Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reflections on Newtown

I avoided it at first. The news came to me while I was driving home from some Christmas shopping. It was an early report and not entirely clear so I was afforded the luxury to ignore it for the moment. A few hours later I turned on the TV and saw President Obama’s remarks following the tragedy.

Over the weekend I was busy and preoccupied so I did not give the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut much thought at all. Then on Monday afternoon I decided to watch the morning broadcast of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. I spent a great deal of the time with a clenched throat and misty eyes. I’d like to first of all commend the Morning Joe team for focussing on the victims, the community and possible solutions – and not the perpetrator of this unimaginable crime.

My previous experience with the shooting had been largely through radio, or President Obama’s remarks, but I am a more visual person and so I do not think that reached into me as much as seeing the photos of agonized parents, shaken first responders, or, most painful, the faces of the lost children. Photos of the victims are available here, at the Hartford Courant website. The Courant has excellent, and heartbreaking coverage of the shooting.

Looking at their little faces, and bright smiles it becomes immediately obvious how young these children were, and how innocent and how monstrous an act this was. For a few weeks now I have been working as a teacher at a private tutoring company. I teach students in middle school, or high school, but the facility has plenty of pre-schoolers and young elementary students around. When I watched the news coverage of the incident at Sandy Hook I saw their little faces, and their bright eyes, and their awkward, frantic movements.

Returning to the Morning Joe broadcast, the first thing I saw was a statement given by Joe Scarborough, video clip below.

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Scarborough, a four-term congressman, was endorsed by the National Rifle Association each time, and had an A-rating from that organization. His position has changed. He says that Sandy Hook changed everything and reasonable restrictions on military-style weapons are needed. The discussion from the rest of Monday’s broadcast made clear that there appears to be a lot of agreement that some restrictions on weapons available in the United States must be implemented. Many of the Morning Joe hosts have visited to Newtown, or know Connecticut which added an effective weight to their comments.

I hope the panels on Morning Joe on Monday are right and that change will come, but we’ve seen this before. The horror is different, and more painful, but there have been 31 school shootings since Columbine in the United States and laws have become more relaxed for guns, not tighter. Restricting guns is only one part, the types available are one aspect, but who can purchase them is another. Better identification and treatment of mental health problems is a component, as is addressing cultures of violence and indifference to human life.

I hope the families and people of Newtown can find peace one day, and that the survivors can live lives unmarred by this trauma and continue their blissful innocence. I hope their deaths are not meaningless, and that because of this horror things change in America so that a crime of this magnitude cannot happen again.

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