The Way I See It

L'Etoile - - IN OTHER WORDS -

Last wee­kend was the se­cond to last wee­kend be­fore Ch­rist­mas day. I, like ma­ny, used the time to get things done; to shop for items that seem so ne­ces­sa­ry du­ring the ho­li­days: gifts, foods, sweets, spi­rits. But as the pile moun­ted, I won­de­red if I was the on­ly one fee­ling hol­low while che­cking off a ne­ver-en­ding list?

In a in­com­pre­hen­sible twist of fate, the mass mur­der of 20 chil­dren and six adults last Friday in New­town, Con­nec­ti­cut oc­cur­red on the cusp of a season tai­lor­made for the youn­gest among us; those who de­light in the ma­gic of the ho­li­days, and who fill an ol­der heart with joy at the simple in­no­cence of child­hood.

So as I went here and there a fee­ling of tri­via­li­ty at amas­sing ma­te­rial goods en­ve­lo­ped me. Yes, the things I bought were for people I love, but like so ma­ny, the people I love pro­ba­bly don’t need the things I was ga­the­ring.

It felt al­most hy­po­cri­ti­cal to fo­cus on fa­mi­ly when 20 sets of pa­rents fa­ced the in­com­pre­hen­sible task of get­ting ready to

bu­ry their child.

Guilt

What I, and ma­ny others no doubt, are fee­ling is sur­vi­vor’s guilt. But I hope it doesn’t go away any­time soon. I have been to more than a few fu­ne­rals in the past year. While grie­ving, those ga­the­red of­ten la­ment life’s fi­ck­le­ness. And they vow to slow down, to fo­cus more on those they love, to ap­pre­ciate what’s real­ly im­por­tant in life.

We mean what we say at the time, but, in­evi­ta­bly, life’s hec­tic pace re­sumes and we’re again consu­med by day-to-day tasks and a ne­ver-en­ding sche­dule.

I won’t say I hope so­me­thing “good” comes from the New­town mur­ders, as that feels too cal­lous. But I do hope we can learn from the tra­ge­dy.

For the Uni­ted States, the les­son is the im­por­tance of adop­ting se­rious and swee­ping gun con­trol laws.

An Ame­ri­cans’ right to bear arms is gua­ran­teed in the Se­cond Amend­ment of the Bill of Rights, in­clu­ded in 1789 in the Uni­ted States Cons­ti­tu­tion. It reads as fol­lows: ‘A well re­gu­la­ted mi­li­tia, being ne­ces­sa­ry to the se­cu­ri­ty of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be in­frin­ged.’ When the Cons­ti­tu­tion was draf­ted, its foun­ding fa­thers fea­red the kind of ty­ran­ny and vio­la­tion of ci­vil rights they had ex­pe­rien­ced at the hands of the Bri­tish go­vern­ment. Gun tech­no­lo­gy at the time had evol­ved from lighting a wick to ig­nite gun­pow­der, to the use of flint­lock mus­kets. Around that time, hand­guns had come in­to fa­shion, but it was not un­til the late 1800s that the first au­to­ma­tic wea­pons were in­tro­du­ced.

The gun his­to­ry les­son illus­trates that the world has chan­ged dra­ma­ti­cal­ly since the foun­ding fa­thers in­clu­ded a per­son’s right to bear arms. It’s time for the laws to change, too.

The preamble to the Cons­ti­tu­tion al­so in­cludes the right to ‘do­mes­tic Tran­qui­li­ty,’ and the ‘Bles­sings of Li­ber­ty to our­selves and our Pos­te­ri­ty.’

Pos­te­ri­ty means the chil­dren.

Clear­ly the rights of 20 beau­ti­ful chil­dren were hor­ri­bly strip­ped away Friday.

Ano­ther les­son is the need for changes in ac­cess to men­tal health ser­vices, in Ca­na­da and the U.S. It’s been re­por­ted the shoo­ter had a his­to­ry of men­tal ill­ness and that his mo­ther did her best to take care of him (while still kee­ping a gun col­lec­tion.) And while those nee­ding ac­cess to men­tal health ser­vices should have it, we al­so need to change the stig­ma as­so­cia­ted with get­ting help, or no­thing will move for­ward.

Fi­nal­ly, the les­son for those of us left ree­ling and heart­bro­ken for the im­pos­si­bly beau­ti­ful lit­tle people gone long be­fore their time is to ne­ver forget. To re­mem­ber these chil­dren each day, and to use that me­mo­ry to love our own kids the best we can, to be kind to stran­gers, and to plug in to help the most vul­ne­rable in our so­cie­ty, in­clu­ding chil­dren and people strug­gling with men­tal health is­sues. It won’t erase the tra­ge­dy at San­dy Hook Ele­men­ta­ry School, but maybe it will make our world a lit­tle bet­ter, a lit­tle more res­pon­sible, which is all we can hope for.

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