There is a hard underbelly in the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown that I've been wanting to address for a while now, but have scarcely wanted to acknowledge it for fear of perpetuating it. But my disgust and anger is so full and complete these days that I can hardly contain it.
At first, in the days after the tragedy, I found in some corners of the internet an outrage against the outrage. That is, there was a small but vocal contingent indignant at the amount of emotion that was evoked by the Newtown tragedy. How could one be so upset about these 26 (27?) lives being lost when lives are lost every day in Syria, the Congo, even the South Side of Chicago? Why were these lives so much more worthy of people's angst and attention than those lives?
Dec. 28, 2012 - Hamden, CT, USA - Names of the victims are written on a paper chain garland sent to the Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association which is collecting snowflakes to create a Winter Wonderland for the kids of Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Credit Image: © John Woike/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Since the situation is so close to me, I figured that it was just me who found those arguments ridiculous. Of course all senseless violence and loss of life is terrible. These lives are indeed no more or less valuable than the other lives that may be lost in a similar way. That doesn't make it any less senseless or terrible. It's a false argument to me. Just because other terrible things happen doesn't make this terrible thing less terrible. I brushed it off.
Then in the days that followed, new arguments came. These were more judgmental, more spiteful: that this type of thing would have never happened in a more conservative state, where folks routinely walk around with concealed weapons. That frankly, we're reaping what we've sown here with our more liberal leaning society up here in Connecticut. There were even some crazy extrapolations of that, stating that this was simply God's judgement call on a state that is full of wealthy folks, approves of gay marriage and continually sends more progressive type representatives to Washington.
Shocked at the callousness of such statements, the disregard of the real human pain and suffering that I was witnessing all around me, I fumed. I saw these postings on Facebook, heard them whispered on news outlets in the comments sections, but couldn't muster myself to respond to them. These were surely intended to inflame, these types of statements. Better to ignore and not draw attention to these types of outlandish comments; to acknowledge them would give them validity, I thought.
Instead, I tried to counteract the dark side (is there a light one?) of this tragedy by doing good works myself: working as a volunteer to help at the school where the Sandy Hook children would later attend, and the warehouse where they myriad of donations were being sent; spreading word of the various things locals could do to help; donating money to the groups set up to handle such things. I prayed, a lot, to my God, asking Him to help these angry people find peace in their hearts. I tried to be kinder, gentler to my children, family and those around me.
But still, the darkness seems to be continuing to spread.
A friend clued me in via an email that there seems to be a small but growing contingent of people in our country who are questioning whether the tragedy at Sandy Hook even happened. They are calling it a "Sandy Hoax". Their arguments ranged from the inaccuracies of initial news reports to the lack of tears shed by victims' families to the dearth of updated information regarding the shootings to the lack of visual images publicly available of the bodies of victims. The reason for the "hoax" as stated by those who are perpetuating this fallacy is that the whole scenario was elaborately planned and executed, with the help of a left leaning media, to force a conversation and action on gun control in our country.
I am astounded and absolutely disgusted by such arguments and the people who would make them.
In my way of thinking, you'd have to be one cold hearted bastard (I was going to type in "human being" but couldn't bring myself to use the phrase here) to even imagine such a scenario. Let me tell you, I am sure these 26 (27?) families that were directly impacted by the loss of life from this tragedy would love nothing better than to wake up today and find this all a dream, a story, a made up reality television show.
Let me be clear, because I live here. Because I have spoken with people who saw the bodies at the funerals. Because I've spoken with the grandfather of one of the victims. Because I got caught in the traffic at one of the wakes. Because my own children were put on lockdown for hours that day and came home shaken and scared. Because there are still, to this day, policemen patrolling the schools in my town of Monroe, CT. Because while I didn't know any of the victims personally, I know so many people who do, too many to even count. And believe me, those children aren't hiding somewhere and their parents aren't helping perpetuate some vast conspiracy game. Those kids and teachers are dead. They're gone. The loss is real and raw and palpable. Just because they're not showing that grief on camera doesn't mean it isn't.
The events of December 14th were, and continue to be horrific, tragic and unspeakable. What happened that day is still trying to be unraveled so that those affected can find some way to move forward.
What happened at Sandy Hook isn't about gun control, or mental health, or some national agenda, or inner city vs. bucolic suburb. It is about these victims who lost their lives in a senseless act that can't possibly be explained or understood. It is about those who loved them. It is about the many, many who are trying to help everyone affected by these terrible events put some of the pieces back together in a puzzle that will always be missing 26 (27?) of its pieces. It isn't about you, or liberals and conservatives, red states versus blue ones, or God's punishment. It isn't about who deserves media attention and who doesn't, it isn't about fighting over who gets to sit where at the table of healing, and it certainly isn't about politics.
So stop. I say to all of you perpetuating the type of hate that started all of this in the first place, just stop. Stop claiming it didn't happen, because it did. Stop rationalizing your own agendas and trying to fit them into the puzzle of Sandy Hook. Take a step back, pull yourself away from your anger and your vitriol. Your time and energy would far better spent trying to be a part of a solution that helps prevent future such tragedies rather than contributing to them with anger and fear.
*The author is a resident of Monroe, CT, the town directly to the south of Newtown, CT, Sandy Hook students now attend classes in Chalk Hill School, in Monroe, CT.
**Regarding my use of the numbers of victims. Many talk of the 26 victims of violence that day at Sandy Hook. I am not sure why the mother of the gunman is not always counted in the victim tally, and perhaps there is a reason that I am unaware of. Hence my use of 26? 27? in questioning the true number of innocents who perished that day.
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