American Decency Lowered Another Notch in Aftermath of Sandy Hook

Sandy HookI’m still having trouble processing the Sandy Hook shootings. I cannot imagine how horrible this must be for the parents and families involved.

I was listening to an old mix tape today when out popped a staple from 1982, “I Melt With You,” by the British band Modern English.

For whatever reason, the lyrics made me think about Sandy Hook.

Dream of better lives the kind which never hate; Dropped in the state of imaginary grace; I made a pilgrimage to save this human race; Never comprehending the race had long gone by…

We certainly lost something after the Aurora massacre. It’s hard not to consider your surroundings when going to the movies or live events anymore. But walking into an elementary school and executing children is unimaginable.

This act cost us a level of innocence that cannot be recovered.

None of us knows how to process this kind of violence. But we all know a very disturbing line has been crossed. If this can happen – if we can’t keep our children safe at school, what is next?

I find it beyond reprehensible that assault weapon sales are booming.

If you are out buying guns you are part of the problem.

In tiny Harrold, Texas, the school board voted to let teachers bring guns to school. Lawmakers in Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, South Dakota and Oregon are considering similar legislation.

In the same vein, a company is selling body armor for children that comes in the form of a backpack – and sales are through the roof.

Amendment II, a Utah-based company that makes lightweight body armor for military and police, tripled its monthly sales total of these backpacks in just a week.

The carbon nanotube armor comes in kid-friendly themed Avengers or Disney princess versions.

I don’t even know what to say to that.

Arming our kindergarten teachers and putting Kevlar on our children is not the answer.

And I condemn the NRA for its callous suggestion of placing armed police officers in every school. This will only amplify paranoia around the country, and is a pathetic attempt to distract attention away from discussions of expanding gun control.

What I despise about this line of thinking is its defeatist mentality. These people are giving in and accepting this level of danger as acceptable, so they move to combatting it instead of trying to treat the problem.

Americans do this a lot. We choose to address a symptom instead of the actual problem, because that is the easier road. There is less resistance, and we don’t have to examine ourselves and the choices we have all made that put us in these situations.

That is much heavier lifting.

There is an underlying culture of violence in America that embraces guns and glorifies conflict that is pushing its way past entertainment purposes and into reality. I appreciate Second Amendment advocates, but not all guns need to be available to the public, and certain people may not be a good fit for gun ownership.

We’ve also done a horrible job of stripping away money from education, mental health care, after-school programs, and a variety of preventative measures that could help identify and treat kids and adults that have personality disorders.

We choose to cut preventative care and education to fund tax cuts and fight non-essential wars that cost additional young men and women their lives.

It’s a travesty that is bankrupting America’s decency.

Indulge me for a minute and watch this brief video. It’s a clip from “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.” If you haven’t caught the post-game remarks from Pat Kelsey, the Winthrop University basketball coach, check it out.

Kelsey knows a little about emotional loss and anguish, and about mental health. He took some time away from coaching in 2007 after he found his mentor, Skip Prosser, the former Wake Forest coach, dead from a heart attack on his office couch. Kelsey knows what it’s like to work a busy job and sacrifice time away from loved ones, and have a sudden death take away the chance to make that lost time right.

For the victims’ parents there is no making this right.

I feel for those families of course, but the teachers, firefighters, paramedics, police and doctors who witnessed this carnage are also terribly damaged. It’s incomprehensible what seeing those innocent bodies must have been like.

It would haunt me for life.

I’ve heard stories from police officers that have had to deal with car accidents involving children. The carnage of small bodies shakes them to the bone.

Something intentional like what occurred at Sandy Hook carves out a void in all who see it. I know the first responders and teachers are hurting, because they take on the responsibility of keeping this kind of harm away from kids.

It’s not their fault. The kind of evil that crept inside Adam Lanza is not anything we could anticipate, but it stings extra hard for the adults charged with child safety in Newtown. Those folks could all use a big hug this Christmas and have somebody tell them “it’s alright, it wasn’t your fault.”

I go back to that Modern English song. The chorus goes:

I’ll stop the world and melt with you; I’ve seen some changes but it’s getting better all the time; There’s nothing you and I won’t do; I’ll stop the world and melt with you.”

The father of one of the victims reflects his pain.

The father of one of the victims reflects his pain.

For 20 parents and six other families there is nothing to melt over this Christmas, only tears.

No longer is it getting better in America all the time.

We need to slow down and remember to take care of what is really important, or these precious freedoms we hold so dear are going to get away from us.

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