On December 14, the news media and social networking were a constant buzz over the most recent shooting tragedy, this time in Connecticut. For the media it was a moment of non-stop sensationalism that did little more than up their ratings and make another posthumous pop culture star out of a dead nut-job. This is sadly one of the reasons similar attacks like this will continue,as the unbalanced notoriety-seekers look to outdo the last one.
Our insatiable need for instant fame at any price, even in our own death is part of America’s continuing spiral. The fact that far too many of the rest of us soak our brains in tragedy and tabloid fodder only fans the problem. But I digress.
Last night my television remained off as a small measure of respect for those we lost and the heroes that tried to save a life like teacher Victoria Soto. I watched an endless string of posts pop up on Twitter and Facebook feeds both articulate and ignorant before finally putting my own fingers to keyboard.
Let me begin by stealing a line from another crook…
My fellow Americans…and even those who aren’t American but live on our soil: What happened today in Connecticut is an immeasurable tragedy. We all ache that this could happen and brim with frustration that we feel helpless to prevent it. Then we voice that frustration as anger as we look for someone or something we can blame to make the ugliness cease. There is no simple cure as there is no singular cause.
1) Gun control and anti-gun activists: Taking the guns away won’t stop tragedies like these, it will just mean those with morals will be unarmed and those without will break the law. Nothing changes except to hurt responsible Americans.
2) Gun advocates, NRA, eta al: Arming teachers is not the solution either. They are there to teach our children, and when something goes wrong they need to focus on how to protect them from harm and not try to play Rambo or worry about innocent bystanders as they attempt to wield a firearm in a high stress situation.
3) Turning our schools into highly secure facilities is not the answer either. We have done enough to strip away our children’s innocence already, and turning their daily routine into a veritable prison robs them of even more, including basic freedom to be children. This concept did not work after 9/11 as we turned our airports into military zones and it won’t work here. It just stands as a daily reminder and gives evil a mark in the win column.
The problem runs much deeper than politics and guns. This is a social problem, and there is no magic pill to fix it. We have led ourselves down this path by robbing parents of the ability to discipline and teach their children right from wrong, and we have set ourselves up by losing our sense of community. In 1970 the average homeowner knew most every neighbor on his/her block. Today most don’t even know who lives next door to them. Neighborhoods used to raise children, and lord help the child if their neighbor had to talk to Mom or Dad about their behavior. These days the neighbor who catches a child stealing or vandalizing and goes to the child’s parent about it is more likely to get yelled at then the offending child. Perhaps even assaulted for their temerity. We did this to ourselves.
Let’s keep things in perspective. Today 26 people were killed, most of which were innocent children. We cannot measure the loss or sorrow. But 6700 others died today in America as well, as they do every single day (on average). Would you mourn more or less if you knew that nearly 7000 people died on a daily basis in this country? It takes an event like this to rouse our emotions, make us hug our children tighter, and raise our level of anger at the problems of our nation rather than rise up and take action as a community.
The end of the world is not coming because an asteroid is going to hit the planet, it’s coming because we have become complacent, detached, too politically correct, overly humane about the wrong things, and lacking empathy about the right ones. We’re more concerned about Kim Kardashian’s latest beau and Lindsay Lohan’s latest arrest than we are about what Bush and Obama (and their various underlings in both parties) are doing as our public servants.
It is time to mourn, yes. But it is also time to stop waiting for someone to fix what is wrong and take back our individual and collective responsibility as Americans. Sit down and whine or stand up and fight: It’s your choice.
Those of you who have taken the time to read this may agree or disagree in whole or in part, but if these words do nothing more than give you pause to ask yourself “What is my role in this world and what should it be?” then I believe something positive has come from this article.
It is easy to come together in a moment of tragedy as we have seen time and again, but maintaining that desire to make things better requires more than a momentary spike in empathy and a sense of patriotism.