Dec 18, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Maybe there are adequate words to describe the events of Dec. 14, 2012, a day that, like few others in our nation’s history, evoked a sense of loss and hurt among people of all backgrounds and persuasions. But I haven’t found those words yet.
Perhaps we can try and comprehend how we would react if a person marched into the elementary school in our neighborhood and killed 26 people, 20 of them children, after murdering his own mother with her own gun. But unless we have been put in that unimaginable position, we can’t possibly know how terrible that feels.
We do know that we feel a comprehensive pain that far surpasses our capacity to deal with various human tragedies, and it won’t go way for a long time.
From the moment news started to come in last Friday about a shooting at a school called Sandy Hook, in a quiet Connecticut community known as Newtown, we thought, oh well, just another shooting in America, nothing new here. The numbness to which we have come to accept these awful occurrences did not make us immediately pause.
That is, until the death tool started to rise, and we realized this was a massacre. Then we found out that the majority of the victims were elementary school children, and that dozens more may have been cut down, too, were it not for the bravery shown by trained teachers who shepherded the other kids to safety.
It made otherwise strong men and women break down and weep, from the president to reporters to ministers to law enforcement officials to the first responders who had to enter that school and witness things no mortal should ever have to witness.
The heartbreak and the anger all of us felt on that day, and still feel, is staggering. All of us now know that there is a sickness, a madness that envelops America, and nothing short of eradicating that madness will do justice to those beautiful children we’ve lost.
Let’s face it, though. Years of doing nothing about this sickness hasn’t helped matters.
By now, the drill is too familiar. Whether at Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or Tucson, or Aurora, this nation has endured the bloody specter of gun violence writ large, the lives of hundreds instantly shattered by bullets.
There is the initial shock, the outrage, the grief, the mourning, the platitudes offered by those in power about doing something, the macabre details about the killer and his (always his) motives…and then back to the routine of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, until the next nightmare unfolds and the grisly cycle repeats itself.
Somewhere we lost the ability to be shocked into action. As a result, the champions of inaction, the defenders of an increasingly violent status quo, had their way, with our leaders too timid, or terrified, to confront these issues.
When anyone, anywhere, tried to speak up, the usual chorus of opposition shouted him down, with the usual cries of “Second Amendment” and “they’re attacking our freedoms” and, most hysterically, “they’re coming to take our guns away”, even if nothing of the sort happened.
Then came Sandy Hook, and even those that have staunchly defended gun rights are, at long last, starting to think twice about it, or at least acknowledge that a serious conversation has to take place in this country about guns, right now.
Also, there’s an acknowledgement that all of those times when people said, in the wake of a mass shooting, that it’s too early to talk about guns, they were just doing the bidding of the entrenched powers.
Maybe it’s also dawning on us that any person thinking that more guns, carried by more people, will make us safer is just courting more madness, more murders, more grief and anguish.
For too long, our gun culture, our violent culture, was untouchable. It was barely dealt with during the presidential election campaign. Bob Costas took immense grief for daring to mention it at halftime of a football game 13 days before Sandy Hook. And forget about Congress, because why address public safety when a 100 percent rating from the NRA guarantees a safe seat?
All of that is gone now. Instead, it’s time to ask our legislators, at the state and federal level, to license guns to make sure they are in the hands of safe, responsible people. And it’s long past time to erase, once and for all, the absurd notion that it’s an attack on freedom to ban the sorts of automatic weapons whose sole purpose is to kill people.
No act or regulation, no matter how comprehensive, will bring back the women and children of Newtown whose stories and memories will stay with us the rest of our lives.
At least it will mean that they did not die in vain. We owe it to Dawn, Mary, Vicki, Lauren, Rachel, Anne Marie, Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle and Allison. And we owe it to all the tens of thousands of others through the decades gunned down before their time.
Violence and madness might never end. But our ability to tolerate it must end, now.