Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Monstrous Evil

A monstrous evil has again been visited on the country.  And again, it comes from of the unholy, explosive nexus of guns and mental illness.  And as always. the most innocent among us are the tragic victims.

I'm not going to detail the Sandy Hook school shootings of December 14th.  That has been and still is being reported by the media.  Rehashing the details in my head is far too debilitating and difficult.

In the supreme, ultimate act of cowardice, the shooter took his own life after gunning down 20 children.  Someone told me that was good, he deserved to die.  Obviously that's true but he needed to ANSWER for his horrific deed.  He had to stand up in a court of law and tell the world why he did what he did.  He needed to look into the shattered, hollow faces of the parents and be made to realize the incalculable damage he wreaked on totally innocent families.  He had to understand that he not only took 20 lives who had not yet reached their eighth birthdays, he destroyed the lives of their mothers, their fathers, their siblings, their grandparents and extended families, their friends and neighbors, and those of the community in which they lived.  For many families, the holiday season will be forever stained by the memory of this act.  The total damage will be incomprehensible and will be felt for decades, maybe even generations.

I can't help thinking that for everyone in that town, December 14th was just another day.  Kids got dressed and hustled off to school, parents went to work or tended to their household chores.  Maybe the kids were getting pre-occupied by the approaching holiday season, and were resolutely counting down every single day until Christmas Eve.  I know I did when I was that age; December seemed to drag by achingly slow and it felt like Christmas would never get here.  I would run to get the newspaper every evening and check down in the lower-left corner of the front page where they would have a little cartoon box that said, "11 Days until Christmas!"  Then after what seemed like a whole year, the next evening's paper would declare, "10 Days until Christmas!"  Thus it went until the little cartoon finally said, "1 Day until Christmas!" and I knew the excruciatingly long wait was almost over.

These 20 children will never have the joy of tearing into Christmas presents, of spending time with their families, of running in joyous abandon through a snowfall, feeling the entire world was a big Christmas card.  They will never dance, laugh and sing again.  They will never feel the love of their favorite pet, or feel their parents' embrace.  They will never feel like they are so filled with love they are about to burst.  They will never see a beautiful sunset, a dark night sky glittering with countless starts, the first blooms of spring, endless warm summer nights, swimming in the ocean, or watching the scarlet, gold and orange leaves of autumn fall and cascade and spin down from the trees and pile up on the sidewalks.  All that was taken away, by one deranged, cowardly individual, and the gun culture which puts the "right" to own an assault rifle above any sort of common sense or interest of public safety.

There were also adults massacred in this horrendous tragedy, and one must take care to ensure their loss is noted.  They were doing what they loved to do and many died while trying to protect as many children as possible from the rampaging evil.  Their loss would have been terrible enough, but there's something awful, horribly, incredibly wrong when a child is murdered.  People who know me know that I am not particularly fond of children, but this incident had me choking back tears.  No one in their right mind would inflict such a soul-killing, life-destroying horror on anyone, but that's the whole point, isn't it?  No one in their right mind would do that.  But we're not talking about someone in their right mind.

I've read a lot of second-amendment gun fanatics, isolated from this tragedy by distance and just plain luck, sitting a home with their families around them saying that the problem is not with too many guns, but not enough mental illness treatment facilities.  The bottom line is this:  if the gunman's deceased mother had not had an excessive number of high-power weapons, readily available to her son whom she knew full well had mental-health issues, these 26 people would still be alive.  I don't care what anyone says, citizens do not need high-powered automatic weapons or high-capacity ammo magazines, whose only purpose is to kill as much as possible.  By attempting to deflect the blame for this outrage to the mentally ill, the gun lobby in this country is showing that they care absolutely nothing about the death of innocents, but only about their "rights" under the second amendment.

Everyone is calling for stronger measures to keep this from happening again.  I have no hope that anything will be done.  Over the next week or so, other news stories will push this awful, still-unfolding story off the front pages, and everyone will get swept up in the holiday hub-bub.  Members of Congress are far too cowardly and beholden to the gun lobby to ever pass any kind of legislation which would make something like this even marginally less likely to occur.  We will never be rid of the scourge of mental illness, and we will always have guns, because that is an immutable part of the American culture, but the very least we can do is try to make it much more difficult for the wrong kind of weapons to fall into the hands of the sick, the damaged and the psychopathic.  But I really don't think anything like that will happen.  That would be too sensible, and the gun nuts believe any measure to control their gun ownership is about as acceptable as widespread, government-sanctioned child molestation.

Much air-time and print will be used up trying to explain the inexplicable, comprehend the incomprehensible, and fathom the unfathomable.  We've already started to see sad, painful stories of parents remembering their dead children.  We will be seeing photos of impossibly gorgeous little girls, and handsome, bright little boys.  So much promise, so much potential - utterly squandered.

Where an answer will be found, if at all, is impossible to know.  Is the answer down one of the endless, dark corridors of the lethal labyrinth of mental disease?  Or is it a peculiar twist of American culture that innocents are sacrificed so someone can exercise a "right?"  Would our freedoms be so diminished by re-instating a ban on assault weapons?  The world didn't end the first time, and it won't happen again.

It will be only a matter of time before some other slaughter of innocents will push the Sandy Hook incident further down the list of horrible, awful crimes, involving guns and mental illness.  The critical question is, have we learned anything at all, and have we gained the courage to do something about it?


  1. I think only some of us have learned. My heart aches for this community and all the others that are subject to this kind of brutality. Lots of people should be forced to stare into the faces of those parents. I think the answer is found in both places.....much more dedication and time and money for mental health treatment but I do think there are some people that might be beyond all help...those people are the reason we need guns to be much tougher to get.

    1. As I stated I have no real expectation that Congress will stand up to the gun lobby and pass common-sense gun reform. At the very least the assault weapon ban which expired in 2004 should be reinstated along with a ban on high-capacity magazines. And with this big push to reduce spending and the deficit, the first things to go are public welfare resources like mental health treatment. The only things that will start to solve these problems are political courage and leadership, and Congress has shown itself to be woefully short on both.