Saturday, December 15, 2012


I'm a father of four and a grandfather of six, the oldest of whom is six.

To me the massacre that took place in Newtown yesterday was the 'unthinkable.'

That this happened in a 'safe' school in a 'nice' suburb makes the event even more 'unthinkable' to many of us, I suspect. But perhaps the cold hard truth is simply that mental illness knows no physical boundaries.

But I'll not try to make any sense of this senseless tragedy today.

Instead it's time for personal reflection. I'll take the time for mine, and you'll have the time for yours.

Newtown, U.S.A. may help with what we can and should do right now. It helped put things together for me.

"President Obama spoke for the nation Friday when he said simply, "Our hearts are broken." Anytime innocent people in the act of daily life die at the hand of a deranged gunman is cause for profound grief. Co-workers, college students, couples on dates at the local movie theater—their instant separation from joyful life leaves us instantly aghast.

There is, however, no way to get past the special awfulness of these 27 dead in suburban Newtown, Connecticut, of whom 20 were young children sitting in classrooms. When President Obama choked up trying to talk about this Friday afternoon, he merely showed what parents felt in every town and living room in the U.S. This is the one unthinkable event.

A flag at the U.S. Capitol flies at half staff after the shootings in Newtown.

A very long time ago, the ancients would have attributed such tragedy to fate or to the gods. The dead would be honored, grief in time would recede and the living would push onward, as if there were any other choice.

No longer. For better or worse, we inhabit a more modern world that feels compelled to submit all such events to analysis. The details of the killer and his life history are still spilling out and we will learn in the days ahead more than we probably want to know. From analyzing all this, it is assumed, a protective salve of public policy will emerge. So we will debate after Newtown, and perhaps something worthwhile will come from the effort.

As happened after the shootings at Columbine High School, where two students shot 12 other students, there will be calls for the control of guns, notwithstanding the existence of 200 million guns amid a U.S. population of 311 million. Last year in Norway, a nation with a tight gun-control and licensing regime, Anders Breivik methodically gunned down 69 people, mostly teenagers, on the island of Utoya.

Questions about both gun control and violent mental illness were raised this year when James Holmes allegedly shot 12 people in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. After college-student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech University, there was a great effort to understand what is possible, and not possible, in the treatment of shattered minds that pitch people into violence and murder. Specifically, what protections from people in the grip of uncontrolled mental illness or evil derangement is the broader society entitled to?

There is time enough for that public debate and all the usual intellectual tensions put in motion by such discussion. But not at this moment. Newtown's massacre is a crushing event. The emotions pouring now from every person in the United States toward those families are the right ones. It is better to let them run for awhile."

Thanks. Bob.

No comments:

Post a Comment