I almost got physically ill as I heard the first news reports of an elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT today. I am 2 degrees of separation from it in multiple ways, so I cannot even begin to imagine what folks in the town– and now, frightened parents everywhere– are feeling.
I also cannot imagine what the two people who wielded guns as they trespassed on the grounds of an elementary school, gunned down administrators in the office, and then went on a tyrade all over the school to kill dozens of others were feeling. Why did they do that, and how on earth are we as a society continually (though inadvertently and not with intention) justifying to people that it is ok to use our own personal anger or hurt or fear or frustration to fuel acts of terror, hate, and absolute aggression against anyone around us? They are victims too, because something in our M.O. as a core country is doing too much to promote such problem-“solving” and doing FAR too little to reach out to people teetering “on the edge” of loneliness, anger, mental illness, or any other psychological black hole experienced by humankind.
The fact that an overwhelming majority of the direct victims (wounded, dead, and traumatized) are children– the essence of innocence and potential– is wordlessly tragic. I am mourning and disgusted and my body is feeling those things. But I think it’s time for us to look at this on a deeper level– are we LESS upset and disturbed when it is another population of folks lying dead, wounded, or terrified in a situation like this? For me, this discussion should be ending up at this tenet: it’s not ok, no matter the demographics of the targeted group. EVER. Period. End of discussion.
With that in mind, I close with this article published in the wake of the Aurora shooting less than 5 (FIVE!!!!!!) months ago, titled, “Politicizing Tragedy and the Aurora Theater Shooting.”* I’ll save the majority of my soapbox speech for another day, but I want to know when we decide that enough people have experienced moments like this so we can put our idealized political stances on gun control aside and talk about REAL, practical, ground-level adjustments that need to be made. I’m tired of knowing who is for/against gun control, because I want representation in my government who will place the lives of people above the principles & platforms they are expected to spew across news networks & websites.
Politics are an inevitable part of a collective national trauma, which, for better or for worse, is how America treats incidents like this one. It’s not only appropriate to ask how we got here—it would be irresponsible not to..Trying to avoid politics trivializes politics, which is the means by which we make collective decisions as a society. A discussion about policies that could prevent future tragedies like this couldn’t be more appropriate.
*I’d also like to point out that this is the SECOND public shooting this week, the first happening 3 days ago at a mall near Portland, Oregon. The. Second. This. Week. HELLO?!?
– – – – – – – – –
UPDATE: Alex Koppelman of The New Yorker published this piece in response to today’s tragedy. Different day, new author, separate occurrence…same conclusion. Says Koppelman:
This is the way that we deal with such incidents in the U.S.—we acknowledge them; we are, briefly, shocked by them; then we term it impolite to discuss their implications, and to argue about them. At some point, we will have to stop putting it off, stop pretending that doing so is the proper, respectful thing. It’s not either. It’s cowardice.