(CNN) — The second Boston bombing suspect is in custody. Now everyone will focus on what it all means, what “lesson” we can learn from the events.
This is Martin Richard’s lesson:
“No more hurting people.”
Martin Richard was one of three innocent bystanders to die on Patriot’s Day. As we debate issues of life and death in our state legislatures and Congress, we need to keep the picture of this boy and his sign not in our memories or Facebook walls, but on display.
The worldwide response to that picture — which his teacher, Rachel Moo, said was made as part of a school lesson on the shooting of Trayvon Martin — has been both heart-stirring and heartbreaking. People are striving to remember and to honor, yes; even more, though, they are trying to make his words real.
Everyone killed in the Boston bombing, and during the events that flowed from it, was under 30. Martin Richard was 8 years old; how will his classmates handle their grief?
Krystal Campbell, age 29, had moved to live with and help care for her ailing grandmother. Doctors had told Krystal’s mother she had survived the blast, but they had mistaken Krystal’s friend for Krystal. What must her mother and grandmother feel?
Lingzi Lu was a 23-year-old graduate student, the only child of her parents in China, who said learning of her death was “a dagger in our hearts.” Sean Collier, 26, was shot multiple times while in his cruiser without drawing his gun. He had been a campus policeman with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for only a little over a year, and volunteered at the gym where one suspect trained as a boxer.
Three days after the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the U.S. Senate defeated a bipartisan proposal aimed at curbing gun violence; it would have required more widespread background checks for gun purchasers, something 90% of Americans want. As a result of the bombing, immigration reform may soon become another political pingpong ball in the dysfunctional Senate.
Every pundit and every politician feels every bit of bombast is justified.
And the children? Pictures and comments, memorials on Facebook. That’s all.
“No more hurting people. Peace.”
The injured: Martin’s father and older brother, Henry, escaped injury. His 6-year-old sister, Jane, lost a leg. Martin’s mother, Denise Richard, 43, had brain surgery for a serious injury. The father, Bill Richard, 42, returned home briefly from the hospital to get clothing, and a neighbor said he was pale, almost dazed, and too grief-stricken to talk.
The sidewalk in front of their house is still covered with colored chalk drawings of butterflies, flowers, and stars that Richard and his sister had drawn before leaving for the marathon.
Jack Hart, a former state senator, told the Boston Globe that the Richards are “pillars of the community … a model family, who somehow always found the time to give something back.”
“Any tragedy of this sort is extraordinarily difficult, but when you know people, when it’s people in your life, in your school, that’s when it really hits home,”
The Boston Globe quoted a classmate of Martin’s, Colin Baker, 9, who said about Martin: “If somebody was left out, he would come say, ‘Want to join my group?’ He sticks up for kids.”
“It should not have happened to him,” Colin said to the Globe.
“It should not have happened to nobody.”
As I read and hear these responses, I keep thinking, what are we — the adults — what are we telling the children? Do we think they don’t see the hollowness behind our hallowed words? Do we think they don’t know the difference between courage and cowardice?
There’s a cliché: “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” Apparently, legislation must be perfect, because even after this horror, we are still finding ways to divide people. Should suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev be treated as an enemy combatant? Did the intelligence community pay little heed to the warning it received? Questions. Questions.
But let us pause to bury our dead and stand by the wounded as their struggle with the new reality of their lives. Some will have to learn how to simply stand up again — wounded forever.
We should hold Martin’s sign in our hearts and resolve to do better. Because, with President Barack Obama, “I’m assuming our expressions of grief and our commitment to do something different to prevent these things from happening are not empty words.”
I, too, believe that, “sooner or later, we are going to get this right. The memories of those who died and many who are still suffering demand it.”
“No more hurting people. Peace.”
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.
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