Newtown

The Apocalypse took place yesterday. Not the bullshit Mayan 2012 scenario — the real thing. For dozens of families in Newtown, Connecticut, their world ended at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And if anybody in the USA wants to talk about the Rapture, or Doomsday Prepping, they need to turn and face the small New England town where classrooms of children were massacred, and see what’s in front of their eyes. Then we all need to figure out how to stop this from happening again.

This post is going to be disjointed, but I don’t want to wait until I’m calm enough to write smoothly or dispassionately.

Last night a CNN reporter referred to “this unimaginable tragedy.” What a crock. After Columbine, and Aurora, and Tucson, and Virginia Tech, a mass shooting isn’t only imaginable: it’s predictable. Yesterday’s atrocity was at least the 61st mass attack in the United States since 1981. The Sandy Hook massacre was the second mass shooting in the US this damned week.

After Columbine, I talked for a long afternoon with a friend from Littleton. We agonized over the why and the how and wondered what we could do to protect our children and help our communities and make a difference that might stop such a disaster from happening again. But here we are 13 years later. It’s far, far past time to take serious steps to stop gun massacres from happening again.

Candlelight vigils won’t do it. Offering parents a catalogue of books that explain how to talk to children about the violent murder of their little friends won’t do it. That a list of such titles is available indicates that something is completely fucking wrong.

We have to look at some facts. Including the fact that the firearms homicide rate in the United States is 19.5 times higher than in other high income countries. Yes, horrible mass shootings and school attacks take place in other countries. No American should use that as an excuse for inaction or, God help us, to feel better about the outrageous number of firearm mass murders in the United States.

Saying nothing can be done is bullshit.

After the Dunblane massacre at a primary school in Scotland, the UK tightened its handgun laws significantly. No school shooting has taken place in Britain since then. Correlation, coincidence, or cause? Maybe some of each. Changing gun laws in the United States would be significantly harder, for legal and cultural reasons. But it wouldn’t be impossible. Or how about increasing the number of people carrying guns — would that protect kids better? Plenty of Americans make this argument, and in fact are outraged that kindergarten teachers aren’t strapped 24/7. Maybe that’s the answer: swaddling kids in Kevlar clothing from head to toe, putting combat helmets on five-year-olds, locking down schools with stormtroopers posted at every door, aiming laser sights and dum-dum bullets at parents’ heads until after the strip search. Concertina wire around the school entrance. Maybe that’s an answer. Some pundits and gun proponents advocate this solution. But is that the society we want to build?

Because the rest of the world, aside from maybe Yemen and Somalia, doesn’t operate that way.

Now is the time to do something. It’s way too late, but we can’t rewind the clock. We have to start today.

What I don’t want to hear:

— Don’t tell me guns have nothing to do with mass murder.

— Don’t tell me the Second Amendment settles the argument. It’s a starting point, not a solution. If you argue for the unlimited right to bear powerful firearms, you’re telling me that American guns are worth the price: murdered children.

— Don’t tell me the solution is to arrest Hollywood directors and video game designers. We can discuss the culture of violence in entertainment, but that’s only a small part of the conversation.

— Don’t dare tell me that this school massacre is God’s punishment upon America for the separation of church and state. I cannot express strongly enough my disgust for religious hucksters who blame the Sandy Hook shooting on the fact that the kids there didn’t pray to Jesus during class. Teachers at that school died trying to save the lives of the kids in their care.

The Washington Post has Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States. Read it.

It’s going to take legal and cultural change to start making a difference. It’s going to take a serious look at mental health treatment. It’s going to take a lot of work. But it’s time to get started. Before one more person dies.

32 responses to “Newtown

  1. Thank you for not curbing your passion on this..anyone who says “this is not the time” is just plain wrong. I am sickened by the trade off some in this country are willing to bargain for their precious guns.

  2. Amen, Meg. It IS time to get started. Not treading on people’s rights, but protecting our young, and dealing with the problems of this age, unlike any age before (not worse, simply unlike). Thank you for posting this.

  3. Thank you for your bluntness, I honestly appreciate it! I’m from Germany and was an exchange student in North Dakota ten years ago. ND is a strongly Republican and very conservative state. My host mom posted a photo on Facebook this morning that says “Dear God, why do you allow so much violence in our schools? Signed, a concerned student.” “Dear concerned student, I’m not allowed in schools. God.” I’m at a complete loss about what to say about this or what happened yesterday.

    • Thanks, Marie. And I have to say, I refuse to believe God would let twenty children die because he’s annoyed about American Constitutional law.

  4. My thoughts exactly, Meg. There is always a problem with “human rights” if they can be used as an excuse to destroy.

  5. Excellent piece and I agree, it’s going to take CULTURAL change; and part of that change must be personal responsibility: The personal responsibility of the health worker to be better at their job and call for heightened care for a borderline patient – perhaps even to adjust that border. The personal responsibility of our elected officials to do what’s right for our society rather safekeeping their jobs. The personal responsibility of a parent to care for their borderline offspring.
    One place I think we can start is to shut down – or severely limit – ammunition sales along with the paraphernalia used to make it individually. That move has nothing to do with the second amendment and everything to do with the control of the USE of firearms.

    • In your first paragraph, you point to health workers, elected officials, and parents needing to do a better job. How about also yourself (and myself, of course) as taxpayers for insisting on, and paying for a better mental health care system. I don’t disagree with you at all, I would just take your position further. I believe that the mother (the first victim that day) took her responsibility very seriously and that she fought for her son on a daily basis for 20 years.

      • Thanks for your comment, Tina, and I agree with you. Fighting for a comprehensive health care system is equally important. Letter writing, canvassing, speaking with our votes, they all count; but only insofar as our elected officials heed our call. California’s Senator Feinstein’s been promoting her ‘efforts’ all weekend about reinstating the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 – eight years ago! – why didn’t she work to make sure it didn’t expire? Possibly because it was politically too dangerous. Are our voices too small – as individual citizens – to affect significant change? I fear possibly so. We need an elected official to step forward – without regard to their re-election – and start the change. Maybe Obama’s message tonight was the first step.

  6. Thank you for writing this, Meg. I think this is the worst horror ever and I can not pit into words how to express my feelings. I am going to post this link to my Facebook page because I agree with every word and can not do anything close to it. Everyone needs to read your prose. It seems to me we are producing monsters at too fast a clip. I am literally sick to my stomach over this.
    I wouldn’t say this piece is disjointed. It is suitably passionate.

  7. I thought the United States was supposed to be the “land of the brave” – so why isn’t anyone brave enough to stand up to the morons who advocate no change to the OUT-OF-DATE gun laws?

  8. Thank you for your passionate words. I only wish our national leaders would listen!

    • I disagree with your gaming and movie reasoning on so many levels. (pun intended)
      We (in New Zealand) also see these movies and we have Wii,, PS3, Xbox and access to the same things on the Net that the people of the U.S have… so why are there a lot less mass killings in our country?
      Because–it is a lot easier to kill a large number of people at one time (before you’re taken out by either the police or your own hand) when you have firearms as opposed to a knife/knives or other similar weapons.
      On the very same day that this happened in Connecticut, there was an attack in China on Primary school aged children (5-11 yrs) that left 22 children and at least one adult injured. they have ALL survived their attacks so far–the perpetrator used a knife.
      In the Connecticut attack, only ONE person survived their injuries… injuries caused by 9mm handguns no less.
      It really is very hard to ignore the facts.

      • Oh shit meg, this was supposed to be in response to “Andy O.”

        Sorry Charles Williams…. (I was so upset after reading Andy’s submission that I plonked my response in the wrong place… I’m so sorry.)

  9. SOMETHING made this individual go haywire, and it wasn’t the gun. Could it have been the parents’ acrimonious divorce after 28 years of marriage? Could it have been the father not having seen the individual for 6 months? (exact quote: the father “had contact as recently as July”) Could it have been the extensive video gaming? Any bets that the individual wasn’t just rocking “FIFA 13” or “Tiger Woods PGA Tour”?

    Among the 12 points the WaPo article cited was 6 of the deadliest mass shootings have all occurred since 2007. Why? What’s the root cause? Gun laws have actually gotten stiffer since Virginia Tech, and were ratcheted up significantly before that with the Brady Bill and the post L.I.E. legislation. So why are the killings increasing?

    The culture is rotten. Rotten to the core. The sources are many, but a few are obvious – Divorce, Hollywood, Gaming. Add this to the gun availability – there are nearly 300 million firearms in America, making removal physically impossible (source: Atlantic Monthly, this month actually) – and you almost have to wonder why incidents don’t happen more often.

    Sorry, but I look around and see nothing but vile crap from the entertainment industry. Quentin Tarantino is an example. His “art” is Exhibit A of the numbing of our society toward violent death. Quentin Tarantino individually is a low-grade piece of dogshit. Collectively, he, the Weinsteins, and their ilk couldn’t give a flying fuck about the impact their “art” has on the society at large. Actually, on second thought, I think they do consider the impact, as it relates to their bottom line.

    And they call oil company executives “evil”.

    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/quentin-tarantino-violence-is-what-makes-movies-good-6732816.html

    So, violence makes movies – his “art” – so good? Hope you’re f***ing happy, Tarantino. And you, Christopher Nolan – a portion of the blood of Aurora is on your hands.

    But beyond just the movies, it is the computer gaming industry is the prime agent of spreading the numbness. The non-stop violence – especially human on human violence – is delivered with increasing resolution and detail as the technology continuously improves. Soon you will get (well, we probably already have) full size, full action virtual reality murder.

    Next time the kids go to xBox, PS3, Wii, or even Mac or PC, take a good long look at what happens within the gameplay. Take a good look at the images. Take a look at the gore. Take a look at especially what happens when the gamer “dies” in the game.

    Nothing.

    Reset.

    Grab a drink. Maybe go to the bathroom.

    Start over. Continue killing for hours.

    This perp did just that.

    Real life is different.

    • (Sorry for the double posting, I’d put this in the wrong place earlier.)

      I disagree with your gaming and movie reasoning on so many levels. (pun intended)
      We (in New Zealand) also see these movies and we have Wii,, PS3, Xbox and access to the same things on the Net that the people of the U.S have… so why are there a lot less mass killings in our country?
      Because–it is a lot easier to kill a large number of people at one time (before you’re taken out by either the police or your own hand) when you have firearms as opposed to a knife/knives or other similar weapons.
      On the very same day that this happened in Connecticut, there was an attack in China on Primary school aged children (5-11 yrs) that left 22 children and at least one adult injured. they have ALL survived their attacks so far–the perpetrator used a knife.
      In the Connecticut attack, only ONE person survived their injuries… injuries caused by 9mm handguns no less.
      It really is very hard to ignore the facts.

      • Reply to Flakes. Totally fine with your response.

        I stand by my assertion that Hollywood has a portion of the blame. FWIW, John Grisham agrees with me. Read the details of the Bill Savage murder and try to say with a straight face that Oliver Stone is totally blameless.

        Of interest – a summary of case law concerning media related torts.

        http://lawreview.wustl.edu/inprint/78-4/1157Kunich.pdf

      • Hi Andy,

        On reflection I think you’re probably right. A society that has ready access to this stuff surely must have an element of desensitisation as opposed to one that isn’t seeing, living, breathing and playing fighty/killy/war n blood simulations.
        I guess what I’m thinking is that a hand first has to want to pick up a weapon (perhaps supporting your thoughts) in order to commit these crimes–and if that hand can (easily) access a weapon that spews out shite-loads of projectiles as opposed to a weapon that can’t… then, more people are likely to be seriously hurt (and probably killed) in one incident than would be if there were less types of these weapons available to the general public.

        Thanks for your thoughts, it never (ever) hurts someone to learn something new, or even to just see another perspective. I really appreciate the opportunity. 🙂

  10. It is so good to hear words like these, Meg–thank you. So often I feel like I don’t have the right to an opinion because I’m neither, born, bred nor raised an American, but when these outrageous crimes and then tragedies occur, our hearts break along side yours.
    Someone up at the top there spoke about it being ‘the right time to get started’… I feel like it’s (way) past time and this is partly why those books exist. But it is impossible to take back what has already happened, so yes… the right time has to be now.
    I won’t pretend to know how it feels to have ‘the right to bear arms’ built into being a part of who I am or how it might feel to have that right challenged–for whether right or wrong, this is how a lot of people will see proposed changes to gun laws.
    I come from a country where it is much harder to own a firearm, through both legal and illegal means. There are far fewer guns in our society per capita and statically we do have a lot less firearm-related deaths and injuries.
    That is not to say that we don’t have the same level of mental health and criminal issues, (per capita) we do. But because of the reduced amount of firepower–it is much harder for our criminal and mentally ill people to get their hands on equipment, so we just don’t see these atrocities (as often and) on the same sorts of scale.
    It does sicken me when I hear people question whether having MORE guns would stop these things from happening… it takes my breath away. People actually wonder this?
    If you have a gasoline-fulled fire, would you think to throw MORE gasoline onto it in order to reduce the flames?

    I’m sorry, I wish I knew what the solution is to let America be who she is, but to also keep her people safe. My heart is broken for these people affected by this latest tragedy… I wish I could do something to help alleviate their suffering.

  11. I couldn’t agree more, Meg. And can we start with assault weapons? The ones only used for hunting. Humans. And nothing else.

  12. Okay Missy, just don’t be dissin the Mayans. Because on December 21, when the world is vaporized and becomes nuthin but a big cloud of Mayanaise, I’ll be telling you I told you so. Oh wait, I guess I’ll be gone too. That sucks…

  13. Flakes: Understood that your comment got filed out of order. You and anybody else can always just add a new comment — they’ll then get read in order.

    I’ll also mention that (a) Andy O is a good friend who’s as passionate and outraged about this atrocity as I am, and (b) thanks to everybody for debating such a contentious subject civilly, despite the anger and the pain.

    • Thanks Meg, re: the filing order of the comments. 🙂

      Re: My response to Andy O’s comment… it was definitely just that, a response to his comment–and not directed at his personal character. (I absolutely heard the distress in his words.)
      But I do apologise if it came across as anything else…. yes, there is deep anger and pain for so many right now.

      • Hence my appreciation that everybody’s addressing the issues instead of jumping on each other, even when they disagree with me or with other commenters.

  14. As sick and repulsed as I am over this senselessness, one group manages to make it even worse. Thank the useless Supreme Court for this.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/westboro-baptist-church-picket-connecticut-school-shooting_n_2312186.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular,westboro-baptist-church

    • Oh my gosh, Rich–that is so horrible. No matter how hard I try since I first heard of these groups, I cannot understand this belief… or behaviour.

      My kids and I had our first experience with firearms being used in an unlawful manner recently. Three weekends ago a thirty-five year old man and a fourteen year old boy pulled what appeared to be handguns on my fourteen and twelve year old boys while they were playing down at the river behind my house. The man threatened my older boy, telling him that he was ‘a real big man coming close like that’. (My son was calling my dogs to him, as they were barking at (protecting my kids from) the assailants. When my son approached the dogs to call them to heel, the man told him that ‘if he f’ked with the army he would be shot.’ During all of this, he was pointing the firearm at my boys’ chest.
      My son was understandably terrified and told the man that he just wanted to get past him so he could take the dogs home. The man waved his gun around and refused him passage. My boy had to gather up the other kids (there were three others besides my two) and they had to walk in the other direction away from their homes.
      A neighbour saw they were upset and let them go through his property and back up to the street. Armed police arrived shortly after and they arrested the man.
      He has appeared in court three times in as many weeks and is indicating that he will plead guilty to the charges later in January. He has lied to police stating that my dogs attacked the younger of the two assailants, which is not true, they didn’t even go near them. Two days after it happened, Animal Control arrived to seize my dogs because the man had made an official complaint against them. (This has since been resolved.)
      The guns turned out to be two BB guns that has been stolen from a locked box that belongs to the fourteen year olds father, he has pressed charges. It doesn’t matter what type of gun they were, as far as my kid knew, he was being threatened by an adult that had indicated he was going to shoot him.
      My kids stopped being kids three weeks ago, they don’t play down the river anymore, they don’t walk my dogs and whenever my elder boy sees this man, his face loses all colour, his jaw tightens up and he gets all jittery.

      I’m sorry I don’t even know why I wrote this here, maybe I’m just wanting to explain my fear/anger/grief reactions to the posts.

      • What an awful experience.

      • Flakes, I m very frightened for your children. This person sounds like so many crazies in this country, especially like Jared Loughner (sp?) who gunned down all those people in Tucson, Az. Hopefully a long jail term is in his future for threatening children.
        Friday was an odd day for my wife and I. All we could think of was our 6 year old grandson. An event like this numbs the soul. I think the frustration is the worst because there is no justice for these children and extremely brave teachers who gave all to protect the children.

      • It is an awful experience and we’re frightened too, Rich. It is an ongoing thing because he lives in the same street as us and he isn’t a very nice character to begin with. He’s been to prison for other violent charges and has also had one of those ankle bracelets in a home detention situation. He’s lost his 15 year old daughter to Child Youth and Family services.
        On the one occasion that I had the guts to take my dogs back down there to swim, he screamed at me from the cover of trees (never making himself visible) to ‘put those effing dogs on a leash or he’d call the authorities’. (It is actually an off-lead dog area–I’ve since had that confirmed. My dogs are Labradors btw, hardly scary animals to begin with.) What scared me most about that was the fact that he even knew we were down there–it is impossible to see anybody unless you’re right on the edge of the forestry area… so he’s obviously been watching my movements.
        I’m soooo hoping he does plead guilty because if he doesn’t, then my fourteen year old boy will have to testify in court and this is just something I’d like to avoid at all costs.

  15. Hi,
    I appreciate your passion, but in terms of correlations. Perhaps we should start making stronger, more nuanced correlations about the shooters, the geography, the states’ particular laws–myriad angles from which we can draw stronger correlations about how pockets of violence brew in the US.

    Instead, people choose to attack the obvious correlation: guns kill. It’s the simple mindset, fear of guns, and insistence that gun violence is reduced to such simplistic cause and effect relationship, that perpetuates oversight throughout each generation.

    It’s time we move away from the obvious connections, because as well all know, killing with any weapon is always illegal.

  16. Flakes, the experience your children had chilled me to the bone. It’s heartbreaking when you write: “My kids stopped being kids three weeks ago, they don’t play down the river anymore”

    Your moving post has prompted me to say something else. Years ago when I was a nurse in Western Australia, I had to go out in the police car to the local park, while we tried to track down an absconding psychiatric patient. One of the policeman had a gun and I’d never seen one before and was fascinated by it. I asked if I could hold it and he let me – but only after removing every bullet because, as he said “accidents can happen”. I’ve never forgotten his caution around such a lethal weapon. This man was trained to use guns and he was rightfully cautious. How many people who are not trained, are not cautious? How many people, when they feel the weight of such a weapon – feel a blood-rush of power and become trigger-happy?

    Who is going to stop someone who is high on drugs or alcohol from shooting? Who is going to prevent guns from falling into the hands of the insane, the ruthless and the unscrupulous? The more guns there are in circulation, the more chance there is for them to fall into the wrong hands.

    GUNS KILL.

    From where I’m sitting, I simply can’t imagine how anyone with more than one neurone could want anything other than a fierce clampdown on these lethal weapons.

    America, wake up. You’re not the Wild West anymore. Times change and people – and laws – should change with them.

    • Thanks for your words, Sharon. It’s breaking my heart too that my kids are being put through this, it’s not something that I ever expected would happen, or was even (remotely) prepared for.
      I’m just incredibly thankful that they haven’t had to see the things that those little survivors in Connecticut have seen, I can’t begin to imagine how this will alter their lives forever. That is soul-destroying.

  17. Pingback: 2012: the blog year in review | lying for a living

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s