Journalists often exaggerate by using the phrase “shattered lives.”
But when it comes to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, it isn’t an exaggeration.
What parent in their worst dreams could EVER think that when they kissed their little child goodbye in the morning, two hours later, their kid would be in a room with classmates, their teacher dead, screaming in terror as a demonic young man dressed in black systematically pumped 3 to 11 bullets into their little bodies?
The shooter’s brutality in seeking to specifically murder small children brings to mind a book I read years ago that still haunts me. It detailed the Nazi’s brutal program to exterminate Jews — just as the shooter in Sandy Hook clearly was trying to exterminate little kids. One passage included a description of Nazis positioning one child in front of another and shooting the first so the bullet then also killed the second ... just for “fun.” Another detailed Nazis hurling groups of Jewish children off a cliff, then burying them — even the surviving, moaning, injured ones.
The Newtown massacre is potentially the 9/11 of American mass murders. In 9/11’s aftermath, the greatest threats to America’s homeland have been from within the homeland. After 9/11, America was (for a while) united in national resolve to pull out all stops and go after terrorists and to make it harder for them to attack the United States ever again. Will it be the same here?
The difference is the bottom line: some seemingly consider shooting victims “collateral damage.”
The victims are treated as mere sacrifices to the right to unfettered gun ownership and NRA preferences. They are deaths to be mourned but never allowed to SERIOUSLY change the status quo. Anyone who assertively argues it’s time for change is attacked as trying to take all of America’s guns away in an attempt to discredit or defeat them.
Mass murders by people with guns are reducing America’s once-safe-for-sure places. Subtract colleges, fast-food restaurants, malls, movie theaters, high schools — and now that quintessential “safe place,” the elementary school.
I never met them, but I personally KNOW the adults and kids who perished in Newtown.
From September 2011 through May 2012, I drove 49,000 miles doing programs in 260 schools throughout the nation in my non-blogging incarnation. I saw schools locked up during school hours and mindful of threats. I spent much time talking to kindergarten and first-grade kids about their interests, hopes and dreams. I saw caring parents, teachers and students trying to create a family environment in school. I encountered dedicated teachers and administrators who loved their students. I told friends: “They would literally give their life for their kids.”
And now some did.
Will it be different this time?
Or does our society now handle these events with an increasingly sanctimonious formula: expressions of grief, perfunctory outrage, nice-sounding vows for change — and the power of special interest money trumping all in the end?
Can it possibly be that when faced between preventing more cold, innocent corpses, politicians could opt instead for cold campaign contribution cash?
So far Republicans and the NRA are largely mum over the issue of seriously regulating guns. So here’s a prediction about real gun control reform:
Don’t. Hold. Your. Breath.
It’s unlikely to happen no matter how many heart-wrenching sidebars we read or see about families who’ll never be the same, past victims who aren’t the same — and gravesites of young people who should not have been lying in the ground for many years to come.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.