Not long ago I resurrected and posted (to LiveJournal and Facebook) something I wrote four years ago:

We are not safe; we never have been; in any future I can imagine, we will not be. No human can guarantee to keep her/himself safe, much less the rest of us. Those who promise to do so are liars. The most someone can truthfully say is that they think they can keep some selected group of people safe from a specific danger under very specific circumstances. If you are requiring someone to tell you otherwise, you are requiring them to lie to you.

Along comes our president and says, in his second inaugural address: “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”

Possibly the hardest fact for any good parent to learn is that we cannot keep our children always safe from harm. No parent (or other caregiver) in the history of the world, no matter how rich or how powerful, no matter how benign their environment, has been able to do that. The lucky kids make it through without serious harm, but much of that is indeed luck–or fate or karma, call it what you will–and has little to do with what their parents do or don’t.

Yes, a society as a whole, especially with the power of its leadership, can make strides in keeping its children safer. But never “always safe”–as I said, we never have been; in any future I can imagine, we will not be. WIpe out all the diseases, abolish car accidents, end all the domestic and other abuse, stop the wars and all the other violence, and there will still be natural disasters.

Can our children–any of them, much less the president’s “all our children”–ever “know that they are … always safe from harm”? Only if we lie to them.