In a few days’ time, we all do what we have rationalized is our duty.
We’ll observe moments of silence. We’ll watch memorial services on CNN. Doubtlessly we will all take to Facebook and Twitter and do the usual song-and-dance: blah blah never forget blah blah say a prayer for the families blah blah hug your children. Maybe we’ll even throw in an ever-so-heartfelt meme, maybe one with that Mr. Rogers quote about the helpers, just to show how really pious we are.
We’ll say all the right things. We’ll gamely try to look appropriately solemn and mournful.
What a crock it will all be. What utter garbage the whole sorry pageant will be.
We’re all going to try so hard to out-sad each other this December 14, the one-year anniversary of the gunning down of 20 little children and 6 teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We’re all going to want to show everyone how enlightened and sensitive we are, how we’ve learned so much since that day, as if the slaughter of 26 people, 20 of them hardly more than babies, was somehow done with the express purpose of being a moment for our personal growth.
Well if we’re so terribly sad, so damn heartbroken over the events in Newtown of a year ago, why in the bloody hell have we done absolutely nothing since? If we’re supposed to be so ever so troubled by what happened on that day of agony, a day that 26 sets of parents have relived and will relive every single day of their lives for the rest of their lives, why have we barely lifted a finger to reduce the chance of it happening again?
Here’s what I think the really fitting message for the one-year anniversary of Sandy Hook would be:
We failed. We desecrated the memories of those 26 people and made the torture their families are enduring and will always endure worse. If it’s possible for the murder of 6-year-old children to be more meaningless, we somehow accomplished it. We’ve done virtually zero to prevent it from happening again.
That’s all very good. It really and truly is. It isn’t anywhere close to enough and I think we all know it.
We had a chance in the days immediately following December 14, 2012. We experienced the kind of shock and revulsion that finally make us say “that’s enough.” It doesn’t ever make what shocked and reviled us worth it. But it does at least cause the kind of sickening and shaming that gets us moving in the right direction. Birmingham 1963. Omagh 1998. The Archdiocese of Boston 2002. In each case, unspeakable savagery. In each case, enough people felt enough of a kick to their guts and hearts and brains to start working to make better something they might never have cared about before, like civil rights for all Americans, peace with justice in northern Ireland, or a Catholic Church that rates its members and its mission more important than the reputations of a few self-serving bishops.
There was a chance Newtown 2012 could have been added it to that list. A pure horror, pointless except perhaps for the way it spurred others to do some good so that the horror might not be repeated. We squandered it miserably. Unless you know about any rational humane gun legislation we’ve passed anywhere besides the too-little-too-late business in Connecticut and New York. Maybe you’ve heard about successful efforts on a national level to create laws pertaining to guns that in some way reflect a sense of basic decency and even the tiniest respect for human life. If so, please let me in on it in the comments section. I seem to have missed it.
I didn’t miss that braying jackass LaPierre blaming everyone and everything in all of existence besides himself and that thuggish National Rifle Association of his for massacres like the one at Newtown and those that have followed it. I sure remember his fighting like mad against any ideas around gun control supported by mountains of evidence and common logic. I caught every bit of our continued fetishization of the Second Amendment as if that was the only part of the Constitution that counted and everything else was just a P.S. I’ve seen sincere efforts at meaningful gun legislation turn half-assed mighty quick and I’ve seen us make our usual round of mealy-mouthed tenth-rate excuses for why we can’t do better. I’ve seen us snivel and grovel before pro-gun zealots, knowing full well that the snivelers and grovelers are in little danger of not being re-elected. I’ve seen us continue to reverence guns and those who use them in a way that everything from God to the human spirit can only aspire to.
In short, I’ve seen us crap out and fold on anything close to a moral stand on guns the way we always always do.
It was supposed to be different. All those children that look every bit as much like yours as they do like mine turned into bullet-ridden corpses. That was supposed to the moment when we said “that’s enough. This can’t keep happening. We’re a civilization for God’s sake. This can’t keep happening in a civilization, at least not in a halfway worthwhile one.”
Well that didn’t happen. We failed. We inexcusably and pathetically failed. Not just our elected officials. Not just the NRA. I did. You did. Everyone did. And it does not become no one’s sin just because it’s everyone’s sin. Our complete indifference to what happened at Newtown is on all of us. If we weren’t indifferent or worse than indifferent, we would have done more. As it is, little kids were butchered like animals and we didn’t give one good damn. Yes, if we had given one good damn, another Newtown might still happen. Car accidents will still happen no matter what, but I’m pretty sure we’d like for people to keep working on making cars safer. That we can’t prevent all gun violence doesn’t make it okay to not trouble to prevent any of it.
People are being killed every day the same way they were that nightmare day in Connecticut almost one year ago. It can happen less if we were angrier. If we were guiltier. If we didn’t always figure that it must be someone other than the guy I voted for that’s the problem and well hey, I voted, I tried. If we were willing to maybe hurt someone’s feelings by responding sensibly but passionately to some brute who calls anyone who makes the radical suggestion that military-style weapons shouldn’t be easier to obtain than a driver’s license limp-wristed and un-American. If we ever took a look at our values and ideas and considered the possibility that some of them might be just flat wrong. If we could finally see some jerk with a gun as just some jerk with a gun and not a bad-ass. If we cared about anything other than a live broadcast of The Sound of Freaking Music for longer than a week.
Right now, I’m not counting on it happening. If Newtown didn’t bother us– and obviously it didn’t, not really–nothing will.
The lesson of December 14, 2012?
What failures we are. What cowards we are. What hypocrites we are.
More people die. More little children are casually blown to smithereens. We don’t get sick of it. We don’t care.
Sometimes I wonder how God can stand to even look at us.