The Way I See It
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.
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.