Like television viewers here in the US and around the globe, I have been overwhelmed by the coverage of the Newtown, CT massacre of schoolchildren and their educators. Overwhelmingly the victims of that tragedy were little ones between the ages of 6 and 10 years, so the term “slaughter of the innocents” applies.
In the endless coverage the Newtown, Connecticut slaughter if innocents I hear references to gun reform— so-called liberals on one side saying it’s time for America to get rid of the nearly 300,000,000 guns in its population and those called conservatives on the other arguing that even more guns would prevent this kind of tragedy. What I do not hear is the articulation of our national madness where the American idiocy of putting guns in the hands of “anyone who wants one” is concerned.
I also do not hear anyone addressing America’s shame. Here, in what so many like to call “the greatest country on earth” we kill and are killed by more guns than any other first world country and many others that we disparagingly refer to as the third world. The USA has the largest number of privately-owned guns of 178 countries surveyed. In the Newtown instance the murderer is said to have used one of several guns registered to his mother, a middle-aged suburban divorcee living in an idyllic New England village. Her relatives say that gun owner-- killed by her deranged son using one of her own guns-- needed the guns for “self-defense.” Apparently the irony of her arsenal’s failure to protect her is lost on them.
Then there is the hypocrisy bordering on lunacy of those who spend countless hours, energy and resources promoting the “defense of innocent human life” whenever they talk about a woman’s legal right to have an abortion. Yet here, in Newtown, scores of slain innocent elementary schoolchildren-- about whom the philosophical questions of personhood and citizenship are moot-- are prepared for burial with no one speaking of their “right to life.”
One survivor of Columbine on CNN right after the Newtown shooting kept repeating that we Americans “are better than this.” This is irrational on several levels.
There may have been a time when we were better than this. America used to know that guns were primarily for soldiers, law enforcement officers and hunters. It understood the difference between revolutionary war “militias” and the official National Guard and State Police that have replaced them as professional protectors of our citizens.
America used to build schools filled with teachers and students who were safe in their classrooms. School doors were open to visitors who might stop by and parents or grandparents did not have to show their ID’s at a locked door before being allowed to pick up a sick child from the school nurse.
On hot summer nights America’s children slept with the ground floor windows and doors of their postwar bungalows open and they went Trick or Treating on Halloween with no fear of finding razor blades in their candy bars. They sat down in diners to eat lunch and walked to the bank to do business: there were no drive-through food pick-ups, no drive-through ATM’s, no drive-by shootings.
Those who did have guns used the right tool for the job. Hunters had hunting rifles and the police had pistols. Crooks and punks have always had guns, but even they couldn’t just walk into a drug store or hardware and buy an assault weapon in those days. There were no gun shows and none of the attendant gun show registration loopholes to make gun ownership easy, even for the deranged.
We used to live in a time when families that included people prone to violence were painfully aware of the dangers such people could present to themselves and others. They feared the potential for an outburst and worked against that possibility. They did not stock their homes with automatic weapons stored in unlocked cabinets with deadly ammunition just waiting to be used in random acts of killing. Even wars are fought remotely by computers today, so why should suburban housewives and Charlton Heston wannabes need arsenals in their living rooms?
While we mourn the loss of innocent life in Newtown, let us also accept responsibility for what this country has become. Let’s mourn the loss of American innocence and let’s feel the shame we deserve for allowing a group of incongruous blockheads to brainwash a once great nation into believing that Paul Revere will ride again and when he does we’d best all have a rifle to ride with.