When the shootings in Newtown first hit the news, I felt all the things I usually feel at a mass murder: a pang of sadness, a jolt of fear. I didn’t realize at first that it was a school, and I didn’t realize at first that it was young kids, and I didn’t realize that it was twenty.
All day Friday, I curled up in bed—I had the day off—and watched twitter and facebook and eventually the New Yorker, NYT etc, watching as details trickled out. My horror mounted. Twenty children. Twenty first graders.
In the days since I find that I cannot get it out my head. I’ve always been a sensitive sort, and when I was a kid I vaccilated between reading very sad books and not being able to read books that contained words such as cancer, because they reminded me that those things were out there, that our lives are so very fragile.
I cuddled my dog. The Onion nailed it.
I went to a party for a little boy turning seven on Saturday. I watched the children run around in a church basement, learning to dance, coloring. One girl cried quietly, missing her dad, and I sat with her, trying to cheer her up. I hugged the children I know close to me, squeezed them as hard as I could.
On Sunday I went to church. I talked to my youth about it. I told them that I knew that it was scary, and overwhelming, and sad. They were mostly angry. I told them that I was angry too.
On Monday, I held a newborn for four hours as she slept on me. I kissed the soft down of her head, her starfish hands and her seashell ears, and I said a silent prayer.
On Tuesday I played with a young toddler. She shrieked with delight when we did TIMBER and peek-a-boo, found my eyes for me, sang songs and ate lunch, and I held out my arms for a hug, capturing that moment when she crashed into me and snuggled up, patting my back, and I hoped like hell.
And here we are.
It’s been a few days. This afternoon I was flipping through the Post and I came to an article about the children, with their pictures, their stories, the one who loved superheroes, the one who carried markers with her. There is no bad picture of a child that young. They are all so full of promise. So full of life.
I can’t say anything about twenty children being slaughtered that hasn’t already been said. And oh, I know, I know it happens all over the world. I know that children die all the time, of all sorts of things, many—even most—of which are entirely preventable, if only humanity didn’t suck quite so much. And I know that part of the reason Newtown is getting so much attention is that the children were white (although I refuse to believe that if the kids were black we would not mourn so fully. I’m halfway convinced that the only reason Anne Frank said people were mostly good is that she hadn’t yet spent a lot of time with the Nazis, but I still have a tiny bit of hope). And I know that kids are killed with guns all the time. I know.
And yet. There is something about an entire classroom of first graders being hunted down, in school, that just guts me.
So I’m sad. I cannot imagine what their parents and siblings are going through. It is unspeakable, to lose a child. It is my greatest fear, I think. I don’t know how anyone goes on living after that.
But mostly, now, I am angry. I am so, so angry.
I have always been pretty anti-gun, but I’ve been willing to tolerate those who are not, or those who feel that we don’t need gun control. No more. Oh, I’m not going to automatically hate anyone who owns a gun—although I don’t like it—but if you think for a second that your right to own a semi automatic or assault rifle, to use high volume magazines, is greater then the right of children not to be massacred in school—then you are scum. I am not kidding. I don’t want to hear any of this bullshit about how more guns would make us safer and if only teachers were armed (this is simply not true anyway. If you are part of the gun lobby, if you are part of the people who have actively fought against commonsense gun laws, then you are complicit in the murder of children.
How does that feel? How do you live with yourselves?
I know, I know. This is not how we make progress. We make progress by understanding, by building bridges. But I am too angry to care. There is no excuse.
And the mental gymnastics these people go through is just astounding. One person I know posted the following on facebook: “would you rather have all your fingers chopped off by a madman or be shot to death? If those were your options for your child, would you prefer they be killed or live a life unable to do even the most basic things independently, and be forced to live with that trauma?”
But since you asked: I would rather my child be attacked by a knife then a gun, yes. You are damn right, I would. Do you know why? Because knives are a hell of a lot less lethal, you fuckwit.
Someone else, on the comments of a thread somewhere—never read the comments, and now I don’t even remember where I read it—that he always uses a semi-automatic when he hunts, because what if you miss the bear (WEEDS CLIP).
THEN DON’T HUNT BEARS.
And of course, Mike Huckabee (R-prehensible) as well as one former fb friend, suggested that we just need god back in our schools.
Then there’s the mental health stuff.
Now look. Mentally ill folks are far more likely to be victims . They are usually not dangerous. Psychopaths more often are dangerous, but not always, and we have NO IDEA what was up with Adam Lanza (and btw, you are not Adam Lanza’s mother).
Do we need mental health reform in this country? Duh. Do we need to deal with the fact that there may well be some kids who have very, very serious issues and that are a danger to their families and that we offer almost no support for those families? Obviously.
And I’m sure that our absurd culture of toxic masculinity doesn’t help, and yeah, obviously, obviously, we should look at that.
As Dave Cullen points out, there are basically three types of mass murderers: the truly insane, who are utterly out of touch with reality (the Tucson and Virginia Tech shooters) the sadistic psychopath (Eric Harris, Columbine’s mastermind) and most commonly the suicidally depressed. So yes, we should be screening all adolescents for depression, duh.
But you know what? In every culture, there’s always going to be a segment of the populace that is mentally ill. Probably there will be a segment that’s psychopathic. Every culture will have its dangers.
You know what really, really helps negate that danger?
NOT GIVING EVERYONE ACCESS TO GUNS.
Can we just do that, first? Because if the folks working for change get distracted by the very valid roads of mental health reform, we will lose track of gun control. And the very first thing that we can do, the thing that we can do most immediately, is to push like hell for that.
Look, I’m not happy with ANYONE having guns, but I really do understand that some people are responsible gun owners, and that there is some Constitutional basis for this (although I think you could very easily argue that the Founders meant something very, very different, and none of us should have guns. Since that fight is not going to be won anytime soon, though…)
But there is NO reason not to immediately ban assault and semi automatic weapons and high capacity magazines. Start with that.
I am glad to see that Obama has been angry. He should be. We should all be angry. And angry Obama is the one that gets shit done. But he is going to have to step up, as our all of our political leaders, and make change. To do otherwise is simply unconscionable.
There is no excuse for not acting. Have you no shame?
If you need a reminder, well, you can remember these names:
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, , 6
Josephine Gay, , 7
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine F. Hsu, 6
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison N. Wyatt, 6