Will we be transformed?
It is a fledgling tradition, but traditions start somewhere. It is becoming a ritual for us to settle in on successive nights and work our way through a library of Christmas movies. There’s “White Christmas” with mellifluous Bing Crosby, antic Danny Kay and sumptuous but stiff Rosemary Clooney who transform a failing New England inn and the fortunes of its owner, a retired general under whom characters played by Crosby and Kay served in World War II.
There’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” in which wide-eyed innocent Cindy Lou Who transforms the tiny, mean-spirited heart of a grime-y Grinch into a throbbing puddle of Christmas cheer. Without fail, we enjoy “It’s a Wonderful Life” in which the life of dutiful Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey is transformed during a suicidal Christmas Eve crisis by the bumbling angel Clarence who teaches George the real measure of a life.
We have four different DVDs of the beloved Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.” The churlish Ebenezer Scrooge is played variously by a sour Fredric March, charming Englishman Alastair Sim in a 1951 British telling of the tale, a grim George C. Scott and a hearty Patrick Stewart. Who can’t recite the chap- ters of the harrowing night that transforms the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge into a compassionate benefactor of the Cratchit family?
If you’ll note, there’s a shared theme in all these beloved Christmas movies, and it is “transformation.” The stage was set for the world to be transformed on the first Christmas morning some 2,000 years ago, but 19th and 20th century storytelling remade the concept of transformation for popular entertainment.
Transformation is either something that occurs to you or something that you seek. Unexpected circumstances or occurrences, fate, if you will, have the power to change, up end, alter, divert and re-make lives: health problems, a death, a divorce, tragedy, an accident, job loss, bankruptcy, foreclosure or financial reversal. On other occasions and for different reasons, a person may also choose a conscious transformation. It can be apparent in a decision to change courses in life, seek a different path, move, develop new habits, divorce, marry, adopt, lose weight, stop smoking, downsize or go back to school.
We have all equally suffered the experience in Newtown that has the power to transform our lives and the future of our country. We stand at a crossroads. We have a pattern of erupting in shock, anger and unity as in the wake of 9/11, but today we are more divided than ever on the common good of this country. Too quickly we slip away into the cozy confines of our comfortable dens and leave the problem solving to others, throwing rocks occasionally from the sidelines but never fully engaging in the work of change. It is the job for highly paid lobbyists to determine the direction of our country. Please, not this time.
My mind, my mind’s eye and my own orbs have not let me closely watch most of the intense coverage. They hurt as if exposed to noonday sun after a winter’s hibernation. Yet we cannot turn away, can we?
We have been presented with an opportunity — though I cringe to consider the source — for transformation. The enormity of the crime and the ages of the victims have transfixed us, and vows of change and pledges to prevent such tragedies swirl around us in a fevered pitch. We will ask constant and continuing questions about if and how it might have been prevented. We will review issues of security and safety in public places, but especially schools where we send our youngest and most hopeful generations. We will be forced to review the system — if there be a consistent one — for identifying, managing and treating mental illness in this country. We will be forced to look at the effects of our obsession with violence and violent video games that pervert and destroy the perception of the worth of human lives, that allow troubled young men to isolate themselves until the urge to be recognized drives them toward shocking but brief celebrity.
And finally gun owners along with those who abhor them will, must, confront the toxic perversion of the Second Amendment into a steel-clad belief system that puts the rights of people to own military assault weapons over the rights of children to grow up safely. I believe we have finally identified those missing weapons of mass destruction. They are right here under our noses.