History is what happens, or more likely, what we tell ourselves happens. Some events are easy to look up, document and analyze. Others, not so much. As I have lived my own life, I've often mused on why I seem to forget some things, or some truths that I really should remember. Why do humans have to learn so many things "the hard way?" Here we are, once again, as a nation, shaking our heads and trying to deal with the aftermath of yet another mass shooting. After all the similar incidents that came before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, it seems that we still haven't learned the lessons (or as one Native American grandmother called them, "the instructions"). Take whatever iteration of them you choose, they are not complicated, yet we continually forget them. Sandy Hook has taken a figurative two-by-four and struck us solidly between the eyes. I am very sorry to say we probably needed that.
We live in a society, as social creatures. That fact alone should be enough to remind us that we are our brother's keeper. We are, indeed, in this together. We have, in fact, failed our children and ourselves in many ways. While I by no means intend to gloss over the positive steps that many people and organizations have and are taking to better communities and the lives of the people in them, we have a persistent tendency to focus on insignificant minutiae and petty concerns while the members of our society we (consciously or unconsciously) consider to be "other," fall through the cracks.
A friend said it best, "I don't have access to mental health care. I can buy a gun though."
Is the problem complicated? Yes. Can we prevent all mass gun violence? No. Is the problem insurmountable? No. Can we take commonsense steps to curb gun violence? Yes. Will we? Maybe. The innocents were dying from gunshot wounds long before Sandy Hook. People around the world have suffered the kind of hell that the victim's families are suffering in Newtown, CT. Was their suffering any easier for us to bear, or any less painful because they weren't American? Perhaps that is an unfair question, but it is one that I wish us all to consider. Our "history" around this issue isn't looking too good to me right now. President Obama acknowledged that this was the fourth such event he has had to deal with since he was elected, and he hasn't even begun his second term. Twenty children and six adults murdered. It's too much.
It is not just gun violence that bedevils us. The House of Representatives is having trouble reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Why? To not do so, protects the rapists at the expense of women (mostly women of color, including and especially Native Americans). Why in the world is it controversial to protect women from violence? Do you see how lost and confused we are?
The President was right. "We can't accept events like this as rountine," he said. "We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change" Critics say that President Obama has not lead on this issue. I say that you can't lead people if no one will follow. Before Sandy Hook, the American people seemed unwilling to be led toward any step aimed at curbing gun violence. Last night, toward the end of his remarks, the president spoke the names of the children murdered in their classroom—a difficult, but I believe necessary act to bring home to the nation, the gravity of what we're trying to wrestle with here. We must find a better balance. Where we're at now isn't working.
I would like to suggest that we address mental/emotional health for all of us. Recent legislation starts to address this issue. I would also suggest that we all reflect on the ways we treat each other. Either by actions, inaction, or tacit approval, we are all complicit in designing the society we find ourselves in, and so are responsible in some measure for what that society manifests. We now have 26 more reasons to try our best to get it right.
Just my opinion.