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2020 has been a rough year for everyone. However, while some families complain about missed vacations or family parties, others suffered losses unimaginable to most. Raiden Gonzalez is one of those people.
In September, Raiden lost both of his parents, Adan (33) and Mariah (29), to COVID-19. At four years old, Raiden now lives with his aging grandmother. Aunts and uncles pitch in when they can.
Can you imagine? Four years old. My God…
Many of my friends have children in that age-range. I can’t fathom having that discussion with a child at such a tender age. Shit, it’s difficult enough having that discussion with adults.
I vividly recall comforting a good friend after both of his parents died when we were in our early 20s: confusion, hurt, not enough time, a permanent void — one most of us won’t encounter until well into our 40s, 50s, or 60s.
Some years later, I visited two families of Marines I served with who were killed in the war. Those experiences were similar but much more intense, as you can imagine: acute confusion intertwined with unanswerable questions, unhealthy nationalist-pride, and deep sadness, even in a self-described “strong religious family!”
Resiliency, without question, is a quality baked into our very being. Human beings can take a lot of shit. At the same time, however, we’re extremely delicate creatures, ones that require a longer nurturing period (18–25 years) than any other mammal on the planet and who endure the burden of contemplating our existence and death. This contradiction colors and confuses our daily experiences, desires, and dreams.
Human beings, to some degree, require social airbags — mechanisms and structures that ease the psychic cargo of life.
After all, Raiden’s grandmother can’t do it alone. Nor can the hundreds of thousands of grandmothers scattered throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa whose grandchildren will grow up without brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles — those killed by U.S. wars, occupations, coups, assassinations, and chemical poisoning. Can you imagine having those conversations with a four-year-old?
People have set up a ‘GoFundMe’ account in honor of Raiden. So far, over $200,000 has been raised. I don’t want to live in a country in which people are forced to raise funds in order to help our fellow Americans cope with tragedies. The U.S. has more than enough wealth and resources to make sure the Raidens of the world don’t slip through the cracks.
It’s up to each and every one of us to ensure Raiden has a purposeful and healthy life. Raiden’s ability to create a decent future will not only require a solid kinship network, bonds, and social relations built on trust, but he will also need healthcare, housing, quality education, and a living planet.
It’s also on us to ensure that the children around the world whose lives have been ruined by U.S. militarism have a safe, independent, and decent future.
To date, 330,000+ Americans and 1.41 million additional humans have lost their lives due to this predictable, preventable, vicious, and indifferent virus. The best way to properly remember their lives is by taking care of the living.
This year, before we complain too much, let’s remember Raiden and the struggles he faces moving forward.
Nothing can prepare a boy for such a challenge, yet prepare him we must. Conversely, perhaps he’ll ready us for an uncertain future — the wild and bumpy ride ahead —the existential strip-search awaiting us all.
Vincent Emanuele is a writer, antiwar veteran, and podcaster. He is the co-founder of PARC | Politics Art Roots Culture Media and the PARC Community-Cultural Center located in Michigan City, Indiana. Vincent is a member of Veterans For Peace and OURMC | Organized & United Residents of Michigan City. He is also a member of Collective 20. He can be reached at email@example.com