Saturday, December 15, 2012

Thoughts on Newtown

I didn't blog last night. There was nothing to say, and as one friend put it, I was rattled. There is still nothing to say, nothing we can do to ease the pain of the people of Newtown. We can send prayers and thoughts to those who lost loved ones; we can send donations to the mental health services of Newtown for counseling for survivors. But for a long time, none of it matters. There are families for whom there will be no Christmas this year and life will never again be the same. I cannot wrap my mind around the agony of sending a child off to school and then learning that he or she will never be coming home again.
Almost all that can be said has been said on Facebook--and some that should never be said. Like a declaration that there always has been evil in the world and always will be. Really? Should we just sit back and accept massacres in public places as a fact of life? Or, even worse, the pronouncements that the reason this happened is because there is no prayer in schools. That insults the God I believe in. I do think a moment of quiet in school would be appropriate so that each child could pray or meditate in the religion in which they are being raised. But the folks who bring this up mean Christian prayer, and that is wrong in our increasingly diverse culture. And I was outraged by a columnist who suggested that in his news conference President Obama faked tears. The hatred in this country runs so deep it's no wonder we have mass killings.
Sensible public opinion seems to come down to two things: mental health and gun control. The first is tricky. How do you legislate mental health, which to my mind includes the deep vein of hatred? Apparently we can't rely on family and friends to identify a problem and seek help. But we can't institute laws whereby I could say, "You know, so-and-so isn't acting right" and cause "so-and-so" all kinds of grief. It's called invasion of privacy or violation of civil rights. But somehow we have to get a handle on this problem of young men (for the most part) who harbor such irrational anger at the world that they kill strangers in large numbers.
Gun control is almost easier, except it's not. The NRA and its lobbyists are powerful and have deep pockets. Legislators who tabled consideration of extending the ban on assault weapons should hang their heads in shame. There is no reason for citizens to have assault weapons. Apparently none was used yesterday--I got into a long Facebook thread about what kind of weapon was used, until I finally threw up my hands and asked, "What the hell does it matter? Children are dead." I hope President Obama will show as much courage and determination in dealing with this problem as he is showing about the fiscal cliff. Now is the time for action, while the public is outraged. The NRA has held us hostage long enough.
Personally I would ban all guns, except perhaps hunting rifles, though I was amused today when someone pointed out that hunters only shoot at things who can't shoot back. So do terrorists who kill young children. Yes, there will always be illegal handguns but the more we can control, the better. I was appalled to read this morning that a Texas school district has armed its teachers. Wrong solutioin, so wrong.
Last night I shared a post of statistics about deaths by guns in this country compared to the number in other "civilized" countries. Apparently, the statistics were hopelessly out of date, and I apologize (one of the dangers of Facebook). But it is still true that more people in this country are killed by guns than in any other country in the "civilized" world. Yesterday over twenty school children and a teacher in China were attacked by an assailant weilding a knife. No one died. If that doesn't speak volumes, I don't know what does.
There is still nothing to say. My heart is still broken as I think about the families in Newtown and as I watch six-year-old Jacob decorating a gingerbread man and think how precious he is. That's what this season should be about--joy and wonder--not death and grief that will never go away. No I don't think we as a nation are lost and beyond hope. But I do think it's past time we took a good long look at ourselves and then moved to action.
Happy holidays everyone, and as you hold our loved ones tight, remember the people of Newtown. They will never again be the same, and Christmas will always be bitter for them.

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