"Do they become the lasting image on the American psyche that makes the political obstacles dividing us go away and shakes us into meaningful action to prevent further mass shootings? Or do these faces of unspeakable tragedy fade without real change — just as other faces ... have before them.” — Mark Emmons, San Jose Mercury News, Dec. 23.
My Dec. 12 column, "Gifts That Last” described how we need to take our responsibilities to our children seriously. On Dec. 14, the horrible tragedy in Newtown, Conn. startled and shocked us greatly when we turned on the television or radio. I’ve been trying to write about the tragedy in Connecticut, but just thinking about it has been traumatic. It really hit home since we have two granddaughters in first grade, and to think.
Those who have been able to conquer their tears long enough to advocate the need for gun control, better mental health services, etc. have offered a great memorial to those who will no longer be with us because of a culture that allowed a mentally ill 20-year-old to become a mass murderer. All of those who have written about it or commented in the newspaper, on radio or television (Bill Moyers was especially touching), offer us much to think about.
Then, with pictures of all 20 of the deceased children on the front page of the Mercury News, Mr. Emmons depicted the insanity of it all (not just the killer, but of this culture). It knocked us for a loop again, bringing tears, dismay, anger, frustration and outright rage especially since we, by then, had read and heard the responses of those who are hell-bent on preserving their right to bear arms — even assault weapons — and threatening our nation with anarchy. How about an armed guard at every school? It has come to this!
Consider the many who ran out to purchase more guns to add to the plethora already out there for fear that they may be outlawed. Are they proud of themselves? Is this what it means to be human — distancing ourselves from one another, arming ourselves to the teeth and suspecting everyone we see as being out to do us in? Or is being human reaching out to each other, helping out those less fortunate, willing to give part of what we have to make life easier and safer for others, contributing to programs that help children grow into educated, healthy and empathetic adults? Will this horror wake us up to the way we devalue our children — how our selfish concerns (personally and nationally) have been depriving them of so much of what they need to grow into healthy, productive and compassionate adults?
If we truly valued our children, we would provide them with what they need for good health and a happy and productive future. First, we would strengthen gun laws (and enforce them) so most firearms would be outlawed and those who use them investigated thoroughly. Our schools, preschools, after-school programs, child care, family services, recreation services would be well funded. Environmental chemicals that affect children (and adults) in any negative way would be outlawed. Mental health care would be taken seriously. Ultra-violent, crude, lascivious television, movies, video games, etc. wouldn’t be produced. No child would go hungry and the food they eat would be nutritious. Every child would not be expected to qualify for college when many would be much better off and happier learning a trade instead of dropping out and inhabiting the streets. Instead of ADHD being overdiagnosed and overmedicated, active young boys would be helped to direct their energy to productive purposes and mentored by men who have their best interests at heart.
But, as Robert Reich wrote in his poignant column on Dec. 23, "Whether it’s fighting for reasonable gun regulation, child health and safety overall, or good schools and family services, we can’t have a fair fight as long as special interest money continues to poison our politics.”
The attitude among many of those in Washington is apparently, "I’ve got mine. It’s up to you to get yours. Damned if I’ll part with any of it to make things better for those slackers. And, by the way, I’d better arm myself with an automatic rifle so they don’t try to take it away from me.” As the greedy, narcissistic, self-righteous gain more power, maybe this is what occurs when a nation is on its way to oblivion. Good people lose hope of being able to change things. "Our shocked nation still is grappling to comprehend. And we are left to wonder if these victims of horrifying violence will be the faces of change.” — Emmons.
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 650 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is email@example.com.