Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Another Sandy: Sandy Hook

Last week, I honored all those still struggling after Hurricane Sandy. I asked that those near to Sandy’s path remember to be fully present in the long-term, to be the person who holds the hands of others just because they need a moment’s support, [to] be the one who listens to the same list of fears and losses each time the sufferer needs to tell of them all, [to] summon patience and empathy beyond measure. I regret that another occasion requires that I repeat myself. Twenty children and six educators died at the hands of an armed intruder.

When the news reached me, I cried. I’m crying now. I cry for lives ended so suddenly, so cruelly. I cry for anther national tragedy. I cry for innocence lost. I cry for parents who surely must have presents wrapped under a Christmas tree, gifts that will never be given. I cry for the nation that mourns, then argues about what to do.

Norah O’Donnell of CBS This Morning stirred the debate by challenging President Obama’s record prior to Friday, December 14, 2012 as proof that he could have, should have had done something sooner--as if millions of children without health insurance or an economy on the brink of collapse or a recalcitrant Congress more concerned with clawing its way back into power were not oversized helpings of trouble and work. Chris Matthews of Hardball challenged a gun-control advocate to explain how a single change in school or firearms policies would have saved those children.

I can’t imagine what such televised moments might do to the hearts and minds of grieving parents, stricken relatives, and a community in shock. I can’t imagine why new anchors insist upon making partisan what has not yet become partisan. Both O’Donnell and Matthews spoke before the NRA or GOP had weighed in on the matter. I suppose in this 24/7 news cycle they couldn’t afford to wait upon the actual news; instead they tried to create some for the rest of us to gnaw.

Let reason prevail please. Let us make sensible policy and legal changes that will help protect women from their abusers, children from the troubled, and men from themselves. Let us care more about life than about tools for death.

But above all, let us walk in the shoes of others, as Atticus advised. Let us summon perfect empathy for the brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and First Responders who will never be the same, for whom the future has grown bleak. May they find the sun again while carrying the impenetrable shadow of personal sorrow tucked in their hearts.

(On September 5, 2012, I posted an essay about mass shootings in America. It features data that you may find useful as you navigate your way through grief into an analysis of policy changes that may or may not make it through our divisive political reality.)