Devastated in Newtown, Connecticut

You drop off your six or seven year old child at school, perhaps talking about the Christmas vacation about to begin.  Maybe some seasonal activity you like doing together, like picking a tree.  You go to work or return home to go about your daily routines.    And then, some time later your every-day becomes the day your life was shattered.  You hear news you can’t believe.   Someone has gone to your elementary school and shot children…    Frantically you ask, to yourself if no one else:   Where is my child?  Is she safe?  Oh, my God, make him safe!

Now, days later, you know your child is gone, but you can’t believe it.    Nineteen other children and six adults who did their best to protect them are also gone.  Christmas now means pain and anguish and it will never be the same.  What will?  What can be?

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am trying to imagine the unthinkable nature of this attack to the families who lost cherished ones in this most unpredictable way.  Newtown, Connecticut is a picture post card New England town, or was.  It is the “last place in America” where one would suspect such a tragedy to occur, especially to six and seven year olds.

It is those children that make all the difference here.  Not that it should be that way, but past mass slaughters have not prompted me to imagine the loss felt by parents and spouses and friends in the way this one has.

In July I wrote a post about the deranged shooter in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  I agreed with NY Times columnist David Brooks that these killers are uniquely deranged and “if they cannot find an easy way to get a new gun, they’ll surely find a way to get one of the 200 million guns that already exist in this country. Or they’ll use a bomb or find another way.”

Also, I noted the trend was towards less gun control not more, especially in Colorado.    And I suggested that whatever lip service Barack Obama might give to gun control, little would happen because he would have bigger fish to fry in his second term.

This elementary school massacre changes everything.  The slaughter of six and seven year old children, the most innocent of the innocent, has struck a deeper chord than the unfortunate parade of other mass murders.   This now is a nation changed, so some change regarding gun laws will come. Perhaps changes in our violent movie and video game culture as well.   And our approach to mental health and potential violence, too.

The discussion has already begun with unusual earnestness and we all know there are no simple answers.   And, no, we cannot stop every insanely angry individual from diabolical acts,  but we should be able to make it harder, much, much harder than it is today for that destiny to be fulfilled.

How is Christmas Like the Presidential Election?

Black Friday(Mansfield)

Black Friday(Mansfield) (Photo credit: George Artwood)

ANSWER:  Each is supposed to be about one thing, but is actually about something else.

Take the recent election.  Given the huge problems we face with a weak economy and a rapidly growing, and already huge public debt, one might think that picking the President to lead us would relate closely to those issues.  But that would be wrong.  Very wrong.

It wasn’t the big issues that counted, but whom each of us disliked less.    Despite a steady smear job of Obama throughout his first term, along with a dragging economy that he was of course blamed for (the standard talking point  being “the economy was bad when he took over, but he made it worse”), in the end more of us apparently disliked Mitt Romney even more.  Of course, Democrat negative advertising helped a lot in that regard, but nothing helped more, in my opinion, than that one secret video revealing Romney’s vision of America, or at least the 47% of it, of us, as essentially people who feel entitled to mooch.

In my previous post I referred to a prize fight being ended by one punch.  This was metaphorically true of Romney as well, though ironically, he hit himself in the face.

My point is that neither Obama nor Romney said much that revealed how either was going to come to terms with our domestic problems and were sufficiently vague about our complex foreign issues to be indistinguishable.   On issues that really count, politicians believe less is more.   The less you say, the more safe you are from attack.   That’s why Obama and Boehner’s fiscal talks  are totally private right now.  If they come up with something, they want to announce it together so the blame – which surely will come – can be shared.

In short, the big issues which the pundits babbled about ad nauseum for months were largely divorced from the reality of political selection, which for many boiled down to:   I don’t like this guy, but I dislike the other guy more.   Sorry my more liberal friends, but being voted the somewhat more likeable man is not much of a mandate (*1).

Now take Christmas.  On the surface Christmas is about the miracle of Christ’s birth, the spirit of giving, the importance of family ties, stuff like that.    Its real significance, however, is that our economy is 70% consumer driven and at this time of the year there are no speed limits.  Many stores make their entire annual profit right now.   Black Friday seeped into Thursday evening this year and mark my words, give it another twenty years, and it will kick off on Halloween (Perhaps called:  Orange and Black Friday).

O. K.  O. K.   I realize some of you really love this season, probably because you are good at focusing upon just what you like about it and not what you don’t, so  I’ll keep my Grinch-like self to a minimum.

And I am happy if you’ve been maxing out your credit cards of late, even if not specifically on my behalf.  Your spending pumps up our economy, and I thank you for it.  I really do.  If all of you were as frugal as I am (some, lacking in Christmas cheer might say “cheap”), we would not be tap dancing around a recession, but in a deep depression that would be insurmountable.  I’m not ungrateful.

It is just that when I hear, as I did yesterday morning, a cable pundit pointing out how all this fiscal cliff uncertainty is cutting down our Christmas consumption, and that’s the last thing we need going into the new year, and that horror of horrors, Walmart moms, reportedly anxious about the fiscal cliff, are spending 15%  less this year, well….. I feel my failure to spend is positively unpatriotic.

Last year as I was driving home one evening a female disc jockey seemed to sum it all up.  After playing some porn pop song, she said:  “Now I’ll  play some Christmas carols to put you in the shopping spirit.”

Remember when it used to be called the Christmas spirit?


(*1)  In a previous post I wrote about a pre-election poll I conducted consisting of one bartender who was undecided about his presidential vote.   Later I learned he left the presidential box blank on his ballot, leading me to conclude he disliked both candidates enough to pick neither.

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