Our collective response to the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy has been predictable. Americans’ collective response to tragedy is both a testament to the better angels of our nature and a large part of the problem. These kinds of events strike at the very core of our soul and hit a chord so deep into what frightens us individually as people and collectively as a nation. So, before we begin any sort of debate we must come to grips with that fear.
In short, we are not in control. I’m not exactly sure who or what is in control if anyone or anything truly is. A large part of our problem as a human race is that we have a desperate need to have someone or something be in control. So, natural disasters become preordained by a supreme being or are somehow caused by our own fallibility. This kind of grasping at straws is an end around to our own control. If we somehow control our own fallibility then we have control over what happens to us.
This one inescapable fact paralyzes us in moments like this. On one side of the fence you have people like my wife who oppose gun control not because they are necessarily opposed to gun control, but because they don’t see the point. We can’t prevent madness. On the other side we have those that see too much into any one measure. To be sure, fighting our violent culture is going to come down to more than just banning assault weapons. It will be a two front war (or even three) including a step up in what we are doing in terms of mental health and maybe a prolonged look at our culture itself.
This is where perspective has to be the order of the day. On the one hand, we have to acknowledge the fact that no amount of legislation, enforcement, and effort from all of us will eliminate evil in this world. Those that believe in God, Allah, Yahweh, and Krishna must acknowledge that their god either cannot or will not prevent all evil. We were given free will and unfortunately some among the herd will find any way they can to carry out their evil.
What we cannot do is give up. We must carry on and try to limit the tools at their disposal. We must carry on and try to reach them before they disintegrate to the point where they are considering violence as their solution. We must carry on so that our collective American culture becomes less prone to violence and less prone to glorifying violence. We can start by limiting our coverage of this young man to the lessons we might learn in the future and provide no additional coverage so future would be monsters don’t come away thinking they can get a quick fifteen minutes.
We must also resist the temptation to demagogue anyone at this point. Gun owners are not to blame for this. 99 percent of them are responsible citizens and the vast majority are in favor of common sense controls. We cannot blame Republicans or the NRA. As opposed as the GOP or those that are in the NRA’s corner may have opposed these controls, opposing controls is not the same as condoning acts like this. These events unite us all if nothing else than reminding all of us of how precious and precarious life can be.
Sure, my initial response was one of anger. I listened as our own Texas delegation said we should arm teachers. As a former and hopefully future teacher, I can’t think of anything worse. I derided our governor and that certain representative as idiots and they may very well be, but they are also trying to come up with a solution in their own way. I listened as a southern representative tried to tell television viewers that a rifle with a 30 round clip was not an assault rifle. Again, it initially made me angry, but I had to keep in mind that he doesn’t want tragedies like this anymore than we do.
The bottom line is that we each can only do the best we can to prevent senseless tragedies like this from ever happening again. Success is elusive in matters like this. Those that would point to heartless statistics could point to improvement, but improvement isn’t enough in matters like this. It would be like reading “No presidential assassinations in 49 years” at DFW Airport. It will always ring a little hollow. We cannot let this knowledge paralyze us from trying. Future generations demand that we try.