This morning, I, like so many others across the globe, sit with tears streaming down my face and into my lap as I think about the 26 souls who are now in Heaven on a direct path from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. I can not possibly imagine the angst the families of the 20 children and 6 adults who died yesterday are experiencing. Nor can I fathom having to be the law enforcement or medical examiner staff that must process the crime scene. As the stories trickle out in the coming days, we will hear of the teachers in the two classrooms and those who confronted the assailant, and I want these adults to be recognized, as their families have also lost a loved one. The 20 children, babes, and innocents are looking down upon us and it is they who will be asking the question, “Was my passing in vain? We must collectively insure that it is not the case, that we can and must make adjustments so as to mitigate the opportunities for which those of evil intent are successful.
All of my adult life I have followed the mantra that good will persevere over evil and today is no different. I liken yesterday’s events to the righteous taking a blow from evil. And I continue to believe that man is inherently filled with good. What should we do? I believe we must address the availability of firearms in the United States and tighten up the process by which individuals are able to obtain arms. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution states, A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and many will call for its revocation, while others will call for its continued broad interpretation. The conversation must begin, and I look for my President, to lead that discussion, and I look for my President to push the discussion to meaningful action. I also look at the legislative branch of government to work together. My optic and experience says, the “regulated militia” of 1789 is addressed by the National Guard; the right to bear arms by citizens need not include automatic or semi-automatic weapons to be in the hands of the private citizen; there is no reason that an individual should be permitted to own fire arms in quantity (I appreciate there are collectors of guns, as there are those who collect coins); there should be exclusions from the right to keep firearms; and yes, where you reside will be pertinent in the discussion (as I live rural and have bear, bobcat, cougar, and coyote passing within feet of my home, and I may need a different set of regulations than the individual who lives in a condo in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle).
And what of the children in our homes, how do we speak to them? Dr. Nancy Snyderman I think gave some of the best advice I heard being proffered, and I paraphrase, keep the discussion age appropriate, watch for signs of regression in actions, becoming clingy, bed-wetting, etc, if your young child is not aware of the events – no need to make them aware, and most important hold them close and let them know you are there. Add to that please, the words of Fred Rogers, host of the PBS “Mr Roger’s Neighborhood” for so many years:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers
I also expect the rabid press to learn from this, and the optimist in me says they will, the cynic in me says, fat chance. I read a quote from Roger Ebert in this regard yesterday, and shared it widely. Here is Ebert’s quote:
“Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.
The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”
In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.” –– Roger Ebert
I say to the press – take heed of Roger Ebert, and engage in a bit of self-restraint.
Please, today and every day say a prayer for the souls lost this day in Newtown and ask the Patron Saint of Children, Saint Pancras to watch over all of the children of our world and keep them safe, here and in heaven.
Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven
Here are two sites where you can peruse the stats concerning deaths caused by firearms. The first, the Children’s Defense Fund, and their report, “Protect Children Not Guns 2012″ and the US Government statistic site, specifically where cause of death statistics are provided, US Census data on Cause of Death.