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.

Killer X and Our Latest Slaughter

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.   A white guy g0es into a school, or place of work or political rally with guns and blows away as many people as he can before killing himself.   The latest of these stories played out in Aurora, Colorado a few days ago, but this time the killer surrendered, perhaps after almost escaping since his outfit resembled that of a SWAT officer .  Also, the theater scenario was novel, the blending of real evil with a  fantasy movie format by a killer who told police he was “the Joker,”  the diabolical antithesis of the caped crusader in the Batman saga.   Killer x died his hair red like the Joker’s.

united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web

(Photo credit: kevindean)

The scrutiny is now in full swing, of course.  Just how crazy is this guy and is there any way this could have been prevented?   If one plans for months to devastate others while choosing a scenario that makes real a movie fantasy of good vs. evil, by playing the part of  evil incarnate, is that man really insane?  Or has he just given up on good and chosen evil?   I don’t know.

And as for prevention?   I am at a loss to say.  All I  know is this did not shock me.  And I don’t believe it shocked most of you, either, unless you know the victims.  It has become part of our  way of life.   Back in 1966 when this kind of rage was expressed by a sniper who shot people at random from a 300 foot tower at the University of Texas…..NOW THAT WAS SHOCKING?   It was something new and incomprehensible back then.

Now it is old hat.   On the other hand, if you were shocked, maybe I’m speaking only for my jaded old self.   Still, I’m not so jaded as to sit stone faced watching the  Aurora, Colorado prayer vigil Sunday evening.

Tears welled up hearing of the death of  six year old Veronica Moser-Sullivan and the heroism of three others.  A TV reporter  interviewed Chantel, the  “estranged” wife of one of the heroes, 26 year old Jonathan Blunk,  another of the twelve who were murdered.   The navy veteran died shielding a woman friend  who survived.  He had wanted to reenlist in hopes of becoming a Navy Seal.  Chantel said he was a good guy who “wanted to die as a hero.”  He did.

President Obama was there and told of the bravery of two young friends, Allie Young and Stephanie Davies.   After the gunman threw a smoke bomb on the floor of the movie theater Allie was shot in the neck as she rose to notify others of what was happening. Stephanie placed her finger over Allie’s neck where she had been shot and  called 911.  She refused to leave her friend’s side, even as the shooting continued around them.  She may have saved Allie Young’s life by applying pressure to the wound.

I was touched by both the courage and loss.  Speaking of the actions of these people and others as well as the large gathering and numerous expressions of sympathy, someone said:  “It is amazing that one bad person has brought out so much good.”

Adding to the “good” was the President’s not mentioning the name of the killer as requested by a relative of one of the slain.  Of course, we will hear his name often in upcoming days, but I will keep thinking of him as killer x.   They keep showing that same photo  on TV and in the papers, and I can’t tell if his smile would look so creepy if I did not know what he had done.  I would like to see no pictures of him.   While there are reasons to try to understand him better, can we somehow limit the notoriety in the process?

Another man who never wants to see another photo of killer x is Tom Teves, father of Alex, another who died shielding a woman friend from the killer’s bullets.  A regular reader of USA Today, he has stopped because they show that photo regularly.   Mr. Teves urged CNN and all networks to “move on” and not dwell on the killer.  Instead focus on the heroes, victims and survivors.   Anderson Cooper of CNN was respectful of that in his interview.

In a divided  society that has lost the traditional distinction between the famous and the infamous, blurred by the rise of THE CELEBRITY, can we all at least  agree not to celebrate a murderer with our attention?    Not mentioning his name at the vigil was one small step in the right direction.   Tom Teves suggested another.

Hopefully we will learn how to do this better since this is part of our way of life now.