Years ago, a friend was standing in a delivery room waiting for the birth of his first child when his wife began to have complications. Nurses in scrubs scurried about, yelled for a doctor and remarked aloud that they had “never seen anything like this before.” Monitors beeped faster with his wife’s quickening heart rate. Family members’ smiles turned to frowns as confusion reigned. A nurse asked if he was empowered to make decisions about his wife’s life, if it became necessary.
In the middle of it all, the woman he loved and the life they created laid on a gurney at the foot of God.
Then just as quickly, wife and baby were stabilized, a Caesarian section was performed and a little boy was born. The ordeal had a happy ending, but included a scary peek over the edge. He told me later, “I think there could be nothing worse than losing those people in life who you truly love.”
The school shooting in Newtown, Conn., is a parent’s worst nightmare come true. A mother or father would suffer any violence or indignity to shield their children from harm, but the parents of Stony Hook Elementary never got that chance. (One brave teacher did answer that call.)
Those kids are America’s children and my heart aches for them. As the nation struggles forward amid wakes and funerals for little kids who were just beginning to live and the teachers charged with protecting them, I have a few simple points.
There is a toxic nexus featuring disaffected, mentally unstable young men, violence in entertainment, blase’ parenting and real firearms. A boy who is different – afflicted with mental or physical disabilities, social awkwardness or something as simple as a big mouth – may get picked on by his peers. Reach back a few years – he may be the one you walked past at lunch, slowly chewing his food alone on the back steps of the auditorium while staring into an emotional abyss.
The boy grows into an adolescent with few friends who finds comfort in solitary activities that may include shooter vids, violent movies and TV shows, and angry music. Emotionally vulnerable teens may find the diversions intoxicating. Body counts become an abstraction. His virtual refuge becomes his community, but loneliness persists.
A strong hand can guide a child like this from the abyss, but I think many of today’s mothers and fathers are more interested in being friends than parents. Real parenting may be inconvenient. I think they’re more interested in short-term management of behaviors than long-term solutions that may help a child regain his soul.
Americans have been living with weapons since before the nation’s founding. My household has two weapons in gun-friendly Virginia and they give me peace of mind. Many people I know own weapons – pistols, shotguns and semiautomatic rifles – presumably for hunting, recreational or competitive shooting, self-defense or the defense of others. I have no issues with guns because every gun owner I know possesses a sound mind and is trained to use them, but I am uncomfortable with how easily accessible they are to young men teetering on the edge.
Are we ready to get rid of all guns? Hell no, nor should we. But many people in our so-called flyover states – fiercely independent, genuine folks who are prideful of their abilities to defend their homes and loved ones from harm – believe President Obama is.
Are we ready to arm teachers and staff for a one-in-a-million calamity? Crack open your dusty yearbook for a look at your former teachers. Think hard about whether it’s a good idea for them to be carrying anything more dangerous than a slide ruler.
Is it reasonable to turn every school into a fortress? Some can barely afford books or central heating.
Can we live with fewer than 30 rounds in our magazines? I think we take care of would-be burglars and rapists with 20 or 10.
The Second Amendment was the ultimate in checks and balances against tyranny, guaranteeing ordinary citizens – originally local militias – the right to have the same kind of arsenal possessed by federal authorities. To that end, where’s my .50 cal? And what are we afraid of?
** UPDATE: EXHIBIT A: Teens ask for smoke, then kill woman when she replies, ‘Get a job’ **