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I wept because, of course, they were just so little. And all they did was go to school. They went off to school for a day of reading and learning and laughing and having lunch in the cafeteria and smiling at their teachers who were there to help them. Maybe today would be somebody's birthday in their class, and they would have cupcakes or little mini Snickers bars.
Instead, someone blasted his way into their school with an assault rifle and slaughtered their classmates and their teachers. And instead of Sandy Hook becoming the first name ever associated with a school shooting, it joins a community. Instead of Sandy Hook being a rarity, it lands on a fairly lengthy list.
After the two teenaged gunmen strode the halls of Columbine in April of 1999 and killed fifteen people, including themselves, nothing meaningful regarding sensible gun regulation happened. I was teaching at the time, and our school's reaction was to devise a security protocol and institute student I.D.'s. My students wanted to talk about the I.D.'s, mainly how silly of a response they were. "The Columbine shooters were Columbine students!" they pointed out. "That's not the reason," one student said darkly. "They want to be able to identify the bodies."
As I was watching the coverage and crying, I was also angry. Angry because Columbine had meant nothing, obviously. Angry because it seems as if politics is more important than, ultimately, commonsense safety of our schools and our neighborhoods. Why is the NRA allowed to bully our legislature? Do students have to die so that people can take their guns to National Parks? Buy guns freely at gun shows? And do you mean to tell me that guns make us safer when the USA has more guns than any other large nation, yet we have more gun violence and gun deaths than any other large nation? If you put fifty people in a room and give them all a gun, does that make the fifty-first person who goes into the room safer?
I also became angry because I thought of those poor teachers who went to school that day prepared to teach, yet walked into a survival situation. I thought about how our country as a whole does not value teachers. How many times do I hear about how teachers are merely overpaid babysitters? How they only work nine months a year; how "those that can, do and those that can't, teach?"
I became angry when I thought about the shooter, who was only a twenty-year old young man. How disturbed he must have been! Did he ever get any help, or could his mother, who was his custodial parent, not get assistance because of some problem with insurance? I thought about all of the baloney that Rick and I sometimes have to go through just for prescriptions. Why is our health care system such a mess? Was this a contributing factor?
Lisa, over at Anali's First Amendment, said she was trying to write it out. Write about the Sandy Hook tragedy as a sort of catharsis, to release her grief and make some sense of her feelings and reactions so that she could regain some serenity.
That's what this post is, too. I couldn't put something up here in this space without first acknowledging this event. It was too vast for me to go unmentioned. And it was too much with me to go unwritten.
The writing is not as refined as I would normally like. I didn't go for style. It's not pretty. It's not impeccably researched. It's probably not even coherent. Now, look out for this last part because it's raw and ugly, but it's very, very much what I want to say.
I knew that this time, because the victims were very little children and because there were so many, that there was a better chance of getting some real discussion on gun control. Maybe not actual Gun Control Capital G And C, but at least some substantive talk. Because no one gives a good goddamn about teenagers getting shot up, it would seem. I do, but who cares what I think? But we all know that until some poor deranged shooter goes into the Congress and shoots a bunch of these stodgy old men right in their zippers(which seems to be the only thing that they do care about), no one in Washington will have a sense of urgency regarding commonsense legislation about regulating guns in this country.
How telling that not a single pro-gun rights senator would appear on today's Meet the Press.