Monday, December 17, 2012

'These Tragedies Must End' --- But Will They?

An unmitigated tragedy.  Twenty children gunned down by a disturbed young man.  And at school --- their elementary school.  Dead.  Multiple shots to each body.   A half-dozen administrators also among the dead.  You know American society has reached an all-time low when something like this happens.  I thought we were at our nadir when former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head but when a crazed gunman opened fire on a bunch of moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado in early summer, the low suddenly sunk even lower.  Turns out whatever foundation we're standing on is made of quicksand.  We keep sinking and sinking.  The response following this latest tragedy has been in line with the previous mass shootings --- horror, outrage, grief, despair, resolve --- although this one seems to elicit a little more outrage and resolve from the political class.  President Obama traveled to Newtown to meet with the victims' families, grieve, and participate in a candlelight vigil but unlike his previous appearances in the wake of a mass shooting, he seems more decisive about doing something, anything, to prevent this from happening again.  But I'm not convinced.  
(Photo credit:  www.totalmortgage.com)

In a previous post, I cynically stated that whatever loss of life results from our constitutional right to bear arms is, unfortunately, collateral damage for a right we hold dear.  My sentiment, admittedly cynical, is downright callous and cruel when the victims are innocent, young children.  My sympathy for the families of the Newtown victims, however, nudges up against a profound sense of resignation.  Do we really think any meaningful legislation will come of this?  Liberals and progressives are calling for a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban and Obama is vowing to use whatever power his office affords him to ensure that these tragedies end.  I remain unconvinced.  If a politician, Gabrielle Giffords, nearly lost her life from a gunshot to the head and absolutely nothing --- not even earnest dialogue --- followed from that then I'm skeptical anything different will emerge from this catastrophe.  In the most honest piece of reporting I've ever read on this issue (a NY Times Op-Ed published on 12/14/2012), a father who lost his son 20 years ago at the hands of a deranged student on a shooting rampage wrote:

"I came to realize that, in essence, this is the way we in America want things to be. We want our freedom, and we want our firearms, and if we have to endure the occasional school shooting, so be it. A terrible shame, but hey — didn’t some guy in China just do the same thing with a knife?"

This father threw himself into the fight to enact gun-control legislation for 20 years but to no successful avail.  Gun-control has become issue non grata on capitol hill and I suspect this tragedy, along with all the others, will also become a distant memory, a talking point, something we'd all like to forget.  That is, until it happens again. 

As I was preparing to leave this morning (while also thinking about this blog post), I turned on the radio and the hauntingly slow and moving version of  Tears for Fears' "Mad World" came on.  The timing of the song was fitting:  this latest madness is hard to take.


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