Let me start this way. An absolute tragedy took place last Friday. Deranged lunatic kills 20 small children, kills his mother, and kills himself. There is no justification and no explanation. It is simply reprehensible. Now that this is established, let me say this. Enjoy this week. Enjoy this time when the media and the public is in mourning. This is when the media, however briefly, tries to be sensitive, when the most staunch republican feels remorse about gun culture. It’s a short-lived period where humanity, for only the teeniest fraction of second, takes a deep collective breath.
Immediately after 9/11 I recall this glimmer. After, what can only be described as apolocyptic devastation, there was the shortest glimmer of sanity. Explanations for why 9/11 occurred were immediate. And while the bigotry and blame had already begun, a contrarian view almost made it to the foreground. It went like this. Is it possible that Anti-Americanism sentiment in the middle east is partly fueled by desperate people in desperate countries? Could it be that decades of war has disenfranchised millions of people, to the point they have nothing left to live for except the faint hope that something better is waiting upon death? Whether you agree or not, it was a rare, situational approach. It looked not just at the immediate devastation, but at the bigger picture. It was only in this ephemeral moment that a real public debate almost took hold. A secure border, for instance, might have more to do with aid than with bombs. It may be poverty that is the real challenge to public safety and that people, no matter where they live, their background or their religious beliefs actually want the same things: food and a decent standard of living for their families. But the moment passed. Instead, as could have been predicted, 9/11 led to two wars, more bloodshed and, ultimately, more hatred for the US.
Now back to NewTown. Relative to 9/11 this was a small incident, but, for the victims and their families it is no less tragic. And in its aftermath, we have arrived at a similar place. There are glimmers of big picture thinking. Why is it, for instance, that mental health issues are often ignored? Why don’t we treat these conditions with the same attention and care that we do victims of cancer or other chronic disease? And, for that matter, how does a 20 year old get his hands on an assault rifle? These are big picture questions that require deep, introspective, and divisive debates. But, in my view, wrestling with these issues is the only way that similar incidents will not be repeated in the near future. But fear not. A reactive approach is on the way shortly. And the proposed solutions will have little to do with the underlying problem and everything to do with the symptom.
After all, what better way is there to protect your children’s safety than better armed grade-school teachers in the classroom and more sensitive metal detectors at the entrance.