song “Peace in My Fingers,” for that age group, sang it at the ceremony, and have been singing it ever since.
Last week’s tragedy has forced me to take a moment to revisit those days and my song which, because of CMN, has continued to have a life outside my small circle. The song was created during a particularly violent period in Chicago for a decidedly peaceful environment within our preschool. As musicians we must continue to sing out against violence in all of its forms, to work to change our shameful gun laws, and to continue to comfort the children we work with in every way we can. We must say no to the prevalence of guns in society. More guns, more gun violence. I apologize for my final, somewhat violent thought: The only thing in our society that deserves to die is the Second Amendment.
From Scott Bierko: I’d like to suggest that we coordinate a fundraising and awareness raising campaign with regard to violence against children and teachers.
I have one idea, so far, that I’m going to try and implement locally for people who donate money to a gun-control group:
For $15, I’ll send them a CD
For $300, I’ll give them a free birthday party or facilitate a sing-a-long in their home
For $500, I’ll send them their choice of a ukulele or a guitar
For $800, I’ll do all of the above AND write and record a song on any subject they choose
When I posted this idea on Facebook, it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to provide parties to people outside my geographic area. But our network might.